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May dinner #1: Saigon Seafood Harbor, Richmond

No.19 | Jun 19, 200511:58 AM

May was a busy dining month for me, and I've been meaning to write up something about all those dinners! Unfortunately, I put it off too long and my memories aren't as fresh. Oh, well, I'll try to be more prompt next time!

Some background notes: my family is Cantonese (from Toisan specifically), and we all love to eat. My brother married a Vietnamese woman who may be even more food-obsessed than the rest of us. (They once took a trip to Vancouver just to eat tropical fruit.) My husband, on the other hand, is very "gringo" He thinks we're nuts and once said that my family's main topic of conversation is "food you have eaten, food you eating right now, and food you could be eating in the future." That about sums it up!

Anyway, for Mother's Day, my mom wanted to try Saigon Seafood Harbor based on some friends' recommendations and a review in the Chronicle. So I made a reservation for the Saturday before Mother's Day for 6:00 pm. I had a little bit of difficulty making the reservation since I don't speak Chinese, but got it cleared up in the end.

Well, when my husband and I got there a few minutes late, we found it crowded already. Unfortunately, the rest of my family (with 1-year-old baby in tow) was even later, and by that time, we'd lost our reservation. So we didn't get seated until close to 7:00 pm.

After some confusion with our waitress, we ordered the deep-fried tofu with minced shrimp (recommended by a friend), crab with ginger-garlic sauce, the chicken special of the day, claypot with turtle (?), dry braised string beans, and a few more dishes I don't remember now (alas). Some of these dishes were ordered for my husband who (1) won't eat seafood and (2) only eats green beans, snap peas or salad for veggies. He was definitely reduced to scrambling at this restaurant since non-seafood meat courses consisted of only one-half of one page of choices!

Anyway, everything was excellent! Only confusion was that we asked if they had pea shoots, and the waitress said no, but we got a plate anyway (?!?). Also, the claypot with turtle never came, but we didn't argue about it since we had lots of food. The chicken (what I always think of as "velvet" chicken? the kind where it's steeped) was excellent, although my mom complained about the price ($19 or so) in the way parents do. That's the only preparation, though, where I enjoy eating white meat. I always find white chicken meat otherwise too dry or boring.

I also loved the tofu with shrimp. I'm not a huge tofu fan, but I like the soft kind better -- and this was a very tasty way to slurp down a dish.

Only other drawback was how loud it was in the restaurant. Chinese restaurants are often quite noisy, but this seemed to be even worse than usual. My parents complained that they couldn't hear the waitress or each other. Hopefully, the next time we go, it'll be a bit less chaotic.

We looked longingly at all the seafood that was being pulled out of the tanks (huge lobsters! gargantuan crabs!), but maybe for another time.

Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant
3150 Pierce St
Richmond, California
Tel: (510) 559-9388

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