Due to heavy rain and fog in the South Bay yesterday, hubby and I decided to postpone our return to Santa Cruz and extend our stay w/ hubby's family in San Jose for one more night. Brother-in-law's offer to treat our family group of 11 (including 3 kids) to a dinner at East Lake Seafood (2819 S. White Rd., San Jose) couldn't be turned down. See link for more info.
We have a fond history w/ this place, as hubby and I had our very small rehearsal dinner here 4 yrs. ago. We had 2 banquet-sized round tables w/ courses upon courses of wonderful food back then. Hadn't been back since and was craving Chinese after our heavy meal at Maggiano's the night before (see General Topics board for report).
As the name indicates, East Lake specializes in seafood cooked in the Chinese tradition. Restaurant is located in SJ's Viet community, but the owners are Chinese from my understanding. It was comforting that my MIL and SIL both speak Mandarin and some Cantonese; however, I'm sure hubby and I could get by just as well on our English. Atmos. is no frills in an unassuming strip mall.
MIL ordered a banquet dinner off the menu w/ maybe one tweak--ordered fried rice for the kiddies. See link for exact menu (the $67 one w/ 8 courses). Dinner also included the complimentary tea and bowl of taro root "pudding" for dessert. Portions were generous, and all of us were satisfied but not stuffed by the close of the meal. Amazing value IMO.
Overall, the food was just as I remembered--very fresh, well-seasoned, expertly prepared. My favorites were the clams w/ black bean sauce, steamed whole sea bass in a light but flavorful sauce, gently-steamed silken tofu that melted in my mouth, and crunchy pepper and salt shrimp eaten w/ shell on. Crab was tasty but on the small side and couldn't live up to my FIL's version (a la Stella Chan cookbook) that we had on Christmas Eve. Service was efficient and dishes were paced well, although sea bass at end could have been introduced a little earlier.
Downsides: tea and taro dessert were disappointing. Tea had strange smell and no flavor and taro pudding had very little taro and tasted mainly of water and starch. Cups and bowls also imparted a bit of unpleasant smell reminiscent of dishwasher detergent--didn't seem to affect flavor of food though.
East Lake is def. a place I will return to again. They have an extensive a la carte menu as well as their banquet options, so there's still much to sample. I remember the duck to be quite good. For just a little more $ than we spent, one can surely eat like royalty.