I have been a frequent advocate of Happy Chef. They've always had a few things in their favor. First, they offered "real" Cantonese food in a very accessible manner, with an easy to understand menu. Second, they offered about the best meal in chinatown, with especially great deals regarding lobster and crabs. All meals came with a big bowl of gratis soups, before a hearty chicken with odd bits and after a sweet bean dessert concoction. Finally, the food was darn good. Until tonight.
We got mostly similiar things to what we normally get. The spicy salty shrimp, fish fillet on tofu with black bean and lobster with green onion show up on almost all our orders. We branched out at bit with some steamed chicken, and for the green vegetable, went with mustard green and garlic. (I was warned this was a Chinese vegetable. I retorted that we were in a Chinese resturant.)
And it turns out the mustard green was the best dish. Very fresh tasting greens, with a taste that clearly showed the linneage between mustard and cabbage, and gobs of garlic chips. Does anyone do a better job at frying garlic to invoke its succor with out getting to the bitter brown than Chinese chefs? The rest of the dishes paled.
For the most part, it was not failure in execution but low quality used this night. Shrimps were a bit smaller and not oozing fat like usual. None of that red "shrimp juice" spotting my shirt by accident. The lobster was also a bit mushy. The worst, however, was the fish fillet in the tofu dish, tasting almost of bacala, it was that tough. The black bean sauce seemed a bit rough too. Maybe when the other ingredients purr, the black beans fade into the background, but when the other ingredients waffled, the black beans became more noticable.
After about 50 great dinners at Happy Chef, I am not going to write them off. Still, I'd like to hear what others recent experiences have been there.