The bad part about hosting business colleagues when one is a Chowhound is having to miss out on some of the available delicacies because you are accommodating their unhoundly pedestrian tastes. The good part about hosting business colleagues is that regardless of their unhoundly shortcomings, I still get to pick the restaurant and put it all on the expense account.
So tonight I brought my subordinates, some of our colleagues and my manager (that is always a good strategy, inviting your boss to dinner, it puts him in a better frame of mind to approve your expense claim later) to Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park.
I did try to stage manage our order. Initially only two menus were brought to the table, my boss grabbed on and I grabbed one, I then asserted my superior Chowexperience and started picking out dishes, that my boss, the good manager that he is, wisely deferred to (he usually defers to my suggestions because he knows they are ultimately good for him and the continuation of his career) my recommendations. Then one of my subordinates, in a misguided attempt of dining anarchy told the waiter to bring more menus. Now this person is someone who I greatly admire and respect, and he does a wonderful job for me, but for every upside, there is a downside, and the downside here is that this person is definitely not a natural born hound, so certain accommodations had to be made in terms of the dishes we subsequently ordered. (This guys idea of a good meal is steak and potatoes, and the steak has to be carbonized material.)
Here is what we had:
Tsing Taos It was that or Budweiser, I went with the Tsing Tao only because I wanted the right ambiance, I would have been better off with a Bud.
Hot & Sour Soup A little thicker than I prefer, a very low level bite, I had to wake it up with some chili paste.
Chicken & Corn Soup To accommodate the boss, not bad, kind of reminded me of something your mother would serve you when you were a little kid.
Assorted Appetizer Plate This was a substitution, I had ordered the Barbequed Suckling Pig, but after ordering I was informed the house was out of it. (This was only at about 6:40 this evening, the waiter informed me that they had some large parties that already took it all. Something told me that had I remembered to bring my Chowhound Passport with me this evening, and had I displayed it, it just might have been recognized that I really was worthy of some succulent suckling pig.) The Assorted Appetizers consisted of some barbequed pork, some other sliced meat, roasted duck and jelly fish. Now I can take or leave jelly fish, it just tastes like some pickled vegetable with no flavor to me. But it made me proud when the non-hounds actually ate it all.
Shrimp We ordered two of the shrimp selections, one where the shrimp were butter-flied and prepared with a red sauce that was slightly sweet and had a very tiny touch of chili, everyone liked this, I could have scarfed the entire platter by myself. The second shrimp dish was very simple stir fried shrimp with a slightly thickened neutral sauce with some scallions and mushrooms and julienne ginger. Fairly bland, but the ginger really helped this dish a lot. The shrimp in both dishes were impeccably fresh tasting and wonderful.
Sizzling Chicken Satay Sliced white meat chicken, served on a sizzle platter. The satay sauce, while overall tasty but not very assertive, did have a little kick of chili that tickled my throat a couple of times, so for a fairly pedestrian dish this was very tasty.
Sizzling Beef Satay The chicken had it all over this stuff. This was the only dish in which we left anything on the platter.
Chicken With Lemon Sauce I have had lemon chicken in numerous, run of the mill, cater to the gringos, Chinese restaurants, and all it ever was, was fried chicken with lemon lurking. I only ate one piece of this version, but it was miles away from any lemon chicken I have had in any other Chinese restaurant, very tasty (but not what I was here for). Fortunately I had the foresight to order an entire chicken and not the half order, because the non-hounds loved this stuff.
Abalone With Mushrooms The abalone was OK, nothing that got me exited. The mushrooms I believe were dried whole mushrooms that have been reconstituted. These really dont appeal to me, it seems so much like biting in to rubber to me. But, the abalone and mushrooms were nestled atop a bed of baby bok choy, and THAT was wonderful. For the most part the non-hounds did not understand that they could eat this green stuff, or appreciate what it was, because I copped almost all of it.
Scallops In A Black Bean Sauce OK scallops, definitely fresh, I enjoyed them together with the chunks of onion and green pepper. The sauce was too pedestrian for me.
Steam Whole Rockfish This was by far the best dish of the evening. When the waiter brought out the first live fish flopping around in a bucket I told him to bring a bigger one. Glad I did. (Thank God the Mrs. was not there, at the sight of the live fish she would have immediately got up and walked out.) Everyone who tried it seemed to enjoy the fish. The flesh was perfectly steamed and had a consistency of a pudding, it just melted in your mouth. The shredded scallions and flat leaf parsley were very fresh and added a slightly astringent taste that complimented the fish, along with the broth from the platter. I kept swinging the lazy Susan around so that I could get at that fish and pick its bones clean. Also the non-hounds were not wise to the fish cheeks, so I copped those.
All in all a very nice meal, and now it is time for a refrigerator raid and a nice slice of the Killer Cheesecake.
Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant
145 North Atlantic Boulevard
(Between Garvey & Emerson)