Actually, this was NOT a Lunar New Year's chowdown. It was one of the standard "happy family set dinners" at Bamboo Garden in Sunnyvale. There were no "new years" dishes, except maybe for the "whole fish" which I put in quotes because despite being on the set menu we had to argue a bit for it.
The chow (menu for a table of 10):
BBQ Combination Platter--the usual neat piles of pressed meats, some roast pork, baby octopus, jellyfish. Surprisingly small, and would NOT feed a party of 10 (we were only 6).
Honey Walnut Prawns--flavorful prawns, sauce bland yet on the sweet side.
Pork Chop--extremely fatty, in a much too sweet brown sauce.
Seafood Soup with Bamboo Pith--the reconstituted Pith was a crowd-pleaser for the lovely texture. Unfortunately the soup had minimal seafood, and minimal flavor. Everyone took turns with the soy and salt.
Stir Fried Crabs with Ginger and Scallion--huge pleasant slabs of ginger, but again in an overly glutinous and underseasoned sauce. Crab was otherwise tender.
Crispy Roasted Duck--the usual soy sauce duck chunks. Got cold rather quickly so was not widely enjoyed. I'm sure it was pleasantly crispy at some point, but by the time I got to it it was honestly just a lot of cold duck fat. An unidentifiable sugary ... chutney (?) ... was served in a tiny bowl next to it with a white plastic picnic spoon.
Braised Mustard Green with Dried Seafood--again the glutinous tasteless sauce, which here drowned some nice pieces of squid, scallop and shrimp. The greens were nicely braised.
Deep Fried Whole Fish Thai Style--ick. The least popular dish. A sticky and radioactively red colored sweet sauce drowned cubes of batter fried fish. This was sweet and sour fish, and poorly done at that. Unless there actually is a "thai style", we were all convinced our caucasian party was being served stereotypically and slightly annoyed by it. For me, I was just irritated that there wasn't at least a Whole Fish for what I thought was to be a New Year's Dinner. We pointed out to the very nice hostess that we were expecting a whole fish as per the menu, and eventually got served a deep-fried flounder. Crisp, flavorful, garnished with a light soy sauce and scallions, this was the only real hit of the entire meal. We enjoyed crunching the bones and fins--yum!
Steamed Rice--strategically untouched (we had so wanted to order a banquet--but were only 6 people eating a meal meant for 10)
Dessert--very oily but still warm sesame balls filled with sweet bean and tiny almond cookies, only one each.
Service: Well, the hostess was perfectly nice and helpful with substitution suggestions. Otherwise I think everyone was a little disappointed by the difficulty in getting anyone's attention. Not that the restaurant was busy or understaffed, and we were waiting on basics like tea or water or the check.
Food overview: Mediocre chinese. The sauces were glutinous and overpowering in their underseasoned blandness. None of the natural flavors could come through. I didn't know if I was biting into pork or shrimp or onion after a while. We all agreed it was not worth the long trip which we had all taken.
Poor Hannah! Not only was this NOT a Lunar New Year's Dinner, it was also very disappointing. None of us were sure how this restaurant was chosen, since it was a bit of a trip for us all and no chowhound locals showed up. I had thought this was at least perhaps planned around the southbay posters? We felt a bit abandoned in a sea of ... mediocre food.
Poor Hannah! We were all charmed by her and enjoyed her company, and tried to make better suggestions for chinese in san francisco, where she is staying. In her own words, "Hey, I came across the country for this!" Other quotes of the night, "curse Mapquest! it took me two hours to get down here!" And, "difficult to find unless you're local and yet no locals showed up ..." or, "anyone tried fried spiders?" and, "hey look, there's a birds nest in that rafter!"
Sigh. Hannah skipped a second desert and called it a night with her companion, but the rest of us were unsatisfied and walked a block or so for some indian deserts and a round of mango lassi. It's midnight now and I may be full, but I remain unsatisfied.