Chinese New Year Banquet – Year of the Horse, 2014 – Restaurant Review

Dear Readers and my Blogger friends:

I wish you all a wonderful Year of the Horse!  As in the previous year, I have chosen the same restaurant to hold our Chinese New Year Celebration for our big family.  Three tables were ordered and everyone was very happy and satisfied.  The restaurant is:

Mayflower Restaurant, Union City, California.

If you have read my last year’s post on the same topic:  Chinese New Year Banquet, you will realize that there are a few new dishes this year, and the menu is more “enhanced” with a higher price.  If you are not familiar with Chinese cuisine, you may not know certain ingredients are more expensive although they look very common.  I would like to highlight three special dishes this time:

1. The newest one for me is the Bird Nest Soup. Bird Nest is a very expensive nutritious food that we believe will help strengthen the body in various ways.  It is not available everywhere, and it is the first time I see this on a menu in San Francisco.  I was very doubtful before tasting it.  After the dinner, we all agreed that it is very good!

According to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_bird’s_nest

“Edible bird’s nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest selling for $2,500 per kilogramme for end-consumers in Asia.[1] The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird’s nest soup.

The Chinese name for edible bird’s nest, yàn wō (燕窝), translates literally as “swallow’s nest”, and often serves as a synonym for bird’s nest soup. However,yàn wō strictly speaking is the uncooked nest.

Culinary use

The most famous use of edible birds nest is bird’s nest soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. When dissolved in water, the birds’ nests have a gelatinous texture used for soup or sweet tong sui. It is mostly referred to as “yan wo” unless references are made to the salty or sweet soup in Chinese cuisine.

In addition to its use in soup, edible birds nest can be used as an ingredient in many other dishes, it can be cooked with rice to produce bird’s nest congee or bird’s nest boiled rice, or it can be added to egg tarts and other desserts. A bird’s nest jelly can be made by placing the bird’s nest in a ceramic container with minimal water and sugar (or salt) and double steamed. Ready to eat bird’s nest jelly is available in jars as a commercial product.”

After you have read the above information, don’t you all think you should try this out?

2.  The second dish I would like to highlight this year is the Braised Dried Oysters and Black Moss. This is a very popular dish with an auspicious meaning,  Dried Oysters in Cantonese sounds like “rich”, and Black Moss sounds like ” becoming rich”.  Therefore this dish is well liked by many Chinese people at home or in the restaurant, especially during the Chinese New Year.   I am not a big fan of dried oysters but because of the meaning of this dish, and the ingredients are actually quite expensive, it gives more value to the cost of the banquet.  The taste and texture of this dish are good.

3.  There are three desserts (!!!) as you can see from the photos and the  video that I posted on YouTube,  One of them is only available in Chinese New Year, again because of its meaning:  Red bean soup with sweet dumplings.  You may notice that these dumplings are round.  Many traditional Chinese people will eat dumplings in sweet soup in Chinese New Year because “round” sounds like “reunion”, “altogether”.  That means family members are all together during the new year,  although they may be apart at other time.   This is the best dumpling in red soup I have ever tried,  Normally I don’t like this type of dumplings because it is like eating a big lump of flour。However the sweet bean soup is so rich that you would never think that the dumpling is a lump of flour,  I like it so much that I took an extra cup home!

All the other dishes are surprisingly kept at a high standard during the busiest day in a Chinese Restaurant.  As I have written about the other dishes before, I would not repeat here.  I left out one dish in my album because I was too busy talking to other guests:  It was the sauteed prawns and scallops with green peas.  It was another popular dish.

As many of you are curious about the auspicious names and meaning of all the dishes, let me try again to translate all of them here:

Chinese New Year Banquet Menu and Meaning  

  • Special Assorted Appetizers  — The house/home is beautiful with luxury decor
  • Braised Dried Oysters and Black Moss —  Becoming rich and have good business
  • Sauteed Prawns and Scallops with Greens — Two lucky messengers coming to your door to deliver good news
  • Bird Nest soup — Hundreds of birds paying homage to the Queen of the birds
  • Peking duck — Continued to get promotions
  • Cucumbers and black mushrooms with pea-spout—  Home/family is rich with blessings and money
  • Baked Lobsters with Ginger and Green Onion — As strong and smart as a dragon and horse
  • Steamed Fresh Fish ( we had sea bass) — Always have a balanced bank account, with savings
  • Pan fried sticky rice — Good business
  • Desserts:  Red Bean soup; with Sweet Dumplings —All family members are united and staying together

Overall Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

♦♦♦♦

The food was good, but because the chefs were extremely busy, the presentation of the dishes could have been better and more attractive. We were at the second seating at 7:30 PM.  The first seating patrons were still eating when we arrived.  We had to wait till around 8 PM before we could be seated.  However we were given the best corner in the restaurant and the staff were still very courteous despite the busy time.  This was understandable as it was the busiest time of the year.   Overall, this is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area.  It is competing with its own sister restaurants at other sites which have bigger space. With such limitations, the restaurant is doing very well.  As a long time patron, I wish the restaurant continue to succeed with new menu and reasonable price.  I will definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone.

Finally, to all my blogger friends:

I wish you all a wonderful Year of the Horse!

Keep cooking, and keep eating, trying out different cuisines and share!

By the way, my cookbook now has an ebook version.  If  you use iPad or iPhone, you can download it to your device, free!

http://store.blurb.com/ebooks/460553-easy-chinese-home-cooking-recipes

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