Dim sum, private dining, banquet seating, and traditional Chinese specialties to please even the most discerning palate, Capital Seafood has it all. Now, with two restaurants in Irvine; one at Diamond Jamboree and the newest in Irvine Spectrum, Orange County lovers of dim sum and Chinese cuisine are very happy to have Capital Seafood right in their backyard.
As Capital’s website says, Chinese people love to eat and they love to eat in large groups with an abundance of food. This is especially true during the two week Chinese New Year celebrations. The Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, is next Monday, January 23, 2012. This is the 4710th lunar year and the Year of the Dragon, festivities begin on January 22nd, the eve of the new year, and culminate with the Lantern Festival on February 6th.
Striking artwork, vibrant touches of modernist lighting and nods to traditional Asian motifs create a lively ambiance at Capital Seafood with casual dining inside or outdoor patio seating beneath swaying red lanterns as well as flex space to accommodate private dining and banquets for special occasions. Recently, a group of us were hosted by James Tea of Capital Seafood, with the help of Marian Bacol-Uba, for a banquet style tasting event featuring 11 of their most popular specialty dishes.
Our meal began with Whole Winter Melon Soup with Assorted Seafood impressively presented and served from the steamed whole winter melon. The flavorful broth contained an abundance of crab meat, shrimp, scallops and squid so every spoonful brought pleasures of the sea with the mild, sweet taste of soft melon. I learned that Winter Melon Soup is often featured at Asian banquets, and I can totally see why.
Tender Filet Mignon Satay Skewers brushed with a sweet sauce bearing hints of lemongrass and the Assorted Dim Sum Platter of fried vegetable eggrolls, crab wontons, shrimp with sugar cane, butterfly shrimp, along with steamed sui mai and chicken potstickers followed. Platters of finger foods are always a great way to satisfy your appetite while sipping a cocktail or chilled glass of wine or beer leading up to the main attractions and both these selections are very kid-friendly.
The Roasted Peking Duck was just as it should be: bites of savory, moist meat with a delightful crunch of crispy skin enveloped in plump, doughy bao (buns) topped with scallions and a swath of smoky hoisin sauce. I prefer a lighter bun, but really I just enjoyed having Peking Duck – there are many dishes that are meant to be shared and since I rarely dine with this many people at a Chinese restaurant I don’t have the opportunity to order them.
You don’t want to miss the House Special Lobster with E-Mein Noodles. As you can see, chock full of lobster in a rich, garlicky brown sauce with scallions and a bit of heat from jalapenos. Rather than noodles, I think the richness of the sauce calls for a bowl of steamed rice to soak up all that unctuous flavor.
Capital’s Filet Mignon Cubes in a buttery, garlic sauce – again, give me a bowl of rice, a few filet cubes topped with a juicy red tomato wedge and call it dinner! Did I mention that there were 15 of us sharing this feast?
The ubiquitous Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp is a mainstream favorite – the sweet crunchy walnuts are always good and the honeydew and cantaloupe melon balls served alongside worked well to balance the mayo based sauce – kind of like Asian style ambrosia.
And, of course, House String Beans. By this time I was really craving a vegetable, and another bowl of rice 🙂 But seriously, who doesn’t like the blistered-skin Chinese style green beans coated with garlic sauce and a touch of spicy heat? No dinner is complete without them.
The Pan Seared Seabass was the absolute highlight of the evening. Striking in its simplicity, I appreciated the light sweet soy sauce and simple steamed broccoli after all the rich dishes that preceded it. I would definitely order this again, and I’m sure it would be just as delicious using a more sustainable fish.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s the bowl of rice that I needed, except this is the Chef’s Fried Rice filled with shrimp, scallops, squid, crabmeat, eggwhites, dried scallops, and garnished with carrots and nori flakes (Japanese seaweed).
Beautiful to behold and not too sweet, the Almond Cream Souffle is the perfect grand finale to your Chinese New Year celebratory dinner. My friend Anita who hails from Hong Kong shared with me that this lovely dessert is an almond “tea” usually served as a sweet soup at the end of the meal. Capital Seafood’s rendition is an almond soup with ginko nut and diced water chestnuts and adorned with a cap of puff pastry.
For the vegetarians and health conscious among us, I returned to Capital Seafood for lunch one day to try some heart healthy and vegetarian options – guilt-free, delicious and satisfying on their own or as a complement or lighter alternative to any of the dishes above.
crunchy and refreshing with a bright acidity that cleanses the palate
tofu with a crispy exterior and silken centers reminiscent of flan with three varieties of mushrooms
Happy New Year (新年快樂)
at Irvine Spectrum
85 Fortune Drive, #320
Irvine, CA 92618