Often times, the best way to find a new restaurant or try some new cuisine is to go with someone who knows the area and the food. Thus, I decided to take a trip out to the San Gabriel Valley to see my friend John. What I told him was simple, “You pick the restaurant and you order the food. I’ll just eat it and photograph it!” The San Gabriel Valley of course is a hotbed of Chinese restaurants, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. One such restaurant is Seafood Village in Temple City, bringing diners completely authentic dishes in a comfortable setting. Seafood Village specializes in a style called Chiu Chow cuisine that is very popular in Hong Kong. As such, Chiu Chow relies more on the subtle flavors that are present in the ingredients, rather than the hot flavors of Sichuan and Hunanese type cuisines.
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As soon as I sat down, some delicious oolong tea was brought to the table. The attentive waitstaff was very good about keeping the small teacups filled with the nice hot tea that not only served to begin the meal but is also said to be an appetite stimulate the palate. The first dish brought to the table was the soup of the day, Lae Tung Soup. It was served in a tureen and was a delicious soup, filled with pureed cabbage and a delicate pork broth. This was a really nice change from the usual wonton and hot and sour soups served at most Chinese eateries. It was not filling, in spite of looking like a thick soup, but light and definitely something to tease the taste buds.
Seafood Village obviously built a lot of their reputation on their seafood and the Steamed Tilapia did not disappoint. Coming to the table on a platter, it was beautifully garnished with thin-sliced scallions and cilantro. A light soy-based sauce gave a little flavor but did not overwhelm the flavor of the delicate, perfectly steamed fish. The fish came easily off the bone and was so delicious that every little piece of meat was soon removed from the bones. The cheeks were especially tasty, their mildness and flavor enhanced by the simple sauce.
The next dish to be served was somewhat unusual but extremely tasty. It was a simple, unglamorous dish called Steamed Ground Pork with Salted Duck Egg. The pork was finely ground and delicately cooked to yield a sort of patty, and presented with a tasty sauce on the dish. The salted duck egg was special, poking just above the top of the ground pork and providing a tasty treat for fans of this Chinese delicacy.
The final specialty was an elegant dish of scallops and asparagus. The scallops were perfectly cooked, soft yet firm and made a nice foil for the somewhat crunchy asparagus. Slices of stir-fried carrot added to the color of the dish, which was as beautiful as it was tasty. The scallops with asparagus are a highly recommended dish and will really please the ardent seafood lover. As a scallop fan, I would rank this as one of the best scallop dishes I have ever had.
As is true of many of the truly authentic Chinese restaurants that cater to the large Chinese population in this area, dessert is not fortune cookies and almond cookies. Instead, Seafood Village has several desserts, one of which is a delicious taro dessert soup. Warm, slightly sweet and filled with white fungus, taro and ginkgo nuts, the full tureen was a lot of dessert but went down so easily and was so delicious that the bowl was soon drained of every drop.
Seafood Village’s manager Gary Xu has worked very hard with his waitstaff to make dining a pleasant experience at Seafood Village and was very good about explaining to me the details of all the dishes. It certainly will be a delicious and pleasant experience for the diner who wants to break out of the standard Chinese food rut and start tasting dishes which are designed to showcase the ingredients and not mask them. And for their choices of seafood, both fresh as well as many of the Chinese dried seafoods which have come to be gourmet specialties, Seafood Village has excellent choices to please even the most discerning diner.
Seafood Village 9669 Las Tunas Drive Temple City, CA 91780 PH: (626) 286-2299
All photographs by Ed Simon for The Los Angeles Beat