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LA Foodies - Asian Foodies E-News 12-24

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Los Angeles, CA
LA Foodies - Asian Foodies E-News 12-24

Happy Holidays Foodies!

Heaven & Surf 14 Course Chinese Banquet - The banquet was a success! There were a few last minute requests to attend the event that I just couldn't say no to, so we were packed in tight at all the tables. However, all the tables brought plenty of wine, so after awhile, it became cozy and fun... We had a couple last minute changes to the menu. The squab (pigeon) was unavailable (they flew the coop?) so I opted for the spicy eggplant w/soft tofu. I switched the rock cod fish fillet to the spicy XO sauce instead of the black bean sauce as the Dungeness crab was also a black bean sauce. XO sauce is about the most expensive Chinese sauce and a small bottle of the stuff can cost upwards of $30 and often it is held behind the manager's desk like a $150 bottle Cognac for which the sauce was named after. Odd, because there's no cognac in the sauce. Personally dishes with black bean sauce, I like more black bean, but really, the chefs know best because too much and it will easily overpower the delicate flavor of the crab and you might as well eat tofu with lots of black bean sauce and it would be cheaper and all you'd taste is the sauce. This balance of flavors is a hallmark of the Cantonese cuisine like the killer hot dishes are the hallmark of Thai food. We were actually served 16 courses! As the restaurant also served up fortune cookies and also oranges as well to those who stayed to the very end. After dinner, about a dozen or so members popped into the Mountain Bar for a night cap which was a pretty cool place, until the youngsters came in and the DJ put on the crazy loud screeching music forcing us to yell to each other trying to chat. That was enough to chase me away.

FYI: Chinese restaurants are great places to host large events because they recognize and value our business. They routinely will waive corkage and some places such as Hop Li will even allow us to bring in our own soft drinks and desserts as well. This used to be very standard for decades. This saves us $10-15/person easily! New restaurants today will most likely refuse my requests, so this is one of the advantages of long standing Chinese restaurants. I've attend HUGE wedding banquets of over 1,000 people where the banquet is held altogether over 4-5 entire restaurants!

Restaurant Review - Large Event Hosting Tips - Hop Li has been remodeled since the last time I was there about a year ago. They've gone from the 80's mauve color, to a more subtle earth tones and I liked the change, but the new decor didn't really elevate the ambiance much IMO. Being a home cook and having dined at countless Chinese banquets, it still amazes me how quickly they can prepare and serve the food to all our tables. To be honest, they served the dishes a little too quickly. We had been served 13 or our 16 dishes in about one hour! Most French or fancy restaurants would require at least 3 hours or more!

I thought the theme was successful... all seafood and poultry dishes, however, I think I prefer a more balanced traditional menu that also included beef and pork, but it was an experiment. It did pain me a little to not have any pork/beef dishes. It did however allow me to try some dishes I've never ordered in the past such as the deep fried oysters and the Slippery shrimp. I normally always get the Honey walnut shrimp which Hop Li does a fabulous job, but I wanted to try new dishes. I'm glad I did as I really enjoyed the deef fried oysters as they were huge and delicious! Especially as I usually don't care for oysters too much and Gary M and I had oysters last week at a fancy hotel restaurant owned by a very famous chef that cost us twice as much for 1/4 the food and we got 6 tiny oysters that didn't taste good... I think they tasted bad and I had a tough time eating my one tiny oyster. The Chinese don't really serve oysters raw on a half shell like traditional American seafood places. But the Chinese markets sell oysters pretty cheap on occasion. Last week I saw HUGE oysters at the market for about 80 cents each or less which easily weighed over 1/2 pound each live in the shell. I've had oysters cooked in eggs, clay pots, hot pots and many other ways and now my two favs would be deep fried and in steamed eggs. How can you go wrong deep frying? Right?

I normally don't like to order Dungeness crab at Hop Li's because it's a little pricey considering the wholesale price of crab, it's a hassle and messy to eat. But last night, they surprised me and they deep fried the shell that was loaded with the green "tamale" which normally, I don't like to eat. BUT... deep fried, the tamale was good! Deep fried... anything tastes good, right?

I'll confess... as a kid, we had little say in the ordering of our banquet meals and I used to hate several of the dishes my folks or the host would order. I now fondly remember being "punked" by my folks after digging into what I thought was a delicious chicken dish... only to find out it was frog legs. Or my folks would often tell me to eat it before telling that I'm eating sea cucumber, jellyfish or some kind of offal dish they knew I would not try if they told me what it was... We used to have to beg them to order us sweet and sour pork... I know, pedestrian taste as a kid.

Members often ask me why I go to Hop Li... Do I get a kickback? Nope... but I work with them on preparing the menu, the manager and head waiter speak good English (very important), they will prepare dishes to my specs if requested, they will give me as many tables as I need, they don't require an upfront deposit, waiving of corkage fees, allow us to provide our own soft drinks and cake, they don't rush us to leave and they don't require a fat tip. In the past (decades ago), my folks would only tip 10-12% usually as would many Chinese families. So they LOVE us because I tip them OVER 18%, so they bend over backwards to accommodate us. Does Hop Li have the best Chinese food in Chinatown? No, however, I feel if you choose your dishes carefully, they provide a delicious meal at a great value. This is about the only restaurant that I can give them the menu in advance, they price it out, we agree on a price and they stick to it. This makes it so easy for me to do a prepaid event and this avoids the hassle of calculating each persons cost to pay, tip, etc and the worry of someone underpaying and burdening the others at the table. There are pitfalls the biggest being that for banquets, you have a fixed price per table so I could not add a table as that would have made me go over budget by hundreds of dollars. The alternative would to have added a table and eliminate 3-5 dishes to balance the cost. In this case, I opted to squeeze in one extra person per table as I thought I recalled the tables there were bigger than they actually were. I knew there was plenty of food for 11/table so that was not a problem. It would have been a bigger problem eliminating that many dishes, there might have been a mutiny and I might have been served up as an additional course by the members, LOL

Blog of the Day - LA Times has an informative article about avocados, click here.

Darrell's Test Kitchen -

Deals Of The Day - Bloomspot - $55 buys $100 at Eva

Frugal Foodies - Post your groupons/vouchers on our forum that you wish to sell, buy or share. It's been working as I've sold a couple here.CLICK HERE

Upcoming Events - Check out our LA Foodies Calendar HERE­ and our Asian Foodies Calendar HERE­

Daily Deals Goldstar often has great prices on entertainment and events, so sometime you should browse the event deals they offer.

Restaurant.com­ 80% Discount - Code = HOLIDAY
Living Social - Mogan's Cafe $20 buys $40 Pacific Palisades
LivingSocial.com­ $22 buys $45 16 Mini Cheesecakes
Dealpop.com­ - 66% off M Spa
Groupon.com­ - Spa deal
Tippr.com­ San Gennaro $15 buys $30 Brentwood
BlackBoardEats.com­ -


Out To Lunch (OT) -

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Darrell Lee
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