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There's Always Room for Salt n' Pepper Shrimps (Happy Chef)

There's Always Room for Salt n' Pepper Shrimps (Happy Chef)
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  • There's Always Room for Salt n' Pepper Shrimps (Happy Chef)

    Post #1 - June 28th, 2004, 9:11 pm
    Post #1 - June 28th, 2004, 9:11 pm Post #1 - June 28th, 2004, 9:11 pm
    My dearly departed grandmother was in no way the inspiration for my obsession with food. One could say I am a foodie in spite of my grandmother instead of because of my grandmother. I have strong memories of her particular way of cooking skirt steak in the toaster oven, particularly bad that is, and I also have strong memories of dishes I really did not partake, but learned about through my dad, especially her vile cornflake chicken and her viler brisket. To this day, with just a bit of egging, my dad will describe in loving detail the three day process of over-cooking, soaking with whole onion, and leaving in grease that produced the treat that was my grandmother's brisket. Ask him. Yet, yet, as I say, everyone has a dish, their cole slaw, their source of redemption. My grandmother's was jello, preferably en mold. Her motto was, you always have room for jello. Well, yesterday, as we were wrapping up an ample sampling of the dim sum at Happy Chef, they came around with plates of whole, head-on, salt and pepper shrimps. And of course, who does not have room for Happy Chef's salt and pepper shrimps, head-on.

    I've always known, of the places I have tried in Chicago, that Happy Chef's were the best salt and pepper shrimps. These are shrimps to make you crave shrimp head. Fresh, crisp, slightly spicy, not marred by grease. You eat everything but the last bits of tail. I've not know about the dim sum at Happy Chef until yesterday. I would say that not everything rose to the satisfaction of the whole shrimps, but it was a very well done dim sum nonetheless. Solid. It is a hybrid dim sum. There is a sheet to fill, with choices, like most of these sheets, that do not make full sense. There is shrimp dumpling and steamed shrimp dumpling (both in the steamed category); baked egg tart and baked custard egg tart, pan fried pork bun and pan fried pork dumpling. And you think that's confusing, there is also a 2 page listing of mysterious noodles with offerings like hong tol e-fu noodle and ha-moon rice stick noodle. We got the hong tol e-fu noodle just to see what it was, not big deal at $3.88, Still, there are a few things in plates, off menu, that get paraded around the room.

    We had filled up pretty well. From the sheet we got some really good shrimp with pea pod green dumpling in a yellow wrapper and ultra hot steamed shrimp dumpling puffing with shrimp air. I liked the eggplant slices with black bean more than the Condiment Queen that came from the pass-arounds. Sesame balls, also off-menu, were chewy and big. We passed on the Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce because, based on sight and aroma, we mimicked a nearby table and got a big plate of Chinese broccoli showered with garlic. Those hong tol-e-fu noodles were a big old bowl of thick chewy noodles underneath a layer of egg white. It turned out to be a good way to get some protein into the chowhoundita who was with us (the other on a birthday jaunt to Navy Pier). We were past full when they started passing the salt and pepper shrimps around the room. Who, however, does not have room for Happy Chef's salt and pepper shrimps. The great news, especially for the chowhoundita, was the extra ten minutes needed to eat the shrimps also kept us there for some very hot, very fresh, very delicious custard filled, sweet top buns.

    Happy Chef may be a great, probably the best, Cantonese style place in Chinatown, but do not go there for creature comforts or atmosphere. Ms. VI complained all morning about the plastic tablecloths sticking to her knees. A small price, alas for making room for salt and pepper shrimps.

    Happy Chef
    2164-2166A S. Archer (in the Chinatown Mall)
    Chicago, IL
    312-808-3689

    PS
    It has been sadly reported that the delicious Mandarin Kitchen recently closed. Well, a restaurant has recently opened in its place. It is called, well in English, it is still called Mandarin Kitchen, yet in place of the former Szechuan style place, is a Shanghai style place. There is the full range of typical Shanghai stuff on the English menu including two kinds of soup dumplings, various cold dishes, pork leg, lion's head meatballs and eel. There is also a nice sounding deal of 3 dishes for $22.95. The women I chatted up were very nice. I'll give it a scout and if its good, maybe arrange a group meal.
  • Post #2 - June 28th, 2004, 9:48 pm
    Post #2 - June 28th, 2004, 9:48 pm Post #2 - June 28th, 2004, 9:48 pm
    Thanks for the report, it sounds great! I have obviously never had good S&P shrimp as the ones I've had have needed de shelling. Do the good places cook them so that the shell actually crisps up so you can eat it? I've become very good at popping them outta their little shells quickly but I always feel like a Philistine when I leave the pile of shells.
    I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
  • Post #3 - June 29th, 2004, 5:18 am
    Post #3 - June 29th, 2004, 5:18 am Post #3 - June 29th, 2004, 5:18 am
    Octarine wrote:Thanks for the report, it sounds great! I have obviously never had good S&P shrimp as the ones I've had have needed de shelling. Do the good places cook them so that the shell actually crisps up so you can eat it? I've become very good at popping them outta their little shells quickly but I always feel like a Philistine when I leave the pile of shells.


    Yea, the flash frying process renders the shell crisp enough to be entirely edible. Better then the edible shell though, is the edible head. Its where you'll find a big plop of shrimp fat. Once you put the whole thing in your mouth, the gross factor is gone. Try it.
  • Post #4 - June 29th, 2004, 5:36 am
    Post #4 - June 29th, 2004, 5:36 am Post #4 - June 29th, 2004, 5:36 am
    Vital Information wrote:
    Octarine wrote:Thanks for the report, it sounds great! I have obviously never had good S&P shrimp as the ones I've had have needed de shelling. Do the good places cook them so that the shell actually crisps up so you can eat it? I've become very good at popping them outta their little shells quickly but I always feel like a Philistine when I leave the pile of shells.


    Yea, the flash frying process renders the shell crisp enough to be entirely edible. Better then the edible shell though, is the edible head. Its where you'll find a big plop of shrimp fat. Once you put the whole thing in your mouth, the gross factor is gone. Try it.


    I have to agree with VI regarding the eating of the shell. I have eaten the S & P Shrimp without the shell at Little Three Happiness upon several occasions and loved them. I tried them with the shell not long ago at Little Three Happiness and found a much greater depth of flavor with the shell. In some ways its like eating traditional southern bbq with the crisped up skin chopped into the meat giving you that extra bit of flavor, texture, and crunch. Even my wife enjoyed a few with the shell and she is pretty squeamish regarding things like that. During my last lunch at LTH on Sunday three women visiting from North Carolina ended up eating at our table. I recommended the S & P Shrimp and they loved the texture and flavor of having the shells. They were also very impressed wtih the quality of the food at Little Three Happiness.

    Little Three Happiness
    209 W. Cermack
    Chicago, IL
    Last edited by Bruce on June 29th, 2004, 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #5 - June 29th, 2004, 8:10 am
    Post #5 - June 29th, 2004, 8:10 am Post #5 - June 29th, 2004, 8:10 am
    Vital Information wrote:. Well, yesterday, as we were wrapping up an ample sampling of the dim sum at Happy Chef, they came around with plates of whole, head-on, salt and pepper shrimps. And of course, who does not have room for Happy Chef's salt and pepper shrimps, head-on.



    In all my (many) visits to Happy Chef for Dim Sum, I've never come across anything being shown around the room for the taking. It's always been an order off the menu type place. When did they start bring food around "ala carte", so to speak?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - June 29th, 2004, 8:16 am
    Post #6 - June 29th, 2004, 8:16 am Post #6 - June 29th, 2004, 8:16 am
    stevez wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:. Well, yesterday, as we were wrapping up an ample sampling of the dim sum at Happy Chef, they came around with plates of whole, head-on, salt and pepper shrimps. And of course, who does not have room for Happy Chef's salt and pepper shrimps, head-on.



    In all my (many) visits to Happy Chef for Dim Sum, I've never come across anything being shown around the room for the taking. It's always been an order off the menu type place. When did they start bring food around "ala carte", so to speak?


    All the times I've been there.... 8)

    I have no idea if this is a Sunday thing or a recent incarnation or maybe just something that decided to do last Sunday. It was good enough dim sum that I'd return, but on a purely food basis, probably not as good as Phoenix. On the other hand, it is a lot cheaper, and a lot less hassle.
  • Post #7 - June 29th, 2004, 8:25 am
    Post #7 - June 29th, 2004, 8:25 am Post #7 - June 29th, 2004, 8:25 am
    Vital Information wrote:
    stevez wrote:
    Vital Information wrote:. Well, yesterday, as we were wrapping up an ample sampling of the dim sum at Happy Chef, they came around with plates of whole, head-on, salt and pepper shrimps. And of course, who does not have room for Happy Chef's salt and pepper shrimps, head-on.



    In all my (many) visits to Happy Chef for Dim Sum, I've never come across anything being shown around the room for the taking. It's always been an order off the menu type place. When did they start bring food around "ala carte", so to speak?


    All the times I've been there.... 8)



    I have no idea if this is a Sunday thing or a recent incarnation or maybe just something that decided to do last Sunday. It was good enough dim sum that I'd return, but on a purely food basis, probably not as good as Phoenix. On the other hand, it is a lot cheaper, and a lot less hassle.


    It must be a Sunday thing. I've only been during the week and have never seen pass arounds.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - June 29th, 2004, 4:51 pm
    Post #8 - June 29th, 2004, 4:51 pm Post #8 - June 29th, 2004, 4:51 pm
    Head-on shrimp is one of my favorite dishes, and I've yet to find a better rendition than, of all places, Phoenix Inn in downtown Evanston. Once I was able to convince the owner that, yes, I do like them with the shell on and spicy, I've never been disappointed with their version (usually ordered carry-out.) On a par with LTH, IMHO.
    >>Brent

    Phoenix Inn
    608 Davis Street
    Evanston IL 60201
    847-475-7782
    "Yankee bean soup, cole slaw and tuna surprise."
  • Post #9 - February 7th, 2008, 11:16 pm
    Post #9 - February 7th, 2008, 11:16 pm Post #9 - February 7th, 2008, 11:16 pm
    HI,

    I went to Happy Chef for dinner this evening with Helen and fifille. Parking was not too challenging. Despite this being the Chinese New Year, the restaurants were not too crowded.

    We decided to order two entrees, which allows us to have lobster or crab as a 3rd entree for free. fifille ordered the duck casserole, which the waitress assured it wasn't for her. Recognizing this might really mean: Chinese people like it, but American's don't. I inquired, "Do you mean as an American she won't like it?" "Yes, there are all these bones. Americans don't like it." In unison we began to explain, "We are not normal Americans. We are sure we will like it." To be extra helpful, I added, "If we don't like it, that's ok because we will still pay for it." Our table was collectively energized by this near denial the waitress relented to allow us to order the duck casserole.

    Image

    If it were not for the sprigs of flat leaf parsley, this would be a study in brown. While the color palette is rather flat, the range of flavor and texture was considerably more vast. There were shiitake mushrooms, dried tofu, bok choy and chopped duck parts in a brown sauce heavy with Chinese star anise. We ate more than half to prove to the waitress this was a well received dish. The remainder went home with me for another day.

    Upon strolling out we saw the Chinese New Year special menu, which needs someone to translate:

    Image

    Image

    It is almost tempting to play menu roulette: just point and see what arrives from the kitchen.

    Happy New Year!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - February 7th, 2008, 11:51 pm
    Post #10 - February 7th, 2008, 11:51 pm Post #10 - February 7th, 2008, 11:51 pm
    That casserole sounds great, Cathy! After an abysmal meal at Burrito Amigo earlier today, I made my way to Seven Treasures for my customary Scrooge-meal of barbecue pork and fried egg over rice on my way back from choir rehearsal (when there's company, it's Double Li or LSC; on my own, it's 7-T, and then straight to bed).

    Let me plug the McCawley (Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters) one more time:

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/h ... 0/1599.ctl
    http://www.amazon.com/Eaters-Guide-Chin ... 0226555925

    Most of the good stuff is online here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=mO56R0 ... RA#PPP1,M1

    I am not remotely a Chinese speaker or reader without help, but I have the characters for Beijing (characters "north" and "capital"), Szechuan (characters "four" and "rivers"), Nanjing (characters "south" and "capital"), noodle, pork / pig (often written with the character that literally means 'meat'), duck, chicken / fowl, shrimp, scallion, and bun memorized, and they are all very easy. So are one, two, and three (almost always horizontal slashes, like the "three" in the first row of your top image, southeast of the period in Archer Ave.).

    Even if you have the types of meat memorized, you can pick out certain things like knowing that the sixth item over in the top image (bottom section of the top menu, $13.80) contains duck, and probably Peking Duck, since the character for "north" is at the top of the lower set of characters. Since for menu purposes Mandarin and Cantonese are written virtually identically, a few characters go a long way. I don't have time at the moment to look up all of the characters (especially with our community's many native readers and scholars much more advanced than I), but you'd be shocked how quickly you could figure out at least what category those columns are if you check the McCawley and make yourself a cheat sheet.
    Last edited by Santander on February 7th, 2008, 11:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #11 - February 7th, 2008, 11:54 pm
    Post #11 - February 7th, 2008, 11:54 pm Post #11 - February 7th, 2008, 11:54 pm
    Cathy - You forgot to describe the second part of our discussion our server.

    When she came around to see how we were enjoying our meal, we all strongly reassued her that we loved the duck which brought a wide smile of relief to her face.

    She then told us of a customer of hers who had been very disappointed by the quality of the food in Beijing. There was no Chop Suey or Egg Foo Young to be found!

    This had us all four laughing heartily. If we ever have her as a server again, I bet she won't try to disuade us from trying dishes with bones again.
  • Post #12 - February 8th, 2008, 3:02 pm
    Post #12 - February 8th, 2008, 3:02 pm Post #12 - February 8th, 2008, 3:02 pm
    I like the Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters. Another good book for getting a basic vocabulary of characters is Swallowing Clouds. In fact, I have found this book more helpful than Eater's Guide (although, to be honest, I haven't gotten very far in Eater's Guide yet) because it gives a cultural context for the characters and how they developed. Having this context helps me remember them more easily.

    -Laura
  • Post #13 - February 9th, 2008, 2:05 am
    Post #13 - February 9th, 2008, 2:05 am Post #13 - February 9th, 2008, 2:05 am
    if anyone is interested, the following is the translations from that menu. it's not perfect, but i've had some experience... :D

    from right to left:

    flowers opening bring wealth: broccoli w/ scallops
    old and young are safe: fish w/ steamed tofu
    three stars watching over you: mushrooms with sea cucumbers
    luck and life every year: mushrooms with abalone slices
    rise with every step: mushrooms with duck feet
    care for child until many: yellow chives w/ scallops
    wish you good fortune: bamboo shoot skins w/ dried scallop and white wood ear soup
    wealth comes easily to your hand: pig's feet stewed w/ moss (there is a difference, this dish is always the forelegs, more meat)
    wealth comes to the market: dried oysters stewed w/ moss
    gold and silver fill house: stuffed mushrooms
    wealth brings good wishes: pork tongue w/ moss
    red fortune over the head: fried chicken
    fortune changes the world: braised chicken and shrimps
    ten thousand purples thousand reds: crispy sweet and sour ribs
    double star brings happiness: shrimp and scallops bird's nest
    wish you good fortune: bamboo shoot skins w/ dried scallop soup
    embroidered silk ball: cashew w/ shrimp bird's nest
    firecrackers bring safety: bamboo shoot skin with peapod tips
    flowers open bring wealth: broccoli w/ scallops

    again, did the best i could. if anyone finds mistakes, feel free to correct me.
    5041 N. Broadway
    Chicago, IL 60640
    773.769.1254
    sunwahbbq@gmail.com
  • Post #14 - February 9th, 2008, 8:06 am
    Post #14 - February 9th, 2008, 8:06 am Post #14 - February 9th, 2008, 8:06 am
    Sunwah, thanks so much - and welcome!
  • Post #15 - February 9th, 2008, 8:10 am
    Post #15 - February 9th, 2008, 8:10 am Post #15 - February 9th, 2008, 8:10 am
    HI,

    Bless your heart! Thank you for doing this.

    Does Sun Wah have an exclusively Chinese menu? If yes, then please consider scanning and translating it. People here love having access to menus just beyond our reach. A copy of your effort today is going to our translated menu thread.

    If anyone does pursue these dishes, then please take a picture or describe them.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #16 - January 29th, 2009, 12:33 am
    Post #16 - January 29th, 2009, 12:33 am Post #16 - January 29th, 2009, 12:33 am
    Hi,

    Last year, Kelly of Sun Wah BBQ was very kind to translate the Chinese New Year menu from Happy Chef Dim Sum House. I finally got to reap the benefits tonight as well as calibrate the Chinese menu to the English translation. The staff from Happy Chef helped me identify regularly offered items from those made only during Chinese New Year, which are now identified with asterisks:

    Image

    1. Flowers opening bring wealth: broccoli w/ scallops
    2. Old and young are safe: fish w/ steamed tofu
    3. Three stars watching over you: mushrooms with sea cucumbers
    4.* Luck and life every year: mushrooms with abalone slices
    5. Rise with every step: mushrooms with duck feet
    6.* Care for child until many: yellow chives w/ scallops
    7.* Wish you good fortune: bamboo shoot skins w/ dried scallop and white wood ear soup
    8.* Wealth comes easily to your hand: pig's feet stewed w/ moss (there is a difference, this dish is always the forelegs, more meat)
    9.* Wealth comes to the market: dried oysters stewed w/ moss
    10.* Gold and silver fill house: stuffed mushrooms


    Image

    A.* Wealth brings good wishes: pork tongue w/ moss
    B. Red fortune over the head: fried chicken
    C. Fortune changes the world: braised chicken and shrimps
    D. Ten thousand purples thousand reds: crispy sweet and sour ribs
    E. Double star brings happiness: shrimp and scallops bird's nest
    F. Wish you good fortune: bamboo shoot skins w/ dried scallop soup
    G.* Embroidered silk ball: cashew w/ shrimp bird's nest
    H. Firecrackers bring safety: bamboo shoot skin with peapod tips
    1. Flowers open bring wealth: broccoli w/ scallops

    This evening I took my own advice and tried several menu items with friends. The meal began with complimentary lotus bean soup, which is a Happy Chef standard. We then delved into the Chinese New Year menu:

    H. Firecrackers bring safety: bamboo shoot skin with peapod tips
    Image

    Underneath the web of bamboo shoot skin was a very generous quantity of peapod tips. While this was the only dish we selected that could be ordered anytime. We selected this dish purely for its name and would do it again, though I am not sure of the standard menu name.


    G.* Embroidered silk ball: cashew w/ shrimp bird's nest
    Image
    Image

    A stunning visual presentation of deep fried woven noodle basket filled with shrimps, cashews and vegetables. We took some of the fillings, then broke off a piece of the basket to eat with the filling.


    10.* Gold and silver fill house: stuffed mushrooms
    Image
    Image

    Braised shiitake mushrooms filled with a minced shrimp filling surrounded by Chinese brocolli and covered by an egg white flecked sauce. These were something I will be glad to order again next year.


    A.* Wealth brings good wishes: pork tongue w/ moss
    Image

    The nob on top is a braised shiitake mushroom with moss underneath. Inside the carefully arranged sliced braised pork tongue was cooked lettuce in a light sauce.

    I brought a friend who is very alert to food ordered by other tables. People around us were clearly in a celebratory mood. One large party was dining on Happy Chef's $400 deluxe family meal. We kept a menu by us like a scorecard to keep track of what they were being served. A small party next to us was clearly having their Chinese New Year blow out meal. They ordered an 8-pound lobster ($18 per pound), which was presented to them while still alive for their approval. This lobster arrived in at least three differently prepared dishes to their table. At the conclusion of the their meal, there were orange unidentifiable desserts brought to their table. My friend just had to know what they were being served because nothing jived with the menu or even the specials on the wall. After a few minutes conversation, we learned these were off menu desserts of a fresh mango gelatin dessert molded to look like goldfish. Each fish is $5 each and can be arrange by calling the restaurant earlier in the day. The chef who makes these leaves by 4 PM. We were lucky enough to have the last goldfish to share:

    Image

    This year has certainly been the best culinarily observed Chinese New Year I have yet to experience. Thanks again to Kelly and the Cheng family of Sun Wah BBQ. Kelly touched tonight's dinner by her generosity to translate Happy Chef's menu making the unapproachable very approachable.

    Life is good!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #17 - January 29th, 2009, 5:41 am
    Post #17 - January 29th, 2009, 5:41 am Post #17 - January 29th, 2009, 5:41 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Image


    Cathy,

    This type of "mango pudding" is usually served with evaporated milk poured over it at tableside. I really like it that way because the milk makes the pudding taste even richer. Did they offer?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #18 - January 29th, 2009, 7:10 am
    Post #18 - January 29th, 2009, 7:10 am Post #18 - January 29th, 2009, 7:10 am
    stevez wrote:Cathy,

    This type of "mango pudding" is usually served with evaporated milk poured over it at tableside. I really like it that way because the milk makes the pudding taste even richer. Did they offer?


    Yes, they did. The evaporated was brought over in a small bowl after the picture was taken and the fish divided.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #19 - January 29th, 2009, 9:25 am
    Post #19 - January 29th, 2009, 9:25 am Post #19 - January 29th, 2009, 9:25 am
    Wow - what an exciting opportunity! I am particularly interested in the embroidered silk ball, that looks delicious. What did the nest part taste like - was it simply a fried noodle, or was it seasoned in some way?
  • Post #20 - January 29th, 2009, 12:40 pm
    Post #20 - January 29th, 2009, 12:40 pm Post #20 - January 29th, 2009, 12:40 pm
    Mhays wrote:Wow - what an exciting opportunity! I am particularly interested in the embroidered silk ball, that looks delicious. What did the nest part taste like - was it simply a fried noodle, or was it seasoned in some way?


    Ultra crisp noodle very similar to the dried ramen soups packets, which also happen to be deep fat fried noodles. I used my noodle as a scoop early on, then ate it.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #21 - January 29th, 2009, 2:59 pm
    Post #21 - January 29th, 2009, 2:59 pm Post #21 - January 29th, 2009, 2:59 pm
    Looks and sounds delicious...I hope we can get there before New Year's is over (though I kind of doubt it...)
  • Post #22 - August 29th, 2009, 7:15 pm
    Post #22 - August 29th, 2009, 7:15 pm Post #22 - August 29th, 2009, 7:15 pm
    OK, not new year's, but following CrazyC's direction we wound up at Happy Chef for dinner...and the person at the next table looked awfully familiar...and then she said, "You look awfully familar," and it was, of course, none other than CrazyC!

    So not only did we get the perfect direction on what to order, we also got to eat half of their meal. Sparky wanted Ma Po Tofu, and we found they had a "regular" and a "crispy" style - so we ordered "crispy." Salt and Pepper shrimp were very good (too spicy for Sparky) a style that is again slightly different from everywhere else - here the light batter has the chili worked into it, so they have a bit of a kick. CrazyC also offered a (large) taste of her cuttlefish, very like an al dente calamari, and some delicious pea shoots with preserved egg (I'll be going back in the near future just for that!)

    Our meal (once we stopped eating CrazyC's) started with an included pork and lotus root soup: very plain stock made just with the pork neck and the lotus root, but with pork meat melting off the bones into the soup. Crispy Ma Po Tofu is a totally different Ma Po experience: the squares of tempura tofu are covered in a sauce that's thick with chunks of ginger and scallion, the pork is julienned, not ground, and altogether it was a terrific blend of textures and flavors. We also got (by an ordering accident of my own) a fish dish over soft tofu cubes, a slightly bland preparation in some broth, but the fish was cooked to perfection, meltingly tender and moist and had good flavor on its own. Of course, the highlight of the meal for me was getting a FREE lobster just for eating! You have your choice of how it can be prepared, we had steamed thinking that Sparky would prefer that (it was good, served with a pile of shredded ginger and scallions, but next time we'd go with one of the ginger or garlic stir-fry options.)

    It was terrific fun having a meal with friends entirely by accident - and it didn't hurt at all to have CrazyC tell the wait staff that we "weren't normal white people" so we didn't have any trouble ordering the more authentic Chinese dishes - though I got the impression that they wouldn't have given us a hard time after Sparky so eagerly asked for Ma Po Tofu. Very, very nice experience all around; I definitely want to come back for Dim Sum.

    Then CrazyC, the spouse, Sparky and I all went to Joy Yee's new sushi/yakitori place and had yakitori chicken skin, meatballs and a bunch of sushi for dessert.
  • Post #23 - December 14th, 2009, 12:30 pm
    Post #23 - December 14th, 2009, 12:30 pm Post #23 - December 14th, 2009, 12:30 pm
    Happy Chef is jumping on the hot pot bandwagon! The hubby and I went last night (to finalize the Xmas eve dinner) and to try it out! $40 for two people. They had 3 different sets: lobster, crab and live fish. Crab and lobster was deemed too messy so we opted for the live fish with 2 broths (ma la and preserved egg & cilantro).

    Image

    Image

    The set included a live fish (big mouth bass), Guilin rice noodles, spinach (forgot to request watercress instead), shrimp, sliced fatty beef, beef balls, fish balls, housemade dumplings, blue crabs, clams and pork liver/kidneys (we subbed tripe for this).

    All in all, a pretty good dinner. If I was craving more meat in my hot pot, LSC would be my choice. But the seafood is of a superior quality at Happy Chef.
  • Post #24 - December 18th, 2009, 12:55 am
    Post #24 - December 18th, 2009, 12:55 am Post #24 - December 18th, 2009, 12:55 am
    CrazyC wrote:The set included a live fish (big mouth bass)


    Largemouth bass... :wink:
  • Post #25 - December 18th, 2009, 10:00 am
    Post #25 - December 18th, 2009, 10:00 am Post #25 - December 18th, 2009, 10:00 am
    Jay K wrote:
    CrazyC wrote:The set included a live fish (big mouth bass)


    Largemouth bass... :wink:


    Large... big... same diff... :) The waiters were laughing at me because I did not know the English names of the fishes! He was the one who told me it was a "big mouth bass"... :roll:
  • Post #26 - April 25th, 2011, 10:46 am
    Post #26 - April 25th, 2011, 10:46 am Post #26 - April 25th, 2011, 10:46 am
    HI,

    A friend who went to Chinatown for Easter reported Happy Chef has new owners and a new menu. It appears there is a new staff too, because she didn't recognize any of the wait staff.

    While a dish was prepared as requested with a crisp bottom. She suggested the cooks may be on a low sodium regime, because everything needed salt.

    I look forward to other's experiences.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #27 - April 25th, 2011, 12:32 pm
    Post #27 - April 25th, 2011, 12:32 pm Post #27 - April 25th, 2011, 12:32 pm
    Oh no! We were there April 17th and old menu and regular staff was there. Dim Sum was super fresh and delicious as always. Hopefully the Easter visit was a blip..
    LO
  • Post #28 - June 9th, 2011, 9:38 am
    Post #28 - June 9th, 2011, 9:38 am Post #28 - June 9th, 2011, 9:38 am
    I thought I'd try the S&P Shrimp at Happy Chef, as someone posted it was the best prep in Chinatown. That post, however, was a few years back. The place is now called the NEW Happy Chef. I have no problems eating shrimp shells and heads, however, in my opinion they should be crisp enough to disintegrate in your mouth for easy swallowing. The shrimp experienced at the New Happy Chef left a sodden pile of ground up shells in my mouth, that did not appeal for me to swallow. What's the deal with this shell stuff? I'd find the information useful for future ordering practices.
  • Post #29 - July 25th, 2011, 3:13 pm
    Post #29 - July 25th, 2011, 3:13 pm Post #29 - July 25th, 2011, 3:13 pm
    We went to Happy Chef 2 weeks ago and everything was the same as it has been for us for the last 5 years, when we began going there. Same servers, same menu, same excellent dumplings and stir fried greens.
    LO
  • Post #30 - November 1st, 2011, 3:43 pm
    Post #30 - November 1st, 2011, 3:43 pm Post #30 - November 1st, 2011, 3:43 pm
    I am sad to report that Happy Chef has closed its doors. I was at Shui Wah yesterday and Happy Chef was locked up tight with the windows papered over.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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