When you hear the thrum of voices that bubble into a pleasant cacophony as you weave through the aisles to your table, you know you’re in a 酒樓 (jau lau), or a characteristic Chinese restaurant found in Hong Kong and other parts of Southeast Asia. In fact, bustling atmosphere pulled me back into happy memories of going to yum cha weekly as a kid with my family and grandparents so sharply that a pang of longing for Hong Kong hit my heart. It was the second night to the last for my parents and I in LA, and upon recommendation from a family friend that they serve good, inexpensive seafood, we decided to visit Five Star Seafood Restaurant in San Gabriel. We ordered the crab (at $.99/lb) and had it fried 避風塘 (bay fung tong) style, seafood crispy noodle, mustard greens with mushroom, homemade fish balls with lettuce, and steamed eggplant with shredded duck and pickled vegetables.
The great thing about Chinese restaurants is that you never have to wait, at least not for long. Because all dishes are meant to be shared, food comes out piping hot as soon as they’re done and it flows in a steady stream onto the table. The crispy egg noodles were deliciously crunchy, layered with a salty layer of thick starchy sauce that softened the noodles just enough for it to be moist and crispy at the same time. The scallops were thick and meaty, its texture just right albeit a bit flavorless on its own. The fish was extremely tender and the shrimp and squid were flawless. Forked together with the crunchy veggies, you have a plate-licking good dish.
The shiitake mushrooms were meaty and flavorful, and the mustard greens were crisp and sweet.
The homemade fish balls were aromatic, filled with bits of dried mandarin peel, shrimp scallions, and wood ear. Dipped together with slightly spicy soy sauce perfumed with garlic, the dish was a refreshing break from the other heavily seasoned and oily dishes. Surprisingly, the cooked iceberg lettuce also retained its sweetness, and I found myself clearing the vegetables.
The eggplant dish was mediocre. The sweet and salty pickled vegetables, smoky shredded duck, and steamed eggplant failed to complement each other in flavors, and each slice of eggplant was equivalent to biting into a sponge of oil. Even my parents who hated wasting food couldn’t take another spoonful of the dish after taking the first bite.
The crab was deliciously crunchy and moist at the same time. The panko covered shells carried the signature saltiness of a traditional fried crab dish, and the shells of the inner joints were crispy enough to eat. The flesh was extremely tender and succulent, serving a nice contrast with the crisp exterior. An abundance of garlic and scallions made it perfect to mix with rice. Our only complaint was that it lacked the spiciness of a bay-fung-tong dish.
Five Star Seafood Restaurant is a nice place to come to if you’re looking for a traditional, no-frills Chinese place to dine with your family and friends. Its dishes weren’t the best I’ve ever had, but it does the job if you’re hungering for authentic Chinese food.
Five Star Seafood Restaurant
140 W Valley Boulevard Ste 4D
San Gabriel, CA 91776