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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Happy Garden:Restaurant

Certain things it's just better to go out for. In this category of could-make-it-at-home-but-won't are really elegant multi-course French meals, sushi and Chinese food. Oh I guess I make a Chinese meal at home from time to time, but it's usually just one or two dishes and rice. I'm spoiled. San Francisco has some outrageously good Chinese food available in restaurants that are a hop skip and a jump from my front door.

A recent find is Happy Garden in the Richmond district. Happy Garden is on Clement street, where there are plenty of enticing Asian restaurants, fresh markets, and cafes. This is a great neighborhood for exploring and trying new things, but Happy Garden is truly a standout amongst its neighbors for its quality, quantity not to mention price.

One of several "Family Style" meals on the menu is $38.80 and feeds approximately 6-8 people. So what do you get for $38.80? A veritable seafood extravaganza is what. It begins with a seafood bean curd soup. The soup is primarily shrimp and tofu with creamy strands of egg white in a light viscous broth. Then comes the soft and creamy fried tofu stuffed with minced seafood. After that is the prawns and tender-not-rubbery squid sauteed with crisp vegetables, in this case carrots, bamboo shoots, snow peas, you know the drill. After this comes the house special chicken, which is perfectly steamed and served with a ginger garlic paste on the side, mustard greens with garlic, and a whole deep fried grey sole. Do you think the meal is over? Well, it's not. You are then served massive steamed oysters in the shell with black bean sauce and minced scallion and something they call spareribs in sweet orange sauce. Really it's not an accurate description, they are more like thin succulent fried pork shops with a reddish tangy sweet coating and chunks of pineapple.

Dessert is included but you might want to skip it or ask for sliced oranges instead. It's something you probably had to have grown up with to love--a red bean soup with tapioca. It's not bad, but it's not one of the worlds greatest desserts either. Of course what I haven't told you is that rice is not included in the price. But still with rice, tax and tip the grand total is still under $10 per person for a meal you'd be hard-pressed to duplicate at home at any price.

Go. Be happy.

Happy Garden
815 Clement St
San Francisco