21st Birthday!

20 07 2010

My last big milestone birthday has been passed. I am now 21. What a wonderful birthday weekend it was, and how fortunate I am to have such loving family and friends celebrate the day/weekend with me.

On Saturday (07/17), I was off to Chris’ house for dinner (chicken marsala, yum!), video games (I’ve been really getting into Okami lately), and a movie (The Young Victoria). The chicken marsala was delicious and we finished the black bean and corn salsa.

On Sunday, my birthday, Chris came over around 12:30 PM with a pot of Victory roses and a bottle of Lucky Duck red wine. Then, my parents, Chris, and I went to A&J Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was a bit packed and we had to take a number. While waiting, my mom, Chris, and I went to Maria’s Bakery, which is right next door, for some bubble tea and to buy a cake for me. I had a strawberry bubble tea while Chris got an original bubble tea and we decided on a coffee-flavored birthday cake for after dinner.

Our number was finally called and we got a table near the window and quickly placed orders. We all ordered beef noodle soup (牛肉面 aka Niu Rou Mian), with three appetizer platters. They also make bubble tea, but I prefer Maria’s because it’s catered especially for bakery items and bubble tea. Everyone seemed to like their beef noodle soup. Chris and I both prefer our noodles to be thick rather than thin (force of habit, perhaps? Refer to earlier posts about NRM). We both scarfed everything down fairly quickly, while hot steam from the soup wafted around our faces, causing a bit of perspiration, but nonetheless, it was a great lunch. Chris is usually not a big fan of A&J because according to him, the soup is like “soy sauce soup”, but he thought that it was pretty flavorful. Perhaps it was a stroke of birthday luck on my part? ;)

For dinner, Chris took me to the Sea Pearl, a restaurant off of Strawberry Lane. The restaurant was very classy; as soon as we walked in, I could tell it was a high-end restaurant. There was a bar, with dozens and dozens of liquor bottles along the walls. A chandelier made of sea shells and sand dollars glimmered above the bar. Sand dollars and sea shells made up a curtain, illuminated by lights hidden beneath. Mahogany dark tables and matching chairs decorated the interior of the restaurant. Each table had white plates, a black napkin in which two silver forks and a knife were wrapped, a salt/pepper shaker (counterclockwise spin gave salt, while a clockwise spin revealed pepper), and orange table mats which looked like they were composed of ramen noodles or something from the sea (sounds much less exceptional than it actually was; I thought it was a very creative and fitting touch!) on which all the dishware and cutlery was placed. The hostess led us to our table, next to some high windows, and gave us our menus.

Sea Pearl's interior

While looking over the menus, our waiter came by to introduce himself most graciously. He then went to get two glasses of ice water and a basket of bread and plate of butter. The bread had a hint of onion, and it was very delicious. The waiter came by as we munched on our bread and took our orders. Chris and I decided to share an appetizer of blue crab and corn soup with green chili crème fraiche. I decided on the oven roasted Chilean sea bass with spicy shiro miso glaze, sliced jalapeno, baby bok choy, and coconut jasmine rice as my main course. Chris ordered the pan sheared sea scallops with pureed celery root, celery, mandarin oranges, shaved fennel, baby greens, and lemon vinaigrette.

The waiter had thoughtfully split our soup beforehand and presented our appetizers to each of us in a dishware similar to a gravy boat. As soon as he placed the soup before me, I could already smell the blue crab; I love seafood soups because of its distinctive smell. I selfishly spooned my soup until it was gone and put it aside. Some more bread, and then the main course arrived!

Our appetizer: blue crab and corn soup!

My eyes popped at the sight of my main course. A huge portion of sea bass, as well as two ginormous bok choys and a towering block of jasmine rice and sliced carrots that made up the “hair” of the block of rice. Chris’ dish portrayed six huge sea scallops arranged along the circumference of the plate. Between each scallop stood a mandarin orange. In the center was a salad of greens. We shared our main courses, and I tried some of his scallops and he tried the sea bass. We ate our meals with some pinot noir that the waiter had recommended, my first sip of  being 21. I love the way the restaurant prepared the sea bass. Chris finished his main course before me, and helped me with some of my carrots and rice.

Two glasses of pinot noir to accompany our dinners

My main course: oven roasted Chilean sea bass.

Chris' main course: pan sheared sea scallops.

After the main course, Chris and I decided to share a passion fruit crème brûlée. The dessert, served in a ramekin, was placed on top of a black napkin, a leaf of spearmint placed next to the dessert – all this was placed on a rectangular white plate. The waiter presented the plate with a single candle for me and wished me a happy birthday. I blew the candle out, and Chris and I shared the task of breaking the crème brûlée.

Dessert: crème brûlée

Most unfortunately, dinner ended too soon, but it was absolutely exceptional. I loved every dish, especially the blue crab and corn soup and my main course, the Chilean sea bass. The sea bass is what Sea Pearl is known for, according to the restaurant and Chris and its many reviewers. And now I can say that I fully agree, because it was the best sea bass I’ve ever had.

After dinner (although not too soon after dinner, considering how very full we both were!), Chris, my parents, and I celebrated the end of the night with a coffee-flavored birthday cake that my mom bought from Maria’s Bakery earlier that day. This cake was almost like a mousse cake, very fluffy and not super sweet.

What a fantastic 21st birthday!  A special thanks to Chris, for spending the day with me and for dinner and the gift and everything <3


Ni Hao Café

10 05 2010

The end of the spring semester is just around the corner, and Chris and I are finishing our junior year of college. Since we’re currently busy studying for finals and wrapping the semester up, we unfortunately do not anticipate a lot of cooking going on until after finals are finalized.

Today, however, we went to Ni Hao Café, which is a Chinese restaurant located right on the Corner (a popular food spot for students, locals, and visitors alike). Ni Hao Café caters mostly to undergrad and grad students, as the food is pretty quality and the prices are relatively cheap. Typically, it is under $10 for an entrée. During lunch, there are $5 specials that come with rice. They even have Happy Hour, Mondays-Fridays from 4-6 pm!

Chris and I have actually been to Ni Hao Café several times, mostly with our classmates. However, today, we decided to go there for lunch! We were the only ones in the restaurant for awhile, although there were some people who came in for takeout and eventually by the time we were ending our lunch, two groups of people came in. Chris and I both ordered beef noodle soup (the third time NRM has come up in our blog!). We wanted to compare their NRM to ours.

The first thing I noticed about Ni Hao’s beef noodle soup is that the noodles are very thick and wide; Chris calls them fat rice noodles. The noodles we used were pretty thick and wide too, but I don’t think they were as wide as Ni Hao’s. The beef seemed pretty good. Chris thinks that it was more restaurant-style than the traditional NRM. It wasn’t spicy and didn’t have a very distinguished star anise-taste like ours did. Overall, it was pretty good beef noodle soup and I would recommend it to friends/family/strangers and eat it again.

Ni Hao Café's beef noodle soup

Yum! Next time we go to Ni Hao, we’ll be sure to try other delicious dishes. I’m especially interested in their dim sun plates! :)