7320 Southwest Freeway #115
Houston, TX 77074
Normally I would spend the Lunar New Year back home in San Diego with both sides of the family. However, this year I had the opportunity to go to Creating Change in Houston which just so happened to fall the same weekend as the Lunar New Year. While I was initially somewhat sad that I would not be eating at Emerald or Golden City for the traditional Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner, I became excited at the prospect of exploring Houston’s Chinese food scene and eat a Lunar New Year meal not in Southern California.
I researched the internet, flipped through a Zagat guide, and even took a peak at tour guides. While there seemed to be a number of options, I ultimately picked Fung’s Kitchen and placed a reservation for Lunar New Year’s Eve, knowing that nearly all restaurants would likely be full. I invited a couple friends of mine that were also going to the conference from New Mexico because the Lunar New Year, of all holidays in the Chinese calendar, is the holiday to be celebrating with family (chosen, biological, or otherwise).
At about 7:30PM we drove my rental car to the restaurant. We arrived nearly 30 minutes before our reservation and, as expected, the place was packed. Nonetheless, because I made the reservation we secured the next open table. After waiting about 5 minutes, we were seated and ordered chrysanthemum tea and a couple glasses of water. We looked at the menu and inquired about special Chinese New Year dishes. Unfortunately, all the specials were in Chinese and given that my Chinese reading skills aren’t quite that good (especially when half the Lunar New Year dishes have auspicious names instead of actually telling you what the dish is) we settled on regular menu items.
We initially ordered stir fried pea sprouts, “Buddha’s Delight” which is basically stir fried vegetables and fungus (which is traditional to eat for the new year), and seafood crispy chow mein as fish is a must for the Lunar New Year as a symbol of prosperity (fish is a homonym for fortune). One of my friends spotted dumplings so we ordered vegetable dumplings as well. Finally, as we were waiting for our food the owner came to our table and generously upsold us on scallops.
The scallops came first. Despite the price tag of $5,99 each, they were actually pretty good with a nice and light garlicky sauce. The vegetable dishes came next. The textures for the vegetables turned out perfect but I wished both the pea sprouts and the “Buddha’s Delight” had a little bit more seasoning. I ended up having to dab the vegetables with chili oil to make things more palatable. The vegetable dumplings were pretty well made and played very well with a vinegar and soy sauce dip. The final dish to arrive was the chow mein, which was done nearly flawlessly. The play between the crunchy noodles with the noodles softened by the seafood and sauce sublimely danced in my mouth.
Aside from slower service during the beginning of the meal, the attention by the restaurant was spot on. They quickly refilled our water glasses and teapot. The owner was also very friendly, though definitely pushed us to also buy more dessert. Knowing that the bill was already going to be about $25 a person, I politely but firmly declined.
For dessert, we headed further down Houston’s Chinatown instead. We ended up going to a lovely boba place that had great almond milk tea. Upon one sip, I was instantly transported back to Southern California.
My meal may have not been as great as I hoped, but the end note to this experience was perfect: drinking boba with friends and having a good time. The year of the Horse started on a great note.