I love it when I get to try Chinese food in a large group so we can order lots of different dishes, so it was great that John gathered 11 people to try Macau Street in Monterey Park. The island of Macau off the coast of Hong Kong was formerly a Portuguese territory, and the restaurant is said to have some specialties from the area. I didn't detect anything particularly Portuguese (there's certainly no chorizo hotpot), but we had a great time sampling the island's deeply-flavored dishes. The house specialities page on the menu is where you'll find the signature dish, crab fried with garlic (pictured at left). It's a nicely-fried crab covered in drifts of lightly browned garlic, and if you don't mind doing considerable cracking and prying, you'll be rewarded with some tender crab that has picked up some of the garlic flavor. Matt tried to dissuade me from picking at the little hidden piles of garlic left on the plate -- I'm sure it looked quite unseemly -- but I'm powerless in the face of piles of fried garlic, and they were so good mixed into the noodles with XO sauce and eggplant. So in addition to the crab and noodles, we had clams with leeks and black beans (below left). I don't think I've had too many dishes like this in Chinese restaurants -- instead of the usual clams in shells in a pool of black bean sauce, it was a rather dry stir-fry of chopped clams mingling with the leeks and bursting with flavor. Frog with tea leaves was another local specialty. The frog was tasty, but the chopped pieces resembled the chicken knees at Sea Harbour just a bit too much, and I've barely recovered from those. Pig neck sounds scary, but it was a plate of very tender and nicely flavored sliced barbecue pork, absolutely nothing scary there. Chicken and ginger hot pot had a wonderfully fragrant dark broth, but the chicken was very bony, and after the frog, I was like, enough with the bones. Bean curd with enoki mushrooms was different than what I had expected, but very tasty in a mild way. There were also pan-fried lamb ribs, pea leaves with garlic and chicken with scallops and asparagus, one of the few saucy and more typically Chinese dishes.
For dessert, the incredibly flaky and delicate egg tarts were a big hit, not so much the cookies made with pork fat or the harsmar (frog ovary fat!) with Chinese dates. Apparently Tara (trying the harsmar, below) and I are both going to be extremely fertile now after eating all that ovary fat.
Verdict: Macau Street is a winner. All those interesting dishes came out to $15 each, and no corkage! Everything was unusual and delicious. It's not a spicy cuisine, more salty, smoky and pungent. The menu is huge with lots of hot pots, soups, noodles, etc. in addition to the Macau specialties. And the space, especially the large tables for groups, is a cut above the usual dive. Service was also very nice, with frequent plate changes, in contrast to the brush-off I felt we got at New Concept last time.
429 W. Garvey Ave.