Restaurant: Happy Table
Location: 203 West Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA. (626) 872-6677
Date: May 22, 2015
Cuisine: Northern Chinese
Six weeks ago we said a sad farewell to New Bay Seafood, which was one of the premier high end Cantonese places in the SGV.
In it’s place, as risen Happy Table, a new Chinese establishment…
With a diffuse menu of vaguely North Central slant. Not exactly Szechuan it has Szechuan dishes. Inside the place is identical, even the pictures of food on the walls are the same from the old menu.
2004 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. VM 97. This tasting only serves to highlight just how great the 2004 Dom Pérignon is. A wine that has totally blossomed in bottle, the 2004 is firing on all cylinders right now. Rich, ample and beautifully nuanced, the 2006 has it all; expressive aromatics, deep fruit and more than enough structure to age well for decades. I have been tasting the 2004 since before it was released and it just keeps getting better and better. Today, it is stunning. It is amazing to consider that in 2004, yields were the largest ever recorded in Champagne.
Various cold appetizers like this spicy beef jerky. I liked it a lot.
Or this great Kimchee. Obviously some northern influence.
Smoked fish. A few bones didn’t detract from the excellent flavor.
Marinated pepper. These green peppers had some heat — and were delicious.
Pickled root vegetable. Which one, I don’t know, but they were tasty.
NV Franck Bonville Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru. 90 points. Lovely pink color. The nose shows fruity aromas of strawberry, raspberry, mineral, flowers and cream. This is medium bodied on the palate with a distinctly fruity touch. There is good structure and finesse on display here, and the finish is long. Delicious.
Pork ear with chili sauce. I never met a pig ear I liked. The slimy rubbery texture and lack of flavor… ug.
2006 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons. Burghound 91. The nose reflects only modest aromatic development on the notably ripe, spicy and intensely floral nose that introduces strikingly intense and sappy flavors that are supple and textured yet the finish tightens up very quickly and possess a lovely sense of underlying tension on the palate staining finish. This is impressively long and possesses good if not truly class Chablis character. To my taste this is nearing the front edge of its peak drinkability though it will be capable of holding here for years to come.
agavin: drinking great!
Shrimp, smoked fish, and squid. Straight up but fine.
2013 Zardetto Prosecco di Conegliano Superiore Spumante Dry Z. 92 points. Very nice slightly sweet Prosecco, went great with slightly spicy dishes.
Hot and sour soup. The classic. The texture and flavor of this soup were nice, although it was oddly dilute, slightly mild in flavor.
2012 Franz Gojer – Glögglhof Kerner Karneid. 91 points. Nice herby wine.
Three flavor dumplings. The northern steamed kind. Whatever the three flavors were, they included pork and were pretty good.
From my cellar: 2003 Weingut Graben-Gritsch Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Schön. 89 points. nose of lychee pineapple lemon, creamy lemon and peach on the palate. Bright acidity medium finish.
Cumin lamb. Not super spicy and of medium cumin level. Pretty tasty.
2008 Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux 1ère Trie Clos du Bourg. JP 92. Pale golden yellow. Rich aromas of candied quince, white truffle and lemon oil mingle with a faint hint of spicy botrytis. The intense depth of rich pit fruit and glazed honey is well framed by the wine’s elegant chalky minerality. The herbal element to this wine’s depth is typical of this unusual vintage.
Szechuan eggplant. Always a winner, this was a dish bursting with flavor.
Dönnhoff Felsenberg Riesling Spätlese. Corked 🙁
Sautéed shredded pork. Reasonably tasty.
2004 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain. VM 88+. Bright golden-yellow. Singular nose combines lemon, smoke and iodine, plus a saline, peaty note that Humbrecht, a single-malt scotch aficionado, assured me was Skye or Orkney and not Islay. Big, round, broad and glyceral, with superrripe nutty, earthy flavors, moderate sweetness and fairly strong acidity. Slight mushroom note. Finishes with suggestions of macadamia and Brazil nut. “An extreme style,” Humbrecht admits. For soil hounds, this will be one to follow.
Ma Po Tofu. One of my favorite dishes in general this was an okay version with a medium amount of numbing Szechuan peppercorn. Over rice it was quite nice and I ate more than my share.
Spicy fried chicken. The aromatic type. This was an okay, but not great version of this dish. A little too fried maybe?
Scallion pancake. These were okay, the second bread below was better.
2009 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Ten. VM 89. One of the Sea Smoke flagships, the 2009 Pinot Noir Ten impresses for its depth and sheer power. Layers of flavor flow through to the huge, dramatic finish in a full-bodied, intense Pinot. Once the intensity of the fruit fades, there is not much development in the glass, which results in an overall impression of one dimensionality. The Ten is one of Sea Smoke’s flagships. It is made from all ten Pinot clones planted on the property. While a solid effort, I expected more from this offering, which also happens to be the wine through which I discovered Sea Smoke years ago.
Mu Chai Whole Lamb. People loved this. It was a tad fatty for me, but had a nice deep lamby flavor.
Steamed cod. A little over cooked.
1997 Silverado Hill Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t try this kind of stuff, particularly with Chinese.
Stir fry lobster. The fried part was typical, a bit over-fried and fine, but not spectacular. Certainly not nearly as good as at New Bay.
The meat in the center was undercooked and mushy with no flavor. Fairly disgusting actually.
Sweet bread. This pancake-cum-pita Chinese bread was fresh baked and delicious. There was a slight sweetness to it.
2009 Carlisle Petite Sirah Palisades Vineyard. VM 93. Glass-staining purple. Intense, exotically perfumed bouquet of blueberry, boysenberry, incense, black pepper and cola. Lush, expansive and surprisingly lively on the palate, offering sweet dark fruit flavors and firming but velvety tannins. Finishes with outstanding clarity and cling, repeating the boysenberry and violet notes.
Crystal Shrimp. Mild and fine.
Chung King Style hot pot. Every possible thing (including pig intestine, fish filets, beef) in a spicy chili oil sauce. This was fairly solid and a very typical Szechuan dish.
1998 d’Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon The Coppermine Road. 91 points. Robust cab though showing its age. Had a bit of a brown hue and a ton of sediment.
Ox tail with Wolfberry. Inedible tail tendons with berries. I don’t know what one was supposed to do with this pile of cartilage.
Spicy dry pot chicken. Very boney, but a nice flavor and the potatoes in the sauce were good.
Overall Happy Table serves up decent but not great fare. I’m not even sure what region it really is, but the Northern and Szechuan dishes were pretty good (although I’ve had better). The Seafood and more Cantonese dishes were so-so. The place was empty too, and at 7:30 on a Friday night. But the service was great. We had a big private room with two tables (same room we ate in as New Bay). They were very attentive and served things up at a nice place, so I’ll give them an A+ for effort.
It’s different than New Bay, but doesn’t offer up the same level of super high end Cantonese at all, so the former will be missed as there are a good number of these mixed places.
They are still located next to the best shaved ice place though.