Sherman's Food Adventures: Mid-Autumn Festival Dinner @ Western Lake

Mid-Autumn Festival Dinner @ Western Lake

Here I am again at Western Lake...  It seems a bit familiar doesn't it?  Well, it shouldn't be a surprise since it has been a long-time favourite of mine.  Yes, there are those who will point out there is better, but they are not considering the fact that Western Lake arguably puts out the best food for the price.  It isn't cheap, but there is no denying that the prices are extremely reasonable for the quantity and quality.  Recently, I was invited along with a host of other forms of media for a mid-Autumn Festival Dinner featuring king crab.  They didn't have to ask twice...

The classic Peking Duck hit the table first with the usual accompaniments of steamed crepes, hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onion.  Nicely lacquered in a rich shade of red, the fairly rendered skin was crispy and light.  Most pieces featured some meat attached which made each wrap more hearty.  Served underneath was a bevy of shrimp chips that were freshly fried, hence they weren't stale.   Arriving next was the usual 2nd course of Duck Lettuce Wrap.  This featured a good ratio of tender duck with crunchy veggies.  I liked how it was easy on the grease while mildly seasoned.  Some might've found this slightly bland, but with hoisin sauce added to the wrap, everything was good.  Although a bit wet, the lettuce was prepped properly in large cups.

It didn't take long for the Steamed King Crab Legs with a plethora of minced garlic and a sprinkle of green onion to arrive.  Although seemingly a simple dish, it was prepared expertly.  The plump meat was fluffy and juicy with the natural sweetness and slight brininess of king crab.  Of course, the amount of garlic on top added plenty of aromatics and a huge dose of bad breath.  But I'm sure no one minded that in the least.  Our 3rd course from the Peking Duck was the Duck & Bean Sprout Soup.  Normally, we would find shiitake mushrooms and dried fish maw here, but due to a dietary restriction of one of the guests, these were omitted.  This was very unfortunate because the result was a bland and uninteresting soup.  There was plenty of julienned duck as well as crunchy sprouts but the flavours were one-note and texturally wasn't interesting.

Back to the king crab, the body meat was prepared 2-ways with the first being King Crab in Supreme Soy Sauce with rice cake.  This was as savoury as it was described and appeared.  There was a rich saltiness to it that wasn't overwhelming as there was a regulating sweetness.  The rice cakes were chewy and helped soak up the flavours.  As for the crab itself, it was fluffy and well-seasoned.  The second dish was Spicy King Crab with vermicelli.  It was also exactly as described with a noted heat as well as some brininess from the dried shrimp.  Again, the crab was fluffy with a mild saltiness and the aforementioned spice.  Piled high, the vermicelli was chewy and appealingly dry.

Off to some veggies, we had the Dried Scallops Braised Pea Shoots with enoki mushrooms. Exhibiting proper wok heat, the dish was not subjected to much moisture at the bottom of the plate.  Hence, the pea shoots were crunchy while still cooked all-the-way-through.  Some remarked that the oyster-based sauce was too salty, but for me at least, it was perfect.  The pea shoots themselves were not aggressively seasoned, therefore, the salty brininess of the sauce was needed.  One of my favourite dishes that was not king crab was the Beef Tenderloin with deep fried milk.  The little chunks of meat were tender and packed with flavour included a balanced salty sweetness giving way to black pepper.  Underneath, we found crunchy celery.  As for the fried milk, it was tasty, but the crunchy batter could've been thinner.

Another solid offering was the Sauteed and Deep Fried Sole Fillet with broccoli.  I personally preferred the sauteed fish since it was buttery and tender.  It featured a thin coating of flavourful starch-thickened sauce.  It wasn't as if the fried sole wasn't good either.  Underneath the crunchy batter, the fish was equally flaky and moist.  Even the broccoli was on point being crunchy and vibrant.  Onto the 3rd course of King Crab, we had the Egg White Fried Rice with dried scallops (and a bit of crab).  The rice was chewy and nutty with enough wok heat.  I personally enjoyed the fried dried scallops as it added both texture and aromatics to the rice.

The rice was good, but the Tossed Yee Mein with crab and garlic sauce was money.  It sported al dente chewy noodles (generally difficult with this type of noodle) that were completely spiked with the leftover garlic crab protein from the steamed legs.  It was briny, sweet and garlicky.  For dessert, we were served moon cakes and a Baked Tapioca Pudding with lotus paste and topped with a sweet crust (think pineapple bun).  This was fairly sweet, but not overly so as most of it was due to the lotus paste.  Texture were good being soft while still holding its shape when cut and picked up.  Overall, this was a pretty fulfilling and varied mid-autumn festival dinner featuring king crab.  It is available for 6 or 10 people and only until October 8th.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Well-executed dishes
- Good variety

The Bad:
- Soup was plain, but that was due to the unfortunate dietary concerns of a guest

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