Thursday, September 25, 2008
3511 S Carrollton Ave,
New Orleans, LA 70118
New Orleans is unfortunately a Chinese food wasteland - as seem to be most cities not located on the coast, where Chinese immigrants have a market for real-deal Chinese cuisine. Good Chinese food is generally found only where the primary target market is Chinese as well. Still: I'd heard good things about Five Happiness, and I was developing a serious hankering for some Chinese food that needed immediate resolution. I met a friend at Five Happiness who is also a steely-eyed Chinese food critic, and we began our assessment.
The restaurant itself is quite nice: clean, open, and full of lots of wholesome looking types enjoying family dinners. This generally sets off my warning bells as the best Chinese food I know of is generally found in musty and badly-kempt back-rooms that may or may not be frequented by Asian gang members. It's part of the experience, man.
The menu covers all the American Chinese food basics - egg foo young, chow mein, General's Chicken, you know the score - but we were relieved to see some things more reminescent of actual Chinese cuisine....although there were no salt toast shrimp, which seem to me to be an ideal dish for NOLA.
Food came out quickly and efficiently: this is a Chinese restaurant, after all. We began with the Clay Pot of Subgum Bean Curds - braised bean curd sautéed with chicken, shrimp, roasted pork, and assorted vegetables in Sa- Teh sauce. ($13.95) This was a tasty and very Chinese clay pot, made with super fresh and tasty ingredients. Definitely a winner, and (as with all dishes here) more then enough for two meals. Score.
The beef with Black mushroom, snow peas, and bamboo shoots ($10.95) was also tasty and very fresh, although the flavor unfortunately ended up being rather similar to that of the clay pot. I do love me some funky, chewy black fungi.
Finally, one of my favorites: broccoli with crab meat sauce ($9.80.) Although the broccoli wasn't Chinese, this was a winner: plenty of juicy and fresh crab meat cooked to an almost buttery richness, on top of crisp and fresh broccoli. As a big old fan of both broccoli and crustaceans, this is my kind of dish.
Five Happiness seems to be doing a good job of presenting fresh and high quality Chinese food to the not-so-daring local palate, and for that I commend it. Now I'll just have to convince them to start serving salt toast shrimp (heads on please) and we'll be in business.