Capital Seafood has been around for many years, serving delicious Chinese food out of several locations. In Orange County, they started with a Garden Grove location, an older, smaller restaurant selling Chinese food in the middle of “Little Saigon”. A small restaurant, but one of the first in the area to have live tanks inside. The Monterey Park location served not only Chinese meals but delicious dim sum in a huge, banquet/church/Victorian type of room. When they opened in Irvine in the Diamond Jamboree, however, they seemed to take elements from several of their other locations and improve on everything. The décor is modern, open and bright. Fish and shellfish reside in four tanks faced into a granite wall. The noise level is reasonable and there are many tables that can accommodate over eighteen diners, with “Lazy Susans” in the middle of the tables to make it easy to pass serving dishes. White tablecloths fill the main area, while a half-wall encases a smaller bar area with a nice bar and décor more like you would find in a Newport Beach oceanfront bar. One thing it shares with the Garden Grove, Monterey Park (and several other locations from Arcadia to Las Vegas) plus their two locations in Dongguan City, China however, is some of the best food around. For the convenience of shoppers at the Spectrum in Irvine, they have also added a location there.
If you are in luck, the wait is short. Otherwise, they will give you a pager so you can wander around if you would like or just sit outside and enjoy a nice evening. Once you are seated, cocktail and sake orders may be placed. They have several soju and sake cocktails that are unique in flavor and beautiful in looks. The Lychee Lovedrop Saketini is a good example of a creative, delicious drink. A great to start the evening is by ordering the sake sampler. It consists of individual glasses of pear, plum and a “diamond” sake to start off the evening with a little variety. It is a good way to have some very unique sakes that you cannot try otherwise.
Soups are almost always the best way to begin a dinner. One good choice is a bowl of the war won ton soup. A nice broth filled with shrimp, chicken, wonton, veggies and pork helped fill a big bowl of deliciousness. One of the things Capital Seafood has always been known for is the service. They do not just drop the food at the table. Each bowl of soup is ladled for the guests into individual bowls. Not only a nice way to start, but a sign that they are there to provide you with upscale, exemplary service. Waitstaff always seem to be around and happy to answer questions, dish out some food of assist the diner any way they can. The other thing to be noted is the management. You can see through their interaction with the diners that they really love providing their guests with the kind of attention that makes everyone feel as though they are special.
One of the must-haves at the Diamond Jamboree location is their Peking Duck. Crispy skin, moist, delicious meat and airy buns. What’s not to love about this dish? It is available any time for dinner, but if you are lucky enough to be able to go during the week, their ongoing special cuts the price of the duck platter from a reasonable $24.00 to an amazing $12.00. It’s hard to find a store to buy a frozen duck for that price! Some scallion and a little hoisin sauce—–and you’ve got some of the tastiest delights ever put into a bun! The contrast of the crispy skin with the soft bun is one of the joys of this dish. Nice portions of meat, including the legs, give you yet another flavor and texture treat. A lot of people must think so too, since there are always plenty of the ducks being served to hungry diners.
Sometimes, even the most adventuresome diner feels like an old school, Cantonese dish. One good choice is an old standby, sweet and sour pork. Capital makes it the way it always should be, with crispy, lightly battered nuggets of pork in a sweet and sour sauce brimming with onions and red bell peppers. The sauce is not overly sweet but very flavorful.
As the name suggests, seafood is Capital’s specialty. Their tanks hold live seafood and it is impossible to get any fresher than that. Most of their lobsters vary from two to over six pounds. They will bring it to your table, live, to show you what it looks like first and decide on the size. Pick your choice and a short time later, it comes back fully prepared. An excellent choice is the “house special lobster”. On a huge platter, it is prepared with Capital’s house blend of peppers, scallions and cilantro. The richness of the lobster cuts through the medium-spicy sauce. Stir fried to perfection, this is one of Capital’s signature dishes. If you are lucky, it will be a female and also include the delicious roe in the sauce. The flavor is excellent, spicy but prepared so all the flavors of the various ingredients blend harmoniously. This is another dish that is well worth the money at Capital.
One of the tanks holds tilapia, another often sea bass or spider crabs, the monsters also known as “California King Crabs” and sometimes weighing over 12 pounds. The tilapia may be the most impressive dish of all, though. Served on a platter, the dish is called “Vietnamese Style” Tilapia Fish. That simple description doesn’t do justice to the dish, however. It just may be the best fish I’ve ever in a Chinese restaurant. The fish is a work of art, laying on a bed of greens. The topping, combining onions, red and green chilies and fresh herbs, literally jumps off the plate with flavor. The crispness of the skin covers the moist, tender fish inside. Perfectly fried, the fish flakes easily. The sauce is balanced well—assertive but not overpowering the taste of the tilapia. The steamed sea bass is an excellent fish in it’s own right, but what they do with the tilapia elevates it to a dish that is simply wonderful.
Vegetable dishes shine, too. The spicy eggplant is tender, mixed with black mushrooms, green onions and chili in a delicious sauce. The house string beans are fried with fresh garlic and chilies, creating an exceptional dish. The baby bok choy with assorted mushrooms has a flavorful but not spicy sauce, perfect for those who cannot eat dishes with heat to them.
Capital has a whole dessert menu starting off with their house dessert. It wis a rice porridge, a nice one laced with corn and adzuki beans. With the language barrier, it was hard to figure out the rest of the ingredients, but whatever they were, they tasted great. Just the right sweetness to end the meal. The other dessert of note is the Baked Almond Souffle. It is an outstanding dessert that should be tried, even if it is just to pass around the table to give everyone a taste.
When you are done eating, you can always wander the the Diamond Jamboree to walk off some of the meal. Next door is Capital’s Express, where you can purchase some dim sum to go, or just walk past them and continue on to one of the myriad other restaurants in the center. Also, the big H-Mart Korean supermarket anchors one end, so you’ve got plenty of area to cover, with interesting items and a large fresh seafood department. Orange County certainly has many fine Chinese restaurants, but a trip to Capital Seafood is certainly something special.
Capital Seafood Restaurant
2700 Alton Pkwy # 127
Irvine, CA 92606
Capital Seafood, Irvine