First Look at Regal Seafood: Watch This Chef Carve a Duck

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If you're looking for a new place to sample Cantonese cuisine, venture out of the loop to Stafford and visit the new Regal Seafood (12350 Southwest Fwy, Stafford, TX) restaurant. Owned by the same people who opened up E-Tao in the Galleria, Regal quietly opened a few months ago on the southbound Southwest Freeway feeder, just past the West Airport exit.

The interior of the restaurant is attractively appointed, with a swanky modern feel. To the left of the entrance, a square shaped bar beckons, with yellowish-gold chairs and a television playing the latest sport match. As you are guided to your table, you're greeted by crystal chandeliers and rows of booths separated by flat, curved gold partitions that extend to the ceiling. The main dining room is large and open, with plenty of large round tables to accommodate larger groups and families, while off to the side, there are private dining rooms to host large parties.

I visited for lunch one afternoon to sample their dim sum menu, which includes items like their xiao long bao soup dumplings and har gow shrimp dumplings. My lunch was somewhat lackluster--the dumplings lacked flavor and the skins were somewhat overcooked--so I'd say they still have some work to do before the dim sum reaches the quality or consistency of E-Tao, but that's forgivable since they're so new.

Dinner was another matter. Under the guidance of general manager Edmund Mo, we ordered several of the restaurant's signature items, and they were indeed impressive. The peking duck -- one of my favorite Chinese dishes --was a wow. To my knowledge, Regal is one of the only places in Houston that will carve the duck table side, and they do it with all the theatrics: The duck is wheeled to the table on the cart, hanging at a slight angle from a long metal pole. A server then slices the crispy skin off piece by piece, laying them on a rectangular white plate until it the whole plate is covered in duck skin. This is served with house-made pancakes, with plum sauce and chives on the side. We also had the option of creating a second dish with the remaining duck meat, so for $10 extra, we got a whole serving of duck lettuce wraps to enjoy later.

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Instead of steamed fish, Mo recommended oil-poached whole fish. Prepared with the same type of sauce you'd typically get with a whole steamed fish (soy sauce, oil, green onions, and ginger), Mo said that oil-poaching gave the fish a much better texture and flavor, and indeed, I found the flesh of our just-fished-from-the-tank goby fish to be moist and delicious.

Lobster lovers can rejoice, because the piece de resistance of the night was undoubtedly the lobster. As is custom in Chinese seafood restaurants, a server fished a live lobster from the tank and brought it to our table for us to inspect before they took it into the kitchen. Just like they did with the peking duck, we were given the option to turn the lobster into more than one dish for an extra fee per dish, so our five pound lobster was turned into four distinct dishes.

The first dish, a cross between a lobster custard, scrambled eggs, and a lobster souffle, was a delightfully light preparation of lobster was made with egg whites. The somewhat spongy, almost mousse-like preparation was fluffy and creamy and impossible to stop eating, that is, until we received the second plate, something they called "Hong Kong Bay Lobster."

Deep fried and then topped with a mountain of cascading golden crisps, the Hong Kong Bay Lobster was spicy and slightly sweet, and finger licking good. They had fried the lobster tail and claws for this dish, so I just picked them up and dug in.

The third preparation of lobster was caramelized Maggi lobster e-mein, in which the smaller legs and parts of the tail had been tossed in a viscous caramel sauce, and served over thick white noodles -- again, two thumbs up.

The only preparation I didn't care for was the lobster fried rice, which was made with the lobster roe. I found the roe to be overwhelmingly fishy, with a strange metallic aftertaste. Mo said that it was a delicacy that many Chinese people loved, but I'll have to take his word on that.

I got a sneak peek into the kitchen to see the chefs and action, and it looked like a scene straight out of Hong Kong. The chefs, all sporting white jackets and hats, were lined up in a long line, and working their magic at the wok. Steam and hot flames were flying, food was being tossed quickly with flicks of the wrist before being carefully poured onto a serving dish, ready for the next hungry customer.

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