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Hong Kong Nostalgia, Appropriately, at Confucius Restaurant

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If you are an ardent seafood lover, try to go to Hong Kong before you die. The island is home to dozens of restaurants, streetside stalls and market booths serving transcendently delicious dishes involving prawns, octopus, squid, lobster, crab, plus a host of other "fish" from more than a hundred different species. The selection is overwhelming. Your heart hurts because you can't try them all and your stomach hurts if you try.

Many dining establishments in the U.S. give customers who have not been to Hong Kong not just a casual whiff but a resounding, satisfying taste of its Ocean cuisine. In Houston, one absolutely terrific example is Confucius Seafood Restaurant.

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Although Confucius boasts a sizable dining room and tables, which seat four to six, are packed closely together, there's likely to be a wait, especially on a weekend night. Reservations? They don't take them, so put your name on the list and sit your butt down, or leave one selfless member of your party to wait while the rest of you grab a drink nearby. Quick service mean table turnaround is relatively quick, though some diners, usually in larger family groups, may choose to linger.

But doing so, and at least while continuing to eat, is hard. The food is just so good that relishing it rapidly seems on order.

Before you order anything else, choose a lobster dish. Two crustaceans, no matter preparation, run around $20 or so. On-the-menu options include lobsters baked with green onions and gingers in which the tangy flavors of vegetable and spice provided a lovely contrast to the crustacean's buttery supple flesh. Even better is the Chef's Special, which on the night of our visit involved coating the lobsters in a fiery salt-and-pepper crust that compelled us to abandon our chopsticks and grab pieces in order to better excavate the interior meat and suck off the seasoning. Hands and fingers maintained minor cuts from the shells, but the pain was well worth it.

Consider strongly following up with a more substantial yet still sea-inspired carbohydrate like the snow crab fried rice. Encased in an over-sized lotus leaf, the steamed riced smells like the shore in the evening during low tide and tastes briny and sweet, thanks to the inclusion of an entire carapace. The placement of this shell part effectively continuously regenerate crab stock, which is then soaks into the rice such that each kernel is hyper-infused with flavor. A family-style portion seems never-ending and prepare to fight over the leftovers.

Going to Hong Kong involves interminable flights and thousands of dollars. It's worth it. Until then? Go to Confucius.

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