VALUE: There are two menus, the a la carte and their buffet all you can eat menu. The AYCE is just $12.99 per person and they bring you made to order piping hot dishes to your table. There is no buffet “bar” to visit. What a perfect fusion of “Chinese” and “buffet.”
FOOD: Our group opted for the AYCE buffet; All the more reason to order family style, so here’s what the group ordered: (I’m going to quote Catherine C’s " OMFG!!" because it was truly a never ending procession of dishes!!!!)
My FAVS were:
#47: SPICY Eggplant with Hot Sauce – I absolutely LOVE LOOOVED this dish. The eggplant morsels were large and plump. The hot sauce was a very tasty kind of spicy instead of the hot kind of spicy! Just wonderful with brown rice and with the congee we ordered.
#16: Chopped Mustard Green with Bean Curd Sheets and Edamame beans. – I enjoy this vegetable because it has a slight bitter kick to it. The shards of bean curd sheets provided a delightful color and texture contrast to the heartiness of the greens. I also really liked the addition of the edamame soy beans too as they lent a sweetness to balance out the subtle bitterness of the greens.
#17: Dry Sauteed String Bean garnished with fried mushrooms – this dish LOOKS a lot like the traditional dish that’s usually topped with a smattering of fried garlic. But Happy Family excels at using alternative ingredients for a dish that yields surprising flavor. It was quite good, if not just as good as the traditional dish. The string beans were perfectly braised so they still were slightly crunchy, but were incredibly juicy with flavor.
#50: Vegetarian Spare Ribs (Taro) with Sweet and Sour Sauce. I never was an expressed fan of taro, but after this dish, I am now. It looked like Panda’s Orange Chicken and not at all like traditional spare ribs to be honest, but once the flavors bursts in your mouth, oh my! You’ll be an instant new fan of taro too.
#28: Vegetarian Deep Fried House Chicken with Sesame. This was a unanimous favorite of the entire group. This tasted alot like Orange Chicken but was oh soo good because it was actually breaded mushrooms! The sesame added a very nice fragrance to the dish. We got two orders of this one because we loved it so much!
Here are the other dishes that tasted standard to me, but they were still enjoyable:
#1: Minced Squab in Lettuce – The vegetarian “squab” was a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, vegetarian hen and jicama. Jicama is new to me as I’m a new vegetarian. It’s a potato like vegetable that retains its crispiness much like a water chestnut does after being stir fried and/or cooked. The jicama definitely gave this vegetarian squab a crunchy heartier substance than if it were consisted entirely of just mushrooms. However, to me, this dish was missing the tangy flavor of Hoi Sing sauce because that’s normally how I enjoyed it in my former carnivorous days.
#35: SPICY Vegetarian Soy Fish with Hot Bean Sauce and #36: SPICY Vegetarian Soy Fish with Chef’s Sauce. – I’m new to soy meat substitutes and the last time I had soy fish, it was more tender in my recollection than the soy fish served here at Happy Restaurant. I think I’ve pretty much confirmed my own preference for seitan (wheat gluten) as a meat substitute because it seems more pliable, like mushrooms, to absorb the sauces / flavors better.
There were close to 10 other dishes that the group ordered, but none were memorable for me to review.
SERVICE: Happy Family complied with our group reservation by seating us in a private room. Our hostess, Shing Shing, was incredibly engaging with witty banter as she patiently recommended dishes and explained ingredients to our group. She also became our waitress as well. I agree with Tony Y Jr.‘s assessment of the 5 star caliber of service we received in this non descript little Chinese vegan restaurant. We couldn’t have been tended to ANY better!!
As a new vegetarian, Happy Family is like hitting the jackpot. Can’t beat the value of $12.99 per person for AYCE dinner. That’s incredible! I’m knocking off one star because not ALL the dishes were winners, but a good many of them were. I’d definitely go back again.