When most of Americans picture Chinese food, they picture Orange Chicken, Beef & Broccoli, and lots of Chow Mein. What typical Americans picture as Chinese food relates as much to China as Taco Bell’s food relates to Mexico. In others words, we eat what Americans think people eat in the native country. Finding authentic food away from its origin can cause some irritations; for example, nowhere in California can anyone find a real Philly Cheesesteak – no one can get it right, as if the knowledge disappears when traveling from the east coast to the west coast. Asking the locals may help point you in the right direction on locating the real deal, so when asked about real Chinese food, I find myself at Capital Seafood.

While Southern California may have their clusters of Asian populations complete with plenty of Asian restaurants, Capital Seafood stands out from the pack. Historically, Capital Seafood locations settle in to Asian communities, such as Westminster and Rowland Heights. Now in the 21st century, an outlier now exists at the Irvine Spectrum, a massive shopping center in Orange County where the 5 and 405 freeways meet. For this location, the folks at Capital Seafood walk the line of serving traditional Chinese cuisine in a multicultural setting. If you seek out real Chinese food without the need to learn a new language, make it a priority to visit Capital Seafood at the Irvine Spectrum rather soon.

Following up with my recent dinner at Capital Seafood, our group received a communal dinner, where the servers placed the entrées in the middle of the table on a lazy Susan, and each individual could then serve up as much as they like on his/her own. Starting off the night, we received these Baked Mussels topped with Masago Aioli. These include roe in the sauce, which lends to the crunchy texture of this tapas dish.

Although not formally on the menu, Capital Seafood does carry Peking Duck, which they serve traditionally with a steamed bao bun, hoisin sauce, onions, and fried chips for texture.

At the same time as the Peking Duck, we also received Chicken Lettuce Wraps, with dried jicama, Thai basil, and hoisin sauce.

We jump right into the main event with the House Special Lobster. This specialty of Capital Seafood uses their own secret recipe for the sauce, and gives it a unique savoriness that one cannot easily describe.

My personal favorite dish, House Special Scallops, came out next. These scallops get lightly battered, fried, and tossed in the same sauce used for the lobster along with scallions, black pepper, and chili peppers. The resulting flavor carries a little of everything: sweet, salty, spicy, crispy, juicy, and savory. In fact, you can call this umami without overstating it.

Another classic done right, the Honey Walnut Shrimp came to us next. Fried shrimps comes with honey-glazed walnuts and a light cream sauce on a bed of cantaloupes and honeydew.

Those with seafood allergies need not fear, as they will love the House String Beans. Just like the aforementioned house specials, these string beans get stir-fried with garlic, chili peppers, and their lobster sauce to give it that full flavor found on the lobster, but without any worries of allergies getting in the way.

Our group also got to try a new dish coming soon to their menu, Sesame Shrimp. The flavor resembled the house special dishes, but with less spice and not fried. Imagine teriyaki sauce or eel sauce, but nowhere near as sweet. The onions and peppers helped to offset any extremes, leaving for a mild yet solid entrée.

Just when I expected dessert to roll out, out comes the Chilean Seabass. Chilean Seabass needs no introduction ever. At Capital Seafood, they serve it pan-seared with light soy sauce and scallions. Honestly, you do not need anything more than that, as Chilean Seabass already carries enough natural flavor that adding anything more would muddle it up.

At last, our dessert came to us piping hot. Each of us at the table received our own Baked Almond Tea. Upon first sight, these appear full. However, the puff pastry layer on top simply hides the steamed almond tea underneath, which carries soft almonds in the liquid bottom. To eat this, take the provided soup spoon and poke right into the pastry layer, revealing the almond tea inside. Spoon up the tea underneath, and rip out pieces of the pastry to eat with the tea. Describing this in words takes more effort than actually giving it a try, so I highly recommend leaving room at the end of your meal to order these for your party. If you feel like taking these to-go, the restaurant requires a $5 collateral for the cup. Should you return the cup, the restaurant will return your $5.

Capital Seafood does not deal with nonsense – they deliver authentic Chinese food as the world should see and taste. Visitors expecting to find Chinese fast food like Orange Chicken or Chow Mein will quickly realize that people do not eat that stuff religiously in China. Prior to visiting Capital Seafood, visitors should explore the menu and understand what to expect. Capital Seafood also has Happy Hour during the week, as well as Dim Sum in the mornings. They like to appeal to everybody, and everybody deserves to try authentic Chinese food!

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