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Photograph by Troy Bayless

Use the Spoon, Dude: At Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant, the food is fit for royalty.

Dynastic Dining

In one of the lavish Vietnamtown malls on Story Boulevard, rediscover why Chinese cuisine is so justly renowned

By Christina Waters

HUGE TANKS of lobsters, crabs, various fish and shellfish line one wall. Windows line the other. In between are strung enough tables to equip a medium-sized casino or a very large graduation banquet. Glittering chandeliers and ceiling coves lined with neon pink and yellow lights continue the casino theme, yet I found myself thinking of expertly run cruise ships as well. Packed by day for its famed dim sum, Dynasty Seafood Restaurant is all set up for a dinner to remember.

A charming and patient staff guided us through the four separate menus we found on the table. From whole suckling pig to jellyfish-sauced mullet cheeks, this is one exotic menu that nonetheless satisfies that timeless craving for the freshly braised flavors of Chinese cuisine. Armed with glasses of house chardonnay and merlot, we began with succulent barbecue pork and never looked back. "I wish I were twice as big as I am," wailed Toni, valiantly attempting to finish her enormous portion of braised scallops and roasted garlic in ginger and scallion sauce. But not even Wonder Woman after a week of fasting could have consumed all the glistening seafood laid before us by good-natured staffers--who obviously got a kick out of how much we were loving this food.

How good was it? How about this: The finest lobster dish I've ever eaten anywhere (this includes New York, Paris and Las Vegas). The word "fresh" took on new meaning at Dynasty, where one minute they're swimming, the next they're braised with rice wine, garlic and ginger and ready for you to consume. Already tipped off by one of the South Bay's top foodies, I was ready to be dazzled by Dynasty. And I was. Very. So brightly lit was the Dynasty dining room that Kira wished she'd brought sunglasses--on the other hand, so beautiful was the food that the brilliance seemed justified.

Peking duck, carved into thick, juicy, user-friendly wedges and glistening under a thin, extremely crisp layer of fabulous skin, was served with tender, feather-light steamed dumplings the size of a baby's fist ($8.99). Each soft bun was frosted with spicy plum sauce, and topped with some of the rich duck, and consumed in one or two bites. Brilliant emerald mustard greens arrived freshly braised in a wine and garlic sauce ($9) and made the perfect succulent foil for the star anise-scented pork and intensely flavored duck. The lobster paraded along next--we negotiated with our waiter who rightly recommended at least a 2 pound crustacean--crimson shells glistening with more ginger and scallions ($36). It was easy to liberate the lobster meat from the red shells. Moist beyond belief, it was a revelation, especially for Toni, who hadn't really met a truly great lobster before our extravaganza at Dynasty.

Alongside the lobster came another outstanding creation, of fat scallops and roasted garlic ($14), stir-fried just to the point of tenderness. Using our big golden spoons (each place setting had golden spoons, oversized chopsticks and golden chopstick holders), we heaped scallops over the perfect rice. The beauty of the braising technique which formed the theme of our dinner is its ability to quickly execute each dish while retaining the moist supple quality of the seafood. Our chopsticks roved from one platter to the next, and it was only a lackluster chow fun that spoiled our chow fun, if you will ($10). In a moment of noodle craving, we had ordered a dish of chow fun prawns with something called a white sauce. That is where we went wrong. Lacking a working knowledge of Mandarin we had no clear idea that sometimes white really does mean white, i.e., lacking in color/flavor. The wide, transparent wonton noodles were expertly constructed. The prawns were moist. Just not a whole lot of flavor goin' on. But everything else was dazzling.

Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Address: 1001 Story Road, 2nd Floor, San Jose
Phone: 408.286.6668
Hours: Dinner 5pm-10pm daily; dim sum 11am-2:30pm Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm Sat-Sun

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From the October 17-23, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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