Monday, August 20, 2012

Wedding Banquet

Alright, so I still have a lot of wedding posts to share, but I just got my photos back from my photographer and so let’s get to the part I was most excited for, the wedding banquet!

I knew I wanted to show all the wedding food on my blog and made sure to tell every photographer I met with that they would have to photo the food for me. I had no idea what sort of photos I wanted, poses, etc, but I knew I wanted food photos. I think the photographers thought I was a little nuts.

For our reception, we did a traditional Chinese wedding banquet. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was a kid. Surprisingly, my parents didn’t insist on it and even suggested I just do a catered American style wedding reception, but I balked at the idea. Yes I’ve been to some delicious American style wedding receptions, but nothing has really ever matched up to the elaborate Chinese wedding banquet (except for maybe the Indian Wedding Feast I went to two years ago.)

In Chinese culture, the lavish wedding banquet is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. The idea is if you throw a large celebration, the bride and groom will also be prosperous in their life together. The dinner consists of multiple courses (in the US it’s usually around 9 or 10, in Taiwan it’s around 12). Expensive ingredients are used, with an emphasis on seafood. Each dish chosen also has symbolic meaning too (though some of that has gotten lost in the US and not all of the traditional dishes are served).

Since we were having our wedding in San Diego, we had limited options. We ended up choosing Pearl Restaurant in Rancho Bernardo. You may remember I paid a visit to Pearl for the first time last year. Yup, it was to scope out the venue for our reception. I adored the beautiful park outside and the restaurant was big enough for our needs.

Our menu consisted of 10 courses total, with 8 main courses because 8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture. Most dishes represent a dragon/phoenix (Ying/Yang) theme. In a marriage, the dragon symbolizes the male role while the phoenix symbolizes the female role.

BBQ Cold Plate Appetizer

The appetizer was a combination cold plate of various meats and jellyfish that are arranged to represent the dragon and the phoenix, to symbolize the union of two creatures.

Stuffed Crab Claws

These were humongous. I’m not sure if you can tell that from the picture, but each stuffed claw was close to twice the size of a golf ball.

Seafood soup

Seafood soup contains expensive ingredients, to signify the future prosperity of the marriage. (No, shark fin was not served.)

Cubed Filet Mignon in Bird’s Nest

No real explanation for why this one is served other than that it uses steak and it’s a popular dish at this restaurant. It was a little on the salty side.

Sauteed mushroom with vegetables

Mixed vegetables and mushrooms. They used a bitter Chinese vegetable, so a lot of my guests didn’t like this. They hadn’t specified which vegetable they would be using and I was surprised they chose this one.

Lobster with ginger and scallion

Lobster is served because red is a good luck color and because lobster represents the dragon.A lot of the dishes have carvings as decoration. You can’t see it from this picture, but they actually cut out lobster shaped cucumbers.

Garlic Roasted Chicken

Chicken is served because it represents the phoenix. Combining the chicken and lobster shows harmony.

Tea Smoked Chilean Sea Bass

Fish is served because the pronunciation of fish is the same as “abundance”, wishing the newlyweds wealth and prosperity. Traditionally, the fish is served whole, but the Pearl version was just a fish filet. However people really loved this one. It was the most raved about dish of the night from my guests. Unfortunately, I only had a small bite of it, so I didn’t really get to enjoy it myself.

Seafood fried rice

Traditionally the last main course is a fried rice.  A large dish of rice symbolizes a plentiful supply of food throughout the couple’s life.

Mango Pudding

Dinner ends on a sweet note to wish the couple a sweet life together. In Taiwan, it’s traditionally sticky rice ball soup, but that wasn’t an option at Pearl. The mango pudding was really good, though I was disappointed with the presentation. I thought they could have done something a little nicer than plastic cups and maybe put some fruit on top for decoration?

I was constantly told that the bride and groom never get to enjoy the reception food because they are too busy talking to all their guests. I told everyone I was determined to enjoy my food no matter what. And I can proudly tell you that I ate some of every course. And still managed to spend time with all my guests. We actually went around to every table and did the traditional Chinese toasts too. One of the reasons I was able to eat everything was because for the head table, the manager herself dished out all the food to each individual, instead of it being self-serve family style like it was at the other tables. So even when I left, I would come back to find my food still waiting for me in my plates.

For the most part, we were really pleased with how everything turned out. The restaurant manager was easy to deal with and they were able to set up a dance floor, candy bar, welcome reception, bar area, and give us tablecloths colors of our choice. They were also able to close off our section of the restaurant entirely so we didn’t have any strangers eating at neighboring tables. The only frustration I had was with the staff, which seemed to be pretty incompetent when the manager was not around.

Food-wise, I was really impressed too. We had eaten only the regular menu items and found them to be pretty good for San Diego standards. I had worried that their banquet menu may not live up to the banquets I’ve had in the past, but I was impressed. The banquet food was infinitely better, the quantities were very generous, and people could barely eat after the fifth course.

About a year ago, I came across a post from Gastronomer, where on their wedding anniversary, she and her husband actually ordered their wedding banquet again, just for the two of them! It was the craziest idea I’d ever heard, and yet I secretly thought it was also brilliant. When I showed DH the post, he just thought it was crazy. During our wedding meal though, he whispered to me in a small voice, “Can we order this again later?” So who knows, maybe you’ll see this wedding banquet repeated again on the blog next year. ;-)

Pearl Chinese Cuisine
11666 Avena Pl
San Diego, CA 92128
(858) 487-3388

 

 

24 Responses to “Wedding Banquet”

  1. 1

    Louise — August 20, 2012 @ 12:44 am

    Congrats on you wedding! You take such wonderful pictures! x

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 8:48 am

      Thanks! The pictures for this post were taken by my wedding photographer though. I’ll be doing a post on her services later too.

  2. 2

    caninecologne — August 20, 2012 @ 6:05 am

    Beautiful photos and color scheme…I liked seeing the sweets table and the carved vegetables. I liked how you explained the symbolism of the food.

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 8:44 am

      We had purple and green as our colors (my fav colors!), and the tablecloths we chose a seafoam green because we had a beach theme going. The guests had namecards that sat on shells which looked really nice against the tablecloth. We actually had menus at each table so the guests would know what they were eating with the same explanations I put into this post because i thought it would be nice for people to get an idea of what everything was about.

  3. 3

    Sandy — August 20, 2012 @ 6:42 am

    I’ve always enjoyed the banquet food at Pearl. One time, we sat at a table of people who ate like birds, which was great – more yummy food like lobster for us :-) I also read gastronomer’s post, and I think it’s a great idea (although I would invite a few more people to fill a table of 10). Glad you were able to eat during your wedding banquet, too!

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 8:42 am

      Ah, that’s always the best–when the other people at your table hardly eat so more food for you. hehee. DH keeps bugging me about when is the next time we will be going to a wedding with a chinese banquet. I’m thinking of going it again next year and inviting a few people also. I’m not so sure we’d enjoy the food as much if it was just two of us.

  4. 4

    Jinxi — August 20, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    Whoa! I still haven’t been to Pearl yet but after reading this, my Chinese food cravings flared up. Haha. Congrats again!

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 9:20 am

      I thought there regular dinner food is okay. I mean it’s about the same as Jasmine level in my opinion. The banquet was really good though. I was impressed they were able to up their level so much for it. They have pretty good dim sum too and it’s not crowded because it’s so far away from the Clairemont/Convoy area.

  5. 5

    Debbie — August 20, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Congrats on your wedding!

    Did you do favors or was the Candy table part of your wedding favor? y wedding is coming up in September and am having a Chinese wedding banquet-reception too. My plan is to do something similar- like a candy buffet where guests can fill up their own containers to take home! :P

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 9:34 am

      Congrats on your wedding!!The wedding favors were basically seashell nametags (real shells but polished up so they look nice and not like we picked them off of the beach) and the candy buffet. We bought really pretty gold mini chinese takeout containers and let guests get their fill of candy to take home. I found a really great site for supplies: http://www.papermart.com/ You should check them out.

  6. 6

    Jess — August 20, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    It took me quite a surprise to see Pearl actually has good food for wedding banquets! I did a Chinese one as well in Hong Kong, a month after the American one in OC. I do agree with you that the beef dish is a bit unconventional to be served at a wedding… although, nowadays in Asia, some might add Japanese Kobe beef to the menu simply because it’s an expensive ingredient. Didn’t you also miss the steamed whole fish? I think I would. =) As for the mushroom dish, it used to be with abalone but it’s a trend that it’s replaced by the mushroom with a similar texture. Did they use Mustard Green? It’s bitter and typically served in that dish. Last but not least, the crab claws look really impressive!

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

      Yes I really missed the whole fish! But my guests really liked the sea bass so I guess it worked out. You’re so lucky to have done another banquet in HK! I would have loved to do that. You know I read bad reviews about Pearl and was worried. I read the quantity was small, service bad, etc. But everything was really great for our wedding. Plenty of food, everyone had so many leftovers. The staff was pretty good when the manager was around. The manager was really easy to reach and always around when we had questions, etc. I liked that they were able to close off the restaurant main entrance and most of the restaurant even though we didn’t book the entire thing. And they provided bar service, bartender, dance floor, dvd player for montage, dressing room, welcome tables, everything. So it was really convenient.

  7. 7

    gastronomer — August 20, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    Yay for Chinese wedding banquets! I hope you and DH return next year. Vern and I have been going for the past two years. A great excuse to eat a lot of lobster!

    • Kirbie replied: — August 20th, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

      That is such a great tradition you started. I might invite a few people, but I want a lot of leftovers to feast on. haha.

  8. 8

    Tina — August 21, 2012 @ 5:36 am

    Gorgeous! I just sent this link to my mom so she can have some ideas when she’s planning our Chinese banquet :)

    • Kirbie replied: — August 21st, 2012 @ 8:26 am

      Ooh, I’m excited for you!

  9. 9

    lorri — October 12, 2012 @ 7:01 am

    Congratulations! Your wedding location will give you beautiful photographs (with the background ) and that should be worth enduring the public gawkers – LOL. The food looked wonderful. I agree, you should order the wedding banquet meal at another time and really savor it. Just you two, or even with another couple or two. Good memories building…..

    • Kirbie replied: — October 12th, 2012 @ 9:01 am

      Thanks! I am seriously thinking of ordering the wedding banquet next year. It’s funny about the gawkers. Because in the wedding video, u can see them all just staring. lol.

  10. 10

    Connie — October 12, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    The wedding banquet looked really good! I remember going to wedding banquets as a kid, there was always shark fin soup. My, have times have changed! I was surprised about the presentation of dessert, as well. Actually I am more surprised about the lack of tong sui (sp?) options! Surely that would have been more cost effective for the restaurant.

    • Kirbie replied: — October 12th, 2012 @ 11:25 am

      I agree! I was surprised by the lack of that dessert option. Yeah, all the ones I used to go to had shark fin soup too. DH keeps asking when is the next time we get to go to a Chinese wedding banquet! Haha

  11. 11

    Carol — October 14, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    It sounds like overall it went well (more positive than downers) and that’s a very very good thing!

    • Kirbie replied: — October 14th, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

      Yeah, the ceremony was such a small part. The main part was the reception and that was a lot of fun. =)

  12. 12

    Janet — January 14, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    Congratulations and thank you for taking the time to post this blog. Everything looks amazing and it’s something that I have been looking for in my search for a traditional Chinese banquet. May I ask how much this specific meal course was and was it per table or per person? I found several places in the LA area and the prices range from 500-800 per table for a table of 10. Thank you so much!

    • Kirbie replied: — January 15th, 2014 @ 12:14 am

      It was per table, just like LA and the menus ranged about the same. You can call the restaurant to get the exact prices as they are often changing.

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