Double Happiness Mandarin and Szechwan Cuisine (ABCDE)

Double Happiness has been in Del Mar for as long as I can remember. I drive by it every so often but never had any inkling to pop in for a bite to eat. It’s one of those places that I knew just from looking from the outside that it was another ABCDE (pronounced Ab-cee-dee). Let me just state right off the bat that I’ve eaten at my share of restaurants like Double Happiness and have liked many of them. As a matter of fact, one of my uncle used to own a restaurant that bordered on being an ABCDE.

I first heard the ABCDE term from Kirk of mmm-yoso.  I’ve always just called it “Americanized” Chinese food, which I differentiate from Chinese fast food (like Panda Express). But I think ABCDE is a much more appropriate term for these types of establishments.

Anyway, my friends L and C have gone to Double Happiness several times in the past and have enjoyed their lunches. They said it was cheap, lots of food and tastes pretty good. Okay, I’m in. I said if anything, I’ll do it in the spirit of food blogging.

Parking is pretty easy since there is a dedicated parking lot behind the complex, small as it may be but still dedicated to the complex. We got there not too long after they opened for lunch. We got seated in the back corner in a booth. If I had thought ahead, I would have suggested a table that had better lighting for photo taking but oh well.

The lunch menu was split into 2 sections, a Luncheon Deluxe side and a Luncheon Light. It didn’t take too long to figure out what the difference was between Deluxe and Light. Both menus come with steamed rice and a choice of soup (Hot & Sour or Egg Drop) and from what I was told, you also get the egg roll, fried wonton and a fried chicken wing with the Deluxe dishes. But if you look at the online menu, the picture next to the Light menu also shows these sides??? There are no overlapping of dishes between the two categories so if you wanted something that’s on the Light side of the menu and you want the egg roll and/or chicken wing, you’ll need to order off the Side Order menu.

After we placed our orders, the fried wonton strips that very indicative of ABCDEs was delivered to the table.

These were pretty good, not too greasy and light in color. We were glad for it since we were all very hungry. Two condiments are standard on each table, a mustard and a bright red very gelatinous sweet sauce.

Let’s start with C’s selection. She selected the Egg Drop Soup with her meal. Sorry but I forgot to take a picture of it. It looked like a typical Egg Drop Soup and C enjoyed it. As for her meal, C decided to try something different this time and went with the Orange Peel Flavored Chicken ($5.95).

It was a decent amount of food for the price. The steamed rice had carrots and peas in it kind of like fried rice but it wasn’t really fried rice. An in-betweener. The chicken strips had a breaded coating on it and a decent amount of onions. C offered some of it for me to try, you know, for food blogging purposes (what a great excuse to mooch off other people’s plate), and neither one of us thought it was all that good. The sauce had more of a sour taste and lacked the slight sweetness common to Orange Peel type dishes I’ve had in the past. The chicken was a bit chewy and was completely overwhelmed by the sourness of the sauce. Although there were some red chilis in the dish, it also lacked the spiciness that I’m used to. C said she’s glad she tried it but wouldn’t order it again. I wouldn’t order it either.

Now for L’s dish. L ordered the Deluxe Noodles ($6.95) with Hot and Sour Soup as her choice.

According to L, the soup was a little on the thin side this time but she still enjoyed it. My bowl of H&S was the same. The broth had a bit of depth although the balance of savory to sour was teetering on the sour side. A shot of soy sauce would probably have restored the balance but I was hungry and it still tasted decent without me fidgeting with it. Good amount of tofu, black wood ear mushroom (which I love), bamboo shoots and egg. I think I had a couple of strips of chicken in my bowl. Not bad, typical ABCDE soup.

When L’s Deluxe Noodle dish arrive, I wasn’t surprised to see it was the fatter type of noodles, very indicative of ABCDEs. I didn’t try the dish but L liked it. I thought it had a decent amount of beef, chicken and shrimp.

I decided to order the Crispy Beef ($6.95) off the Deluxe side as my meal.

As you can see with the Deluxe lunches, there’s a huge fried egg roll, a small fried wonton and a very blonde fried chicken wing. The chicken wing had a crunchy crust to it but it lacked any kind of seasoning to it. The meat was tender and would best be eaten with one of the condiments on the table, my choice was the mustard. The fried wonton was meh, just a kind of dried meat substance in the middle but it was fried nicely, not oily. The egg roll had a lot of vegetables inside but overall, I don’t care for these types of ABCDE egg rolls. Too much wrapper and just lack any real flavor. It will, however, fill you.

As to my dish, I did enjoy the crispy beef. It had a nice crust on it and the flavor of the sauce was more along the line of a Tangerine Beef. I’m thinking this is probably as close to a “Szechwan” dish as you’re going to get from this place. It’s marked as spicy on the menu but it wasn’t really spicy at all. I told C that the sauce on my dish would  have been better on her Orange Peel Chicken. I didn’t care for all the celery and green bell peppers so I just picked around them. I actually enjoyed the flavor and texture of the beef in this dish.

Overall, nothing mind blowing to write home about but not bad for a quick and decently priced lunch. I think I’d like to try some of their other dishes. I’m interested to see what a lunch version of mu shu pork would be like.

Double Happiness Mandarin and Szechwan Cuisine
1011 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA 92014
(858) 481-8584
Monday thru Thursday 11 am to 9:30 pm
Friday 11 am to 10:30 pm
Saturday 12 noon to 10:30 pm
Sunday 3 pm to 9:30 pm

In hind site, this lunch was a bit melancholy for us even though we enjoyed the experience. You see, we were waiting for news about our company’s layoff, something we’ve been anticipating for several weeks. Getting a little verklepmt as I’m writing this because it turned out this would be the last “girls” lunch we would have as coworkers, well, at least at this company. Our company ended up laying 50% of its employees off that week. We did have lunch again later that week with other coworkers (for the last time) but I’m glad the “girls” were able to get in one more lunch just by ourselves. Yes, we’ll still plan on having lunches together but it’s never going to be the same or as frequent because that’s just the way life goes.

So this post is dedicated to L and C. Thanks for being my lunch companions, supportive and eager to provide material and be guinea pigs for my blog. But most of all, thank you for being my friends and helping me get through the workdays. I will really miss seeing you guys everyday.

4 Comments

  1. Hi CAB, sorry to hear about the news.. The signs of the economic times are everywhere these days..

    I thought the decor at Double Happiness just rocked. :) As for the food it seemed to hit the spot for me when I was in the mood for ABCDE. It was very hot and the tad bit of over seasoning made me crave rice in a good way. Didn’t care much for the noodle soup dish though. Cheers.

    • Hey Dennis! So you like the Chinese water color paints? Or is it the throwback red naugahyde vinyl booths that you like? I think this place does a decent ABCDE and glad you had good meals there too.

      Thanks about the layoff. It really hit some hard and my heart goes out to them.

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