February 17, 2010 | 8:41am
Chinese New Year and a friend's birthday were a good excuse to hit up Mesa's Asian Cafe Express for an over-the-top seafood lunch. Some of my clever friends figured out that you can buy whatever you like from Mekong Plaza (right across the street -- and the fish department is amazing) and bring it over to Asian Cafe Express, where chef Michael Leung will transform it into something fit for an emperor.
We started off with fresh whole sardines, fried into hot, crispy snacks that we drizzled with chile-flecked sauce.
Ultra-tender clams and chunks of green pepper were coated in Leung's outstanding black bean sauce.
Salt-and-pepper crabs, cracked into big pieces, were a challenge to eat, but worth it for the sweet meat hidden inside.
We loved the fresh green pea leaves so much that we ordered a second plate. Bits of garlic made it scrumptious.
I have no idea how many cups of tea I had over the course of this feast -- maybe a dozen?!
And the highlight of the meal was lobster, cooked with green onions and ginger, and served on a bed of crispy noodles. The noodles soaked up the sauce and had an appealingly toothsome texture.
I can't think of a better way to start off the Year of the Tiger.