It’s a good thing most people in LA don’t realize that the word “mian” simply means “noodle(s)” in Mandarin, or else they might just write off the restaurant Mian in San Gabriel as some sort of Noodle World or Noodle and Company knockoff. Fortunately, Mian is anything but. Like Chengdu Taste before it, Mian represents the Sichuan (or Szechuan or Szechwan) region of Chinese cuisine.
There is a saying attributed to Jonathan Gold that goes something like “‘A’ is for ‘American’ Chinese food, ‘B’ is for ‘Better’ Chinese food and ‘C’ is for ‘Chinese’ Chinese food.” The letters, of course, are in reference to the health code and if you’ve ever been to China, you would know this to be true. Thus, when I heard great things about the dumplings at Emperor Noodles in San Gabriel and then found out it had a “B” rating, I got pretty excited to try it out.
What’s in a name? A xiaolongbao by any other name would be just as soupy. Well, at least that’s what Long Xing Ji is banking on. You see, Long Xing Ji was once called Wang Xing Ji and was an incredibly popular dumpling spot in San Gabriel. Typically a wildly successful place would stick with a name that works, but for some reason that was not the case with Wang Xing Ji. Nonetheless, if the dumplings were as good as I had heard, I wasn’t going to complain about the name.
In my latest sojourn into the San Gabriel Valley, I made my way to Shanghai Dumpling House in the city of San Gabriel. I had heard this was one of the better spots to get authentic Shanghai-style dumplings a while ago and wanted to see if it could deliver. Of course, I went with a crew to ensure that I could try more than just that. The only hard part was ensuring they didn’t walk into Shandong Dumpling House, which is house in the same mini mall.
When it comes to Chinese food, I typically seek out Szechwan (or Sichuan or Szechuan), Shanghainese or Cantonese, so when I heard about a great newish place called Szechuan Impression in Alhambra I knew I had to get there – and fast! Thus I found myself at the place just before 6:00 pm on a Saturday. The earlybird risk paid off and we were seated nearly immediately.
What do you call a restaurant called Abricott? Do you pronounce it like apricot? Do you slow it down and enunciate everything? Or do you just refer to it as “that Asian place down on Lake”? I prefer the latter option, because at the end of the day that’s really what it is. Abricott is loaded with a variety of different Asian offerings, like Korean, Chinese, Thai, and all that jazz. On this day, though, it was the Thai that struck me.
The San Gabriel Valley is full of countless restaurants that are incredible. Unfortunately, many of them are unknown to the outside world of non-Asian people because they are holes in the wall or simply have no English on their menus. Chengdu Taste is not one of these places. It is well-known in many circles and so popular that it spawned a sequel and even a line out the door in the middle of the afternoon. But despite this when I grabbed a meal there with my buddy we were the only non-Asians to be found. Granted, in Rosemead the odds of Asian ancestry are pretty high, but that is not the point. The point is that this place had a reputation to live up to, even though the original location was closed for health code violations.
The name Bull Demon King isn’t intimidating at all, right? And yet it’s pretty much the most appropriate name for a beef noodle soup spot in Diamond Bar. You see, a buddy of mine from work thought it would be a great idea to check the place out and I thought it was a good idea as well.
Down at the bottom of Squirrel Hill is Chinese spot called Chengdu Gourmet. I heard rumors that it could produce some real Chinese food, so I went down with a wife and a friend to see just how true this was. It turned out the place has both a traditional Chinese menu and an American Chinese menu, so we ignored the latter.
Strangely situated in the middle of West Bloomfield, Michigan is one very authentic Chinese restaurant. It’s called Shangri-La and has the endorsement of not one, but two Chinese/Taiwanese people I know that have been there. It also has the endorsement of all the other people that show up on the weekends for their dim sum.