Hotels aren’t exactly known for their food. Yet, there has been a trend to try to get better restaurants into hotels and I give those hotels major props for trying. In Pasadena the dusitD2 Constance Hotel has a spot called Constance Perry’s. It’s kind of Asian, kind of American, but definitely not fusion because those dishes kind of stand out on their own.
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.
On name alone, Everyday Noodles in Squirrel Hill might draw comparisons to Noodlehead. But, where Noodlehead is Thai, Everyday Noodles is pure Chinese. And I mean pure in the sense that this isn’t some Chinese restaurant catering to the desires of Americans. This is for real. With a near-constant noise of noodles being prepared by hand behind a viewing window that is sometimes displaced by the intricate construction of dumplings, Everyday Noodles is the place to be.
Chinatowns are an interesting phenomenon. And not so much in the fact that a group of people from a country showed up to a new country and settled in one area, but in the way that they no longer really seem to be representative of China. Case in point: while in Vancouver, I knew there was good Chinese to be found, and rather than point me to Chinatown, my hotel pointed me to Richmond, which he called real Chinatown. By real, he meant that the Chinatown on the map was simply no longer authentic, if it ever was. By recommendation, we went to a place called Rainflower to devour dim sum before undertaking the long drive to Jasper.
Guys, I’ll admit it. I’m a Chinese food snob. But I like to think you would be if you once lived there too. For that reason I’m glad I live in LA, but sad that I live on the west side, about half a light-year from the real Chinese food in San Gabriel. That all changed, however, when ROC Kitchen opened up in the area I like to call Little Little Tokyo, but is fast becoming Little Asia with an influx of other Asian food like ROC Kitchen.
Once upon a time, some great people brought me to a place called Din Tai Fung. Although I was living in Shanghai at the time, I had no idea what to expect on this first visit to Xintiandi and my first introduction to Xiaolongbao (way before it was cool). Luckily, they taught me how to bite in without scalding the insides of my mouth, and I quickly fell in love. More than six years later, I finally made in back to Din Tai Fung, but this time it was in Arcadia, California. Despite the obvious distance between Arcadia and Shanghai, much of Arcadia looks like it was pulled directly out of China. The Din Tai Fung, though, looked little like its counterpart across the Pacific.
Just across from Yang’s new location in the new mall on Wujiang Street is another place that serves up xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). It’s called Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant and cooks them up in the original steamed way. Nan Xiang is actually the part of Shanghai where xiaolongbao originated and you can still find the original in its location near the Yu Garden, but the line is always crazy-long, so when I saw the Nan Xiang restaurant right next to Yang’s, I figured I would give them a taste.
Once upon a time, there was a street called Wujiang in Shanghai just outside the Nanjing West Subway Station. At all hours of the day, the street was lined with food vendors and inside the old buildings were delicious, old-school Chinese restaurants. On that street was a hole in the wall called Yang’s Fried-Dumpling, which served a delicious xiaolongbao (pronounced shiao-long-bow) with the special twist that it was fried (as opposed to the traditional steaming method). Xiaolongbao is one of Shanghai’s signature dishes, a dumpling stuffed with pork that creates a soup inside when cooked. The dumpling is sealed air-tight so the soup stays inside until it is eaten. Even though Yang’s went against tradition by frying their dumplings, there was always a line outside their door.