Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle. The cold appetizers are nice: slivers of pressed tofu or sliced pig’s ears drizzled with thick soy sauce. I like the rice plates, which include a fried chop or luscious stewed belly pork with two different kinds of Chinese pickles, half a tea-steeped egg and a bowl of soup. But Ay-Chung is all about the mien hsien, skeins of superfine vermicelli tossed into a glutinous broth, a big bowl of pungent goo that hits your palate like a slap. 140 W. San Gabriel Blvd., No. 208, San Gabriel, (626) 280-7099. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two: $4–$12. Chinese. JG ¢ *
Mei Long Village. Even if Mei Long Village served nothing but dumplings, it would be worth a visit. Mei Long Village is also the perfect place to try any of the famous Shanghai standards: sweet fried Shanghai spareribs dusted with sesame seeds, garlicky whole cod braised in pungent hot bean sauce, big pork lion’s-head meatballs, tender as a Perry Como ballad, that practically croon in the key of star anise. 301 W. Valley Blvd., No. 112, San Gabriel, (626) 284-4769. Open daily 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer only. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées $5–$25. Chinese. JG ¢
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Mission 261. In a Chinese-restaurant scene thick with bargain rock cod and two-for-one lobster deals, Mission 261’s banquet menus range upward of $1,200 for a table of 10, although a decent dinner can be arranged for about a third of that. The cognac is old, the shark’s fin ultrafine, the Burgundy premier cru. And the dim sum is already extraordinary, easily the best in California at the moment. 261 S. Mission Dr., San Gabriel, (626) 588-1666. Lunch and dim sum Mon.–Fri. 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Dinner seven days, 5:30–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Dim sum lunch for two, food only, $22–$38. Chinese. JG $ *
Tung Lai Shun. The flagship Islamic-Chinese restaurant in San Gabriel’s immense Great Mall of China, Tung Lai Shun is notorious for the enormous rounds of freshly baked sesame bread that seem to be on every table, wedges of which you drag through sauce, or stuff with terrific chopstickfuls of beef fried with green onions. While you’re waiting for the bread to come — it can take 20 minutes — you nibble on cool, slippery slices of ox-tendon terrine, or thin, cold slices of delicately spiced beef, or the best green-onion pancakes in town. 140 W. Valley Blvd., No. 118C, San Gabriel, (626) 288-6588. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol. Parking in mall lot. MC, V. Entrées $9.95–$28.95. Chinese. JG ¢
Vietnam House. Almost as a public service, Vietnam House prepares bo bay mon, the fabled Vietnamese seven-course beef dinner. The dinner is a well-worn ritual, honed in country restaurants before the war and served in an unbending succession of courses whose composition probably hasn’t changed in 30 years: sliced raw beef that you cook at the table by swishing it for a few seconds in a pot of vinegar broth boiling merrily on a brazier; steamed pâté studded with clear noodles and served with shrimp chips; gristly grilled meatballs; tightly rolled slivers of steak; charred beef tucked inside vaguely narcotic la lot leaves; marinated beef salad; beef porridge. This is food that was made for beer. 710 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, (626) 282-6327. Lunch and dinner Mon., Wed., Thurs. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sun. till 10 p.m. Beer only. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $14–$24. Vietnamese. JG ¢
Yung Ho Tou Chiang. At Yung Ho Tou Chiang, the breakfast protocol is easy. You order some soy milk, then some stuff to go along with it: flaky buns stuffed with sweet, simmered turnips; steamed buns filled with spiced pork or black mushrooms; crusty fried pies stuffed with pungent messes of sautéed leek tops; steamed pork dumplings bursting with juice. The traditional accompaniment to soy milk is a long, light-as-air cruller, and Yung Ho does them well. 533 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 570-0860. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days 6 a.m.–6 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two, $5–$10. Chinese. JG ¢