Recently, we told you about the lamb sandwich ('Fried With Meat') at Beijing Restaurant. Our original plan was to compare it with another lamb sandwich, namely the lamb burger at Shaanxi Gourmet in Rosemead. At least that was the plan. On three visits, we were told they no longer served them. We weren't alone, as posters to Chowhound also reported that the lamb burgers were no longer available. About that. Turns out they are.
Soon, mentions of the lamb burgers began to pop up again on food blogs and message boards. Apparently, there was some sort of code to crack. Perhaps not on the level of obtaining mustard cabbage, but a code nonetheless. The restaurant menu is entirely in Mandarin, though some help comes in the form of photos of popular items displayed both in the menu and along the walls. Unfortunately, the lamb burger isn't among them. Fortunately, for those who don't speak or read Mandarin, the servers generally speak English quite well. Our server suggested pointing to the pork sandwiches on the menu (rou ga mao) and simply saying "lamb." Oh.
As it turns out, the two restaurants take quite different approaches. The only things they truly have in common are the meat being lamb and both being served on a split bread. Beyond that, there is little to compare.
If you're familiar with the lamb skewers, yáng ròu chuàn, seemingly omnipresent appetizers around the SGV, then you'll have an idea what to expect inside the sliced flatbread at Shaanxi Gourmet. If you aren't familiar with them, small chunks of lamb meat are dusted with cumin, salt, black pepper and varying degrees of red pepper, then grilled. The skewers originated in the northwestern province of Xinjiang and show the influence of the region and a couple of its neighbors, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
Imagine then, taking that grilled meat from the skewer, crumbling it and serving it inside a disc-like flatbread, lightly browned, still nicely chewy. The end result is a well-seasoned item that features the flavors of cumin and pepper in each bite. Crescent-shaped slices of red and green bell peppers provide some crunch and added zip. If the sandwich at Beijing Restaurant stands out for its pure, unadorned lamb flavor, then the burger at Shaanxi Gourmet stands out as its seasoned counterpoint.
And should your attempt to order this fail, or should they be out of lamb altogether -- as they were on one of our visits -- there are plenty of other dishes to try out at what is one of the most interesting restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley.