QUESTION: My wife and I drove out the other day to San Gabriel to have
dinner at Green Village, a Shanghai restaurant we used to enjoy, only to discover
that it had morphed into something called Green City, with a menu just close
enough to Green Village’s old one to be infuriating. What gives? Green Village
always seemed to be one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in this area,
which is saying a lot. We went instead to Juon Yuon next door, which was a mistake.
The food there was superficially similar to Green Village’s, but was heavy in
a way that we did not enjoy. —Bill, Santa Monica

ANSWER: I’d been worrying about Green Village too. In a lot of ways
it was my favorite Shanghai-style restaurant in San Gabriel (although I may
have ended up more often at Mei Long Village — those soup dumplings), and I
had been putting off a visit to the renamed Green City for almost a year. Denial,
I think they call it. Some part of me needed to believe that the restaurant’s
wrinkly skin pork knuckle was still in the land of the living. I wonder if Elizabeth
Kubler-Ross would have enjoyed that pork knuckle or whether she would have been
put off by its bronto-bone appearance. We’ll never know, I guess.

When I stopped by Green City, I was assured that the cooks were the same,
the waiters were the same, the only things that had changed were the owners
and the name. The menu is now basically navigable in that a lot of the previously
untranslated food is listed in English (so that the monolingual can now order,
say, the lion’s head meatballs or the vividly autumnal casserole of chicken
and chestnuts without stabbing your index finger at the menu and praying). I
consider this a big improvement, although when I ordered what I assumed was
my favorite cold appetizer of tofu and minced wild greens, I ended up with a
hot platter of brothy slivered bean curd instead. (It was my own fault, really
it was.) The eel jam with yellow chives, the braised duck, the juicy crab dumplings,
the wuxi spareribs — they’re all here. And the guy asleep on the chairs in the
lobby last week kind of looked like the old chef, although it was hard to tell,
what with his hat pulled down over his eyes and all. Green City, 140 W. Valley
Blvd., Nos. 206-207, San Gabriel; (626) 288-5918.

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