Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle. The most popular of the new Taiwanese
noodle shops is probably Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle in San Gabriel Square. 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 flavored with soy sauce, bonito flakes,
vinegar, chile and plenty of garlic, 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. Lot
parking. Cash only. Food for two: $4–$12.
Chang’s Garden. The spareribs steamed in lotus leaves at Chang’s
Garden are magnificent things, little essays on the virtues of long-cooked pork.
There is a very nice simmered beef and tripe in chile oil, and splendid fresh
Chinese bacon with garlic and chile. Vegetable dishes tend to be pretty good too.
Try the pudding-like slabs of Japanese eggplant cooked down with garlic and chile
or the cubes of tofu dusted with flour and fried until the inside becomes molten.
627 W. Duarte Road, Arcadia, (626) 445-0606.
Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
MC, V. Beer and wine. Lot parking.
Dinner for two, food only, $24–$38.
China Islamic Restaurant. Like other Muslim restaurants,
China Islamic has a minor specialty in lamb, sliced thin and quickly fried with
green onions, garlic and crunchy bits of fresh ginger; fried with the thick, resilient
homemade noodles called “dough slice chow mein”; served in a cloying “sa cha”
sauce. Lamb stew warm pot is served seething in a clay vessel, with thick, murky
broth, cellophane noodles, cabbage, and the most extraordinary lamb. 7727 E.
Garvey Ave., Rosemead; (626) 288-4246. Lunch
11 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner 5–9:30 p.m. No
alcohol. Lot parking. Dinner for two,
food only, $16–$25. MC, V. Chinese.
Dai Ho Kitchen. Dai Ho Kitchen’s spicy beef noodle soup is
an angry red brew spiked with chopped herbs, golf ball–size chunks of long-simmered
meat and noodles — slithery, linguine-thick noodles, disarmingly soft, that like
all the best pasta seem to have mastered the trick of appearing almost alive.
9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, (626)
291-2295. Lunch Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.;
dinner, takeout only. No alcohol. Lot
parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food
only, $11–$18. Chinese. ¢
Din Tai Fung. It took Din Tai Fung to transform the soup
dumpling — thin-walled spheroids filled with pork, seasonings and teaspoonfuls
of jellied broth — into high-tech industry. The soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung
are incontrovertibly engineered to be the state of the art. Pick them up carefully,
garnish simply with a shred or two of fresh ginger and a few sparing drops of
black vinegar, and inhale. 1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia,
(626) 574-7068. Lunch and dinner daily
11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5–9:30 p.m. No
alcohol. Lot parking. MC, V. Lunch for
two, food only, $8–$14. Chinese. ¢
888 Seafood Restaurant. A good place to start is the Chiu
Chow cold plate: symmetrically arranged slices of tender steamed geoduck clam,
aspic-rimmed pork terrine, crunchy strands of jellyfish, cold halved shrimp in
a sweet, citrus-based sauce. Or try a soup of whole perch gently poached in the
heat of broth, sharp with the flavor of Chinese celery and herbs, made complexly
tart with sour plum, or an astonishing dish of Chiu Chow–style braised goose.
8450 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; (626) 573-1888.
Lunch and dinner seven days 9 a.m.–10
p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. Dinner for
two, food only, $20–$30. MC, V. Chinese.
Empress Pavilion. I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple
of hours on a Sunday than meeting friends here for dim sum. The trick is to pace
it out, so you won’t risk missing the little short ribs in a glorious black-bean
sauce, or any of the exquisite and varied steamed dumplings, so transparent you
can easily read the contents. Bamboo Plaza, 988 N. Hill
St., Ste. 201, Chinatown, (213) 617-9898.
Lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–10
p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Full
bar. Takeout. Validated parking. AE, DC,
MC, V. $1.85–$4.80 per plate; $12–$15
per person. Chinese. $$
Heavy Noodling Restaurant. A hundred generations of Chinese
chefs have probably regarded this restaurant’s specialty with horror — thick,
clumsy, utterly delicious noodles that run somewhere between spaetzle and pappardelle,
self-consciously rustic things. But the shaved-dough pasta — the Chinese name
of the place is Shanxi Knife-Cut Noodle — has that good, dense bite you find more
often in Bologna than you do in Monterey Park. 153 E. Garvey
Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 307-9583. Open
daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9:30 p.m.
Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol.
Lot parking in rear. Cash only. Entrées
$6–$12. Chinese. ¢
Hong Kong Low Deli. Open in time for early breakfast,
Chinatown’s Hong Kong Low Deli serves what dim sum used to be back when everybody
called them “teacakes,” i.e., dumplings without the parboiled geoduck and jellyfish
salad. Baked bao, browned and hot and brushed with sticky syrup, are filled with
barbecued pork in a sweet, garlicky sauce. Turnoverlike pies are stuffed with
chicken stew, barbecued pork or a truly fine pungent mince of curried beef. 408
Bamboo Lane, Chinatown, (213) 680-9827. Lunch
and dinner seven days 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
No alcohol. Takeout only. Cash only.
Food for two, $3–$5. Chinese. ¢
Lucky Dragon. Tucked into an anonymous storefront in Monterey Park’s
Sichuan belt, Lucky Dragon is outfitted with the usual deli counter and glass-front
refrigerator. For $3.25 you can get a small assortment of cold dishes, perhaps
a dish of five-spiced peanuts fried with tiny fish, sliced pig’s ears in chile
oil, briny shredded seaweed or the fu qi fei pian, thin, chile-slicked
slices of cold simmered beef and tripe. 321 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park;
(626) 573-5060. Open daily 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Street parking.
MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $16–$28. Recommended dishes: steamed
Chinese bacon; Chung Qing hot fried chicken cubes; mapo tofu. Hunan/Sichuan. $
Lu’s Garden. Lu’s classic porridge-house cooking tends to be the
sort of homey fare you might see at dinner at a Chinese friend’s house: whole
tiny squid sautéed in dark soy sauce; ground pork simmered with a handful of winter
pickles; briskly garlicked seaweed salad; cold, chopped mustard greens. Go for
fish, a pickle and a vegetable; try something you’ve never seen before. 534
E. Valley Blvd., Ste. 12, San Gabriel;
(626) 280-5883. Lunch and dinner daily
11 a.m.–mid. Beer only. Lot parking.
Lunch for two, $6–$7; dinner for two,
$12–$15. Cash only. Chinese. ¢
Malan Noodles. Malan is a local outpost of the biggest homegrown
fast-food chain in China, an empire of scrubbed floors, quick service and gleaming
bathrooms, standardized menus and cheerful advertising. You can get your hand-pulled
noodles fine as angel’s hair or thick as telephone cords, flat or round, or even,
should you request it, triangular. Most people order these hand-thrown noodles
submerged in the allegedly Lanzhou-style beef soup, a tan broth tinged with the
house’s cinnamon-intensive five-spice blend, garnished with scallions and pale
Chinese leeks, and hiding a few slices of brisket. 301 N. Garfield
Ave., #B, Monterey Park, (626) 572-8900.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. No
alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch
or dinner for two, food only, $10–$17.
Recommended dishes: spicy cucumber; noodles
with brown sauce; special chicken with
belt noodles. Also at 2020 S. Hacienda
Blvd., Hacienda Heights, (626) 369-5602. Chinese.
Mandarin House. Hand-pulled noodles are immeasurably better than
the machine-made kind: stretchy yet supple, irregularly shaped, veritable magnets
for sauce. The kung pao shrimp may be pedestrian, but the chachiang mein, in a
dense, black sauce of fermented beans and pork, is out of this world. 3074
W. Eighth St., (213) 386-8976. 11:30
a.m.–mid. seven days. Beer only. Lot
parking. Takeout/delivery. AE, D, MC, V.
Entrées $11–$12. Chinese. $
Mandarin Shanghai. This restaurant has a minor specialization in
earthen-pot entrées, soupy things served in great clay vessels as big around as
satellite dishes, and first among these is the fish-head earthen pot, the front
half of a gigantic carp stewed in an aromatic stock, laced with sharply spicy
chiles and mellowed with bean paste. 970 N. Broadway, Ste.
114, Chinatown; (213) 625-1195. Lunch and
dinner Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat.
11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Beer and wine.
Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only,
$19–$25. AE, D, MC, V. Chinese. ¢
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.
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 Drive, 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. Lot parking. AE, MC, V.
Dim sum lunch for two, food only,
$22–$38. Chinese. $
Northern Chinese. Northern Chinese Restaurant specializes in the
food of Shenyang — basic, hearty stuff, probably better suited to long, hard winters
than to California summers: The casserole of pickled sour cabbage is a neat Chinese
version of Strasbourg-style choucroute, a full quart of soupy sauerkraut
garnished with slabs of stewed duck or fat house-cured pork belly. 8450 E.
Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 288-9299. Lunch
and dinner seven days 10:30 a.m.–10:30
p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only.
Dinner for two, food only, $12–$22.
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.
While you’re waiting for the bread to come 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.
Wonton Time. The wontons here are wondrous things: delicate and
lightly crunchy, scented with toasted sesame oil, available either plainly steamed
or plunked into a bowl of double-strength chicken broth with only a few slivers
of scallion for garnish. They come only a few to an order, but they are so intricately
dense that three or four are a meal. 19 E. Valley Blvd.,
Alhambra, (626) 293-3366. Seven days, 11
a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Valet parking.
Lunch or dinner for two, food only,
$8–$11. Cash only. Chinese. ¢
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. 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. ¢
Yungui Garden. We have seen many of these dishes before — the ma
po bean curd, the Sichuan dumplings, the Chungking hot pot, the fantastic hacked
cold chicken sluiced with chile oil — but the Hunanese and Sichuanese cooking
found at Yungui Garden is presented with a depth of flavor, a brutal frankness
that has rarely been seen around here before. You might think this food would
go well with beer, and you would be right. 301 N. Garfield Ave.,
Monterey Park, (626) 571-8387. Lunch and
dinner daily. 10:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Budweiser
served. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées
$15–$25. Chinese. ¢
Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle. The most popular of the new Taiwanese