While it isn't as prevalent as pork, lamb turns up quite often on Chinese restaurant menus in the San Gabriel Valley, where lamb dishes range from the seemingly omnipresent cumin lamb skewers to soups, stews and meat pies. There also are restaurants like China Islamic and Omar's, the Uighur place, where lamb is the featured meat. But, for arguably the best lamb item in the SGV, one needs to head to Beijing Restaurant and order “Fried With Meat.”

Located upstairs in Life Plaza, near the lavish Shanghai No. 1, Beijing Restaurant opened in 2010, providing the area with several unique Beijing-style entrées and appetizers. With the opening of its neighbor, the restaurant has upgraded to a more stylish menu and improved décor.

About that menu. It's fortunate that there are so many nice photos, as the translations aren't very helpful to English speakers. You won't find a “lamb burger” or “lamb sandwich” on the menu, but that's essentially what it is. Instead, you'll find it as “fried with meat.”

A plate of two arrives, shreds of lamb ensconced on whole wheat buns covered with sesame seeds. Burger? This is more like a pulled lamb or roast lamb sandwich, slowly stewed to the point of extreme tenderness and then pan-fried to give it a nice crispy edge. This is straight-up lamb, no heavy seasoning, no spices, no nothing — just lamb. This happily allows the gaminess to come through; seasonings, toppings, spices would all prove a distraction from clarity of purpose. One of the sandwiches is filling enough for one, and the plate of two is perfect for sharing. And all for $6.41, with tax.

"Fried With Meat" at Beijing Restaurant, San Gabriel; Credit: J. Thurman

“Fried With Meat” at Beijing Restaurant, San Gabriel; Credit: J. Thurman

We'd originally planned for this story to include the lamb burger from Shaanxi Gourmet — and to do a comparison of the two. Alas, Shaanxi Gourmet no longer serves them. A tip of the hat to food blogger Sku of Sku's Recent Eats for reminding us of this item and its worthiness. While we were aware of it earlier, we'd strayed from the herd. We'll not make that mistake again. For pure, unadulterated, unadorned lamb flavor, this must surely be the best in the SGV.

Follow Jim Thurman on Twitter @JThur01.

LA Weekly