Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Walking into Spicy City last Sunday night, we were cut off guard by the new furnishings and new tableware/settings.  The servers had to reassure us that that was all that changed with the restaurant.  They still have the same chefs and still churn out delicious Sichuanese food that we’ve grown to love over the last 4 years.

Even their menus are new, although I preferred the old menus as they had photos of all the menu items, making it easier to identify what you want to order and what else looks tempting to try.

Food is almost as good as the last time we ate here.  There were a couple of noticeable changes.  The Rattan Pepper Fish didn’t seem to have the depth of flavors as before.  There was definitely Ma (numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns), but not enough La (spiciness from the chiles).  The Lamb Chops were tasty, but they’re really serving you lamb ribs as opposed to lamb chops, where you’d expect a nice portion of meat attached to the bone (which was what we had the last time we were here several months ago).

Other than that, we enjoyed the food and appreciated them fulfilling a couple of requests, such as preparing the Fried Shrimp with Red Chilis with shelled shrimps rather than with the whole shrimp (shell and head attached).

And while we didn’t take advantage of ordering desserts, we were served complimentary plates watermelon and assorted moon cakes (as this the time of the Chinese Autumn Festival).

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

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Dim Sum at Capital Seafood 金都 in Beverly Hills

Dim Sum at Capital Seafood 金都 in Beverly Hills

Ever since the loss of Royal Star in Santa Monica around the turn of the century, and the change of ownership of VIP Harbor Seafood Restaurant in Brentwood that became The Palace, the westside of Los Angeles became deficient of a Chinese restaurant that can serve up an excellent and complete dim sum menu.  The opening of Capital Seafood in Beverly Hills (taking over the space that was previously occupied by Newport Seafood Restaurant) has changed that, bringing solid quality dim sum that is better than The Palace, but cheaper than Bao Dim Sum in the Fairfax District and Shanghai Rose in Studio City.  Interestingly, this Capital Seafood is affiliated with the location in Arcadia but not the ones in Irvine.

While most of the items were solid and were prepared well (the rice noodle wrap dishes featured rice noodle sheets that were thin and soft, but not overcooked and gummy).

The Salt Pepper Soft Shell Crab was wok tossed not only in salt and white pepper but also ample amount of minced garlic, chopped chiles, and scallions.  The flavor was bold with a nice peppery and spicy kick to it.

However, there were a few dishes with issues, particularly the Minced Beef Balls.  They were made with too much filler (usually corn starch) in it that made it relatively flavorless and very pasty in texture.

The Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice were rather small in size, and there wasn’t much filling inside the rice.

For me, the Seafood Crispy Noodles was executed well, but the dish’s quality was diminished by the use of imitation crab meat.  Rather than imitation crab meat, perhaps the usage of a few bay scallops would provide the variety of ample seafood, without increasing the costs of the dish.

And for a more upscale style of dim sum place, their service was wonderful and attentive.

Pricing for their dim sum are broken down into 4 tiers:  “A” level dim sum is $4.95 per order, “B” level is $5.95, “C” level is $6.95, and “K” level is $7.95.  “K” dim sum are usually the vegetable dishes, as well as specialty dim sum dishes such as Salt Pepper Calamari or Salt Pepper Chicken Knuckles.  The pricing is actually very reasonable for the area and for the quality of the dim sum you are getting.

 

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

Updated: Added photos of the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Imitation Shark’s Fin with Egg Whites, Crispy Bean Curd with Bamboo Pith and Shrimp Roe Sauce, and Oyster Omelette.

If you’re able to order off their Chinese only menu, then you open yourself up to a culinary adventure you don’t find in many Hong Kong style Cantonese restaurants.  Some of these dishes require extra time to prepare, and therefor need to be ordered in advanced.

The best of these dishes is the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Shrimp Paste.  The skin was crispy, and the shrimp paste was flavorful, making every bite delicious.  With a larger party, we had 1 1/2 orders of the chicken on the plate, and that amount made for an impressive presentation

There is another Crispy Boneless Chicken that’s stuffed with sticky rice instead.  While the presentation was nice, it wasn’t as enjoyable to eat.  The sticky rice didn’t add much flavor to the the chicken.

Both of these chicken dishes, as well as the Stuffed Chicken Wings and the Tilapia Rolls, need to be ordered 24 hours in advance as these dishes are more labor intensive.  Each of these dishes is around $40-$50.

Tilapia Rolls were unique to me, as you bite into pickled red ginger along with thousand year old egg.  The sulfuric flavor of the egg could be somewhat offputting to some, especially when combined with the tart and spiciness of the ginger.

Aside from preparing these elaborate dishes well, they’re good at the simpler dishes as well such as the Scrambled Egg with Shrimp.  The scrambled egg is well seasoned and is cooked to the point where the eggs remain wet, which prevents it from overcooking and drying out when it sits on the plate for a few minutes.

The pricing is on the higher side when compared to other restaurants such as Sam Woo and Sham Tseng.

Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

When eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley of Greater Los Angeles, there are only a few Chinese restaurants that specialize Yunnan cuisine.  It’s probably not easy to offer considering it’s province of China that features over dozens and dozens of minority ethnic groups, such as the Miao, Dai and Bai peoples, and many of the dishes are made with regional ingredients we most likely don’t have in the U.S.

From what little research I have done, I found that Yunnan Restaurant offer at least a half dozen of dishes that are popular within that region of China, such as the every so popular Yunnan House Special (Crossing Bridges) Rice Noodle Soup with boned-in Chicken, and square slices of sandwich ham meat.   This dish was served table side, where a server will bring out all the ingredients on a compartmental tray and then start mixing them into the broth, followed by the long thick strands of rice noodles.  It was hearty but a light dish as well.

The Cured Pork with Leeks was tasty, but was too salty.  The same can be said for the Yunnan Dried Beef, which was a little salty and chewy.

We supplemented the rest of dinner by ordering some of the more Sichuan dishes such as the Kung Pao Chicken and the Chungking Style Spicy Shrimp (it’s normally whole shrimps with shells deep fried, but they offered to prepare a version with shelled shrimps.  I wonder if that was suggested to us since our table was half non-Chinese.  We opted for the shelled version).  These 2 dishes were stand outs for me.   We enjoyed the slight sweetness in the Kung Pao Chicken.  So much so, that we finished the dish in minutes.

Though the rest of the dishes ordered were good, they didn’t have enough Sichuan peppercorns nor the ma-la flavor profile to make the dishes sing.  Nevertheless, price-wise, you get ample amounts of food for your money, and that Cold Appetizers Bar at the front of the restaurant is a much try.

 

Dim Sum Dinner at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine 金凱旋宮 in Alhambra, CA

Dim Sum Dinner at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine 金凱旋宮 in Alhambra

These days, if you can’t make it for a dim sum brunch early weekend hours, then having dim sum for dinner is becoming a more and more of an option here in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Lunasia’s current dim sum menu offers the traditional items as well as some fancier dim sum dishes such as the Scallop Dumplings with Squid Ink Wrap, Baked Abalone Tarts, and the Pan Fried Pork Bun with added Crab Meat.  While we loved the Scallop Dumplings and the Pan Fried Pork & Crab baos, we didn’t feel the same with the Baked Abalone Tart, as the abalone was quite hard.

Dim sum, for the most part, is priced the same for both lunch and dinner hours, and the execution of many of the items we ordered were quite good.  The only dishes that didn’t work for us were the rice noodle rolls.  Both types we ordered were overcooked.

Another plus about having dim sum at this location at night?  Less crowds, ample parking, and there’s no feeling rushed to finish your meal so that they can flip the table quickly for the next party.

Chef Laurent Quenioux’s LQ Fooding “Fall Series @ MaMaison 2018” in Topanga, CA

Chef Laurent Quenioux’s LQ Fooding “Fall Series @ MaMaison 2018” in Topanga, CA

The owners of this lovely property in the mountains just north of the Topanga Village opened their amazing property to Chef Quenioux and his LQ Foodings team to host a multi-course dinner this weekend.  It was a beautiful night, with lovely views, and the weather was perfect for an outdoor dinner.

And what a dinner it was, considered a bargain by many of the diners, as you get 7 courses plus a glass of apertif: Dijon Cassis Kir, for only $80 plus tax, gratuity and a processing fee for purchasing your tickets online.

Cold/room temperature appetizers were the perfect dishes to serve on this night to start the dinner with, leading up to three delicious main course including the seafood course, garnished with a delicious bouillabase broth, to beef short ribs served with cordyceps mushrooms.

It was a wonderful progression of dishes, and this is certainly one of the better pop-up dinners around these days in the LA area.  It’s the type of dining I enjoy:  gradual progression of dishes, relaxed atmosphere, not excessively loud, and no loud music blaring away.  Instead, contemporary jazz was played in the background, at a volume that did not make it difficult for one to carry a conversation with dinner mates nearby.

Website:  http://bistrolq.com/lq-foodings

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.

Ruiji Sichuan Restaurant 瑞吉川菜 in Lomita, CA

Ruiji Sichuan Restaurant 瑞吉川菜 in Lomita, CA

Hard to believe that there’s been a true Sichuan restaurant in the South Bay area of Los Angeles (communities south of LAX) for almost 2 years now before I finally discovered them.  The prices here are slightly higher than the Sichuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, but the quality of their food pretty much rival the excellent ones in San Gabriel Valley.

The menu is huge and offers a wonderful variety of Sichuan dishes and more.  The dishes offer a good enough of a kick but not to the point where the spiciness would overpower the layers of flavors that exude from every dish from the very first bite.  And while most of the dishes were delicious, there were a couple of under-performing dishes, such as the Corn laced with Salted Egg Yolk and the Wontons in Spicy Chili Oil.  The corn was too sweet and had too much of the salted duck egg yolks dusted over them.  It ate more like a dessert than savory goodness.  The wontons tasted one dimensional, especially from the sauce the wontons were served with.

Other than that, it was a great dinner.  With so many offerings on their menu, we would have to make a couple of return visits in the future.