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 caught 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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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.

 

Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant 黃金閣海鮮酒樓 in Monterey Park, CA

Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant 黃金閣海鮮酒樓 in Monterey Park, CA

One of the more popular places in the San Gabriel Valley for dim sum because of its pricing (it is one of the less expensive places for dim sum these days).  Most of the dim sum items are priced at $3.18 per item (specialty items such as Roast Pork Belly and Roast Duck cost $6.32 each), and these prices are good for weekends and holidays.  However, if you are able to have dim sum during the weekdays, then pricing is substantially lower at $2.78 per item, or $5.56 for the specialty items.

Dim sum is served in carts that weave through rows of tables throughout the restaurant.  If you come during the peak dim sum brunch hours of 11:00am and 1:00pm, then you will be able to order any dim sum listed on their dim sum menu.  During the rest of the time, the less traditional dim sum items such as the Deep Fried Green Tea Balls with Pumpkin and Pan Fried Fish Cake with Corn are not offered.

Two of the dishes that are a stand out for me are their Pan Fried Stuffed Bell Peppers made with shrimp pasted and a black bean sauce, and the Pan Fried Turnip Cake.  Both are delicious, and the Pan Fried Stuffed Bell Peppers are a rarity these days as not all dim sum palaces serve this dish anymore, and for some who do, they would use jalapeno peppers instead.  Jalapenos give the dish a slightly different flavor profile, and the spiciness of the jalapenos overpower the delicate flavor of the shrimp past.

Service here is attentive and responsive, and the quality of most dim sum is quite good.  Sometimes you may get items such as the Har Gow and the Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls overcooked, and the rice flour wrap becomes gummy and soggy.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photo.

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant 海港大酒樓 in Rosemead, CA

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant 海港大酒樓 in Rosemead, CA

Sea Harbour was always considered as one of the best places to go for dim sum in the Greater Los Angeles area since it opened.  However, I did not like the dim sum I had during my last visit in December 2016.

Today, a long time friend wanted good dim sum, and I decided to Sea Harbour another chance, and this visit changed my mind again about them.  The dim sum was well prepared and tasted delicious.  A far cry from my last visit.

Only issues I was with the specialty dim sum dishes they offered (Shrimp Dumpling with Gold Leaf, and Steamed Salted Egg Yolk Bun with Gold Foil).  Though they tasted good, one may not be able to held and wonder if that’s enough to justify spending the extra money on dim sum.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

 

酸菜魚 Dinner at Tai 2 太二 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish in City of Industry

酸菜魚 Dinner at Tai 2 太二 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish in City of Industry

Sichuan style restaurant that specializes in spicy whole fish cooked in a spicy broth made with sour pickled vegetables (aka Chinese sauerkraut), dried red chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns.  The dish is can be quite spicy depending on the level of heat you choose.  We went with Medium Spice level, and it was quite spicy for our table.   The Sichuan peppercorns gave that nice numbing effect that somewhat neutralizes the burn from the chiles.  Unfortunately, the dish was quite salty.  In fact, almost all of their dishes were over-seasoned.

The fish used was tilapia.  In our Extra Large sized order, the used 2 loosely filleted tilapia.  I say “loosely filleted” because the skin is not remove, and you would definitely encounter bones that are still inside each chunk of fish meat.  So, eat with care.

Pricing here seemed rather high for the quality of the dishes, and their sizes.  Even a bowl of steamed white rice costs $2 per bowl.

Service here is typical of restaurant from Mainland China.  The staff is nice, but other than serving you your dishes, and provide you with the basics, they don’t do anything extra, such as refilling water glasses.

The best dishes of the night were the chicken feet and the vegetable dishes as well.

We did enjoy quirky English names given for their dishes, almost literal translations from the quirky Chinese names.

Dim Sum and More at Longo Seafood Restaurant 鴻德品位 in Rosemead, CA

Dim Sum and More at Longo Seafood Restaurant 鴻德品位 in Rosemead, CA

Longo Seafood sits in the space that once was Sun City Seafood Restaurant, which also served traditional, but inexpensive, dim sum where you order from various carts that roam about the dining area continuously.   Sun City lasted for about 6 years before going through a change in management.  Sun City then closed and reopened as Crown Palace.  Dim sum wasn’t any better than its predecessor, and after 9 months, Crown Palace shuttered its doors.

Fast forward to over a year later, and the space went through a complete renovation inside and out, but mostly inside.  It was lavishly decorated to give a feel of a higher end Chinese dim sum palace.  More importantly, the food has improved substantially, with offerings of specialty dim sum that are made from high end quality ingredients such as black truffles, foie gras, and wagyu beef.

However, without proper execution, or even proper development of recipes, adding higher end ingredients to traditional dim sum dishes doesn’t necessarily mean that dish will work.

Foie gras used in a steamed dumpling was first done by the original owners of Lunasia in Alhambra when it opened about 10 years ago.  The one item that was to be their signature dish was their Foie Gras Dumpling, which was a roundish steamed dumpling with a shrimp filling, topped with a small piece of foie.  Unfortunately, for the most part, these dumplings were overcooked, so when you bit into one you, you bit into a piece of overcooked duck liver as well, leaving your mouth with this dry, gritty muddy taste that overpowered the shrimp filling.

Longo, though, does do a better job at presenting foie gras in a steamed dumpling.  With a clean palate, you can get that subtle hint of foie from your first bite into their dumpling.  The problem was that, it was just a hint.  Unless you’re able to identify the flavor, you’ll easily miss it.  For many at my table, it was not worth paying the extra money for that.

More successful are Longo’s Black Truffle Siu Mai.  I taste finely shaved black truffles placed on top of their siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings).  You do get that truffle flavor with every bite.  At about $3 per dumpling, it’s a better deal (and taste) than the Black Truffle XLBs at Din Tai Fung (which run about $4.50 per mini-XLB).

Having Wagyu Beef in rice rolls (cheung fun) is like making a hamburger patty out of Kobe beef, a seemingly waste.  The beef in these rice rolls come across as overcooked.  I prefer the traditional beef rice rolls made with a marinated ground beef filling.

And while the Longo Lobster Dumplings weren’t bad, ordering the Longo Shrimp Dumpling will give you the same experience.  Only a small piece of lobster meat is placed on top of the shrimp filling inside the Longo Lobster Dumpling, and the flavor and texture of the lobster disappear when it becomes overcooked in a dumpling that’s 80% shrimp inside.

Service is typical as to what you expect from other dim sum palaces.  Just because they look higher end in decor inside, and offer fancy dim sum dishes, you’re not going to be treated as you would while dining at Patina.

And did anyone leave here with a dry mouth?  Whenever I get that dreadful feeling, it’s usually because the food has been seasoned with too much salt.

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