Yujean Kang's- bad food, bad service
Was in the mood for some spicy food last night so we decided to try Yujean Kang's- after all, the place has been there forever (one of the few to last since Old Town became Chain Restaurant Central) so it couldn't be that bad, could it? We almost changed our minds when we walked up to the window to see one table with wine spilled all over the white tablecloth and no one in sight to even start cleaning it up. We strolled up the street wondering if we should go someplace else, but the hankering for some Chinese food won out and we (unfortunately) decided to try it anyway.
You know when you're craving something specific and then you see that EXACT thing on the menu and think "YES!" Well, that happened to both as J was set on some sort of spicy chicken/veggie stirfry and I had my heart set on cold noodles with a spicy sauce. After quite some time, our waiter came and we ordered 2 bottles of water, 1 order of tiny dumplings w/ chile oil, COLD NOODLES WITH PRAWNS IN SESAME SAUCE (the description said the sauce was "spicy") and the SZECHWAN SPICY CHICKEN. Bring on the spicy food!
We noticed other tables getting their food, and the waiters all serving each diner from the big main plate to their own plates- dropping food on the table twice. It's cute that they do that but obviously it causes problems. Anyway, after about 15 minutes and not a sign of our water, we finally flagged down someone who just could not figure out what I meant but needing our water. "Oh- you want glasses of water?" so I said "No- we already placed the order for a bottle of water" to which he replied, "Ok, two bottles of water?" so I said "NO- we already ordered it.....just waiting for our one bottle." He walked away, scratching his head and came back with two bottles. Fine, we would take it since we were thirsty. Our tiny dumplings came and were just so-so....not spicy in the least bit and definitely not hot.
Our main dishes came after that and my "spicy" sesame sauce was not spicy, not seasoned and virtually tasteless. I actually asked for soy sauce and chile sauce to "doctor" it up which made it taste a bit better but still lacked any depth. The prawns on the noodles were cooked perfectly, at least. J's chicken was basically a plate of chicken and julienned veggies with no decipherable flavor other than the extremely strong taste of Schiracha chile sauce. No hint of garlic, ginger or any other spice but at least it was spicy. Very spicy. We were both so hungry that we ate half our food at least.
While we were eating we noticed a couple of people who called for takeout- both took quite some time and the second customer was noticeable upset. Even though there seemed to be plenty of waiters, they all moved like a herd of turtles.
We were sorely disappointed and will definitely not be going back. If you can recommend any good Chinese places in and around Pasadena or Highland Park, I'd appreciate it!!!
Tuna Toast: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/
Just had dinner at Yujean Kang's a few days ago. The service was terrible and this is pretty consistent with our other visits there in the past couple of years. The "host" spends a long time scrutinizing the reservation book but when people actually come in, he hides in the back. The waiters are not responsive and they are always short-staffed. People have to stand in the front of the restaurant as there is no entry way and nobody acknowledges you. No one smiles and they act like they're doing you a favor when they serve you. The food is OK. We like the tea-smoked duck, the green beans with pork, and the black-bean noodles. Other things like the crispy beef are just sour with too much vinegar and salty. If you can stand the lack of service, maybe it's worth tolerating that for the food.
Just saw this at the top of the board.
YK used to be one of our favorite restaurants for his inventive Chinese fusion food - Mr. Kang's riffs on traditional dishes somewhat modified with California/French presentations and sensibilities, and his wine menu, which was much better than traditional Chinese places. This is NOT the place to go for authentic spicy Chinese food - there are many places in SGV for that. Also lunch is a good value - for $8-10, you get a salad, soup, and the entree with steamed rice. If sharing family style, it is really a good option for 3-4 people.
My most recent visit was day after Thanksgiving, so it is still fresh. I think the place suffers from 2 main problems: Mr. Kang seems to have set the menu in stone - I don't believe it has changed in several years - the same menu was there when he first moved down from the Bay Area several years ago. Perhaps he does not pay any personal attention - I have not seen him in many years (I knew him because his son went to the same after school care as our daughter, about 10 years ago). Secondly, the wait staff changes and often cops an attitude. I have seen their headwaiter move around Old Town Pasadena (was a few doors down on the same block in Kuala Lumpur before it closed). They often hang around doing nothing, even when there are patrons that need attention. I think it comes from the lack of Mr. Kang's presence in the restaurant.
It's a pity - it was good cooking when it began!
Wow, I've always enjoyed meals at Yujean Kang's. I think of it more as a place for good food, but not strict by-the-book chinese food. The menu is pretty different than your typical SGV place. And I've never had bad service there. Perhaps a good eating strategy there is not to try to duplicate the "chinese restaurant" experience and instead order something different ... like the polenta! Although I haven't been there for a year probably so perhaps there has been a change of talent?
I was excited to try Yujean Kang's from all the great reviews and was also dissappointed with the inattentive service and bland food. On the plus side, the one dish we did enjoy was their Eggplant with Garlic.
Though I have yet to try Fu-Shing or Spring Garden, I have never been wowed by the Chinese restaurants (Phoenix, Yang Chow, Oak Tree Inn etc.) in Pasadena. I'd also suggest doing a search for SGV Chinese on chowhound.
I haven't been to Yujean Kang's in a long long time because I never cared for the food there. But the service used to be very good, sorry to hear about the downturn. I don't think you're going to find anything really spicy in the heart of old town.
For Chinese food in Pasadena-ish, Oak Tree Inn in South Pasadena is good, and you can ask them to spice it up, as you like. Also Phoenix in South Pas.
Why not just head down to SGV for Chinese?
Barring a trip to SGV, your best bet for Chinese in or around Pasadena is probably Fu-Shing on Colorado Blvd, about 2-3 miles east of Old Town. Fu-Shing has seen better days, but it's still probably your best bet in that area.