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Jul 7, 2007 08:51 PM

Hon Yei (San Gabriel) Review

Tried out Hon Yei today, a new Sichuan place in San Gabriel.

Menu spans just about every geographic region in China, despite the kitchen's Sichuan roots.

You have dumplings, "go boo li" boas (a variant of xlb), Peking duck (only 1-hour advance notice!), noodles including things like dan dan mien and jia jiang mien, as well as things like the ubiquitous beef rolls and the very un-Sichuan moo-shoo pork.

We tried some dishes the kitchen recommended:

1. The sweet chicken (translation: frog). This was hot and spicy, but very well executed and it looks much more intimidating (there's this reddish glow about it) than it tastes.

2. Squid on a sizzling plate (a la mongolian beef). Quite unique but the squid was a bit too tough.

3. Stir fried jelly fish. This was very good, very light and a nice contrast to the other spicy dishes.

4. Mongolian lamb. This was a rather spicy dish, but surprisingly the peppers did not overwhelm the lamby-ness of the meat. Not bad.

5. Beef tendon. Best dish of the night. Bar none. If you like spicy food, this is it.

6. Scallion pancakes. The first ones we got were tough and cold, which was replaced. The second try was much better -- hot and crispy, not oily.

The menu has these chili pepper signs to signify how "spicy" each dish is. The highest heat level is 3 chili peppers or what the menu says "EXTREMELY HOT, can easily make you sweat". (LOL)

Also, be aware that there are certain quirks in the menu (besides spelling and translation errors), like calling the cuisine here "Mandarin Style". It is not Mandarin style -- it is Sichuan cuisine through and through.

BTW, is Sichuan the new "it" thing for Chinese cuisine?

288 South San Gabriel Blvd #103-104
San Gabriel

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  1. Did they mistranslate the word "frog"? I'm guessing it should be translated as "field chicken" instead.

    6 Replies
    1. re: raytamsgv

      Yes (on both the chinese and english translation). It's been corrected, however, on the take-out menus at least.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Thanks for the review. Saw this place yesterday. Yeah literally frog is "field chicken" (tian ji; teen gai).

        I have definitely seen the increase of more mainland-style food. anyone try the "Hunan" place on New/Valley; next to Lu Gi hot pot? Or any of those places in the 888 plaza w/ shin sen gumi? i think they could be beijing style food.

        1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

          Yeah, there's definitely a new wave of main land China folks opening places in SGV.

          I remember about 10-15 years back, when the first wave of main land Chinese first started opening up shop in SGV (mostly in Alhambra, MP, and San Gabriel), they were rather rude and obnoxious and completely English-impaired.

          This second, new wave are much more courteous and accommodating.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            haha 'rude and obnoxious and completely English-impaired".... but "damn the food is good." i'm guessing one of the reasons is the large influx of mainlanders with US visas. Just take a look at the chinese tour buses parked along the Shun Fat Shopping mall on Valley/San Gabriel Blvd. they aren't going to be eating at popeye's or spike's across the street haha.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              But compared to restaurants I've visited in mainland China, the "first wave" was rather polite. I tell you, authentic Chinese cuisine is getting harder to find in the SGV. Next thing you know, the wait staff will be saying, "Hi, my name is Li. I'll be your server today....." :-)

              1. re: raytamsgv

                Hon Yei has this one waiter (or busboy, maybe?) who is completely Mandarin impaired and speak a completely foreign Chinese dialect that I am not familiar with. But, amazingly, he's quite proficient in English!

      2. Sounds yummy---I really need to stop reading these damned boards when I am hungry.

        The one question I have is do you need to speak Chinese to get the good stuff or can you get the bus boy to translate? We had an experience this last weekend in a Sichuan restaurant [not in LA] where we asked for it to be spicy but once again, it came out only white guy spicy, ie BLAND. Afterwards, I had a discussion with the waitress about how it was tasty but BLAND--somehow I think I would have done better with my complaint if I had been able to say it in Chinese.

        I think Sichuan may be rather popular with non-Chinese right now, particularly authentic, in part because of Fuschia Dunlops wonderful Sichuan cookbook that came out a year or so ago. Its a great book but I suspect it may be a bit intimidating leading some people to just look for the restaurants. I know that her second book on Hunan cooking was what led us to the newish [replaced Green Village] Hunan place in the Del Mar mall----mmmmmmmmmmmmmm, oh rats, now I'm REALLY hungry..........

        7 Replies
        1. re: jenn

          = ( . green village is gone. man. i miss their fried fish w/ salt & vinegar. (tai tiao huang yu)

          1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

            Green Village reopened last year one mall west (250 W. Valley).

          2. re: jenn

            You could always tell them something like, "Please cook it like you would cook for a Chinese person." For Chinese restaurants with many non-Chinese patrons, it is not uncommon to have two ways of cooking: one for Chinese patrons and one for everyone else.

            1. re: raytamsgv

              another good idea for those that encounter non-english menus at chinese places. if you find a photo of delicious food off a food blog, flickr, save the image and print it out. i once printed out a diim sum picture chart for a coworker of mine who brought it to the restaurant. it saved her from having a bad experience.

              1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                I was very sucessful in using the first Carl Chu book on the San Gabriel valley to order stuff but that doesn't solve the level of spice problem.

              2. re: raytamsgv

                see, thats what I did at the end only we got into an "argument" with her insisting that was the only way that dish was made. In this particular case, I had only ordered stuff we knew--ants on a tree, green beans, something else, so I was familiar with the flavors and knew that it had been "dummed down" for lack of a better phrase.

                And I totally get the problem for the restaurant--I'm sure they get plenty of people who claim to want it "real" but actually have no clue. If you are in an area where there are not so many Chinese patrons [not the problem in the SGV], you can kill your reputation with non-Chinese patrons by one meal of totally authentic but perhaps inediable-due-to-heat sichuan food. I know way back in the stone age, the first time I went to a Sichuan restaurant, the person paying the bill ordered it "real" and neither I nor my mother could eat the meal because it was so spicy--and we just weren't used to it. It was years before I tried Sichuan again.

              3. re: jenn

                I believe pretty much all the stuff the kitchen has is listed on the menu (could be wrong, however, as I have only gone once and they've only been open for about 2 weeks). So you don't really need to speak Chinese to get the "good stuff" ...

                Our waitress was pretty good with English with the other tables (although we conversed in Mandarin most of the time).

                And while the English menu translations have some notable oddities in translation, it does a generally good job of describing the dishes you're getting.

                The menu also has these chili pepper symbols to show how spicy something is, but the kitchen will always accommodate and make it more (or less) spicy if you wish.