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Dueling Dumpling Houses Open In Monterey Park

A Chinatown business advisor once told me that Chinese business operators had no imagination, and that when somebody did come up with an innovative new concept, it would be immediately followed by a dozen imitators. There does seem to be some evidence of this in looking at the recent history of Chinese food here in LA. 35 years ago Sam Woo opens up a bbq deli and for the next few years almost every new place in Chinatown is a deli. In the 80s it was HK/Chinese seafood, in the mid-90s it was nothing but Hong Kong style cafes opening up, then we were flooded by boba parlors. More recently we had a flurry of buffets, but many of them closed down. The latest micro trend seems to be dumpling houses near the intersection of Garvey and Garfield in Monterey Park. When Qingdao Bread Food opened up a few months ago on Garfield I was very happy to not have to drive out to San Gabriel or points east for good dumplings. Now, two more places have opened up literally across the street from each other on Garvey, immediately east of Garfield. In the space formerly occupied by Heavy Noodling, Mama Lu's Dumpling House is in the process of opening up. Spies tell me this is the commercial location of a dumpling store that was operating out of the living room of somebody's house. While I saw grand opening plants, workers inside the restaurant, and buns in the refrigerator case, they were closed at lunchtime. so I don't know if they've opened up yet. Across the street at 138 E. Garvey is Northern Dumpling House, in the space formerly occupied by a horrid place called Fu Lin. Northern Dumpling has a number of varieties of pork dumplings, as well as beef dumplings, fish dumplings and vegetable dumplings. In addition, they have a lot of non-dumpling items on the menu, and the existence of a Shenyang noodle dish would indicate that they serve Northeastern Chinese cuisine. Note that Northern Dumpling House's name is not on the exterior of the store--they took the old "Fu Lin Restaurant" signage, took off the "Fu Lin," leaving only "Restaurant" above the doorway.

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  1. I'm so excited! Thank you! I love to eat dumplings on Saturday night, then cruise 99 Ranch Market for fun snacks.

      1. I would recommend Mama Lu's and confirm the dumplings out of living room. I have bought some out of the maker's house, and they are very delicious. The wontons are the best ever, better than anything you could find in Hong Kong, according to HK natives. Chive dumplings and soup dumplings (xiao long bao) also recommended.

        2 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl

            The street where HK Supermarket was located on. Not sure what the name of it is.

        1. I'm so happy that you're on this board. I don't know if I can pull my s.o. away from our usual dumpling spots but I will make an effort to do so.

            1. Saw Mama Lu's the other day as well when we were lunching at Har Lam Kee.

              When is the official opening date?

              1. quick aside - with the demise of heavy noodling - where can i or you or anyone go for the daoshao knife cut shanxi style noodles they used to make.?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Jerome

                  I believe posters have mentioned Three Family's Kitchen (sic) by the Hong Kong Supermarket in Rowland Heights and Kam Hong Garden on Garvey in east Monterey Park.

                  1. re: Jerome

                    China Islamic lets you upgrade your lamb noodles to dao shao mien for an extra dollar or so, but the noodles tend not to have quite the same chew as they did at Heavy Noodling.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Jerome

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/469880
                      And the gf posted a review (and link to pictures) of Kam Hong @
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514197

                      Mama's on New (and probably the one on Atlantic as well) has shou gan mien, which don't seem to be cut by machine - the shape is irregular and twisty, but they're not like dao xiao mian or shou la mian.

                      1. re: will47

                        Mama's on Atlantic has been shuttered for a month now. Delicious Delicious has been open for a week now. The Szechuanese - inflected restaurant does not make their own noodles tho they do have a very interesting pan fried yeast risen flat bread

                        1. re: TonyC

                          Oh weird. I saw Delicious Delicious (I guess the Chinese name is probably hao hao chi or something?) but didn't realize that it had replaced Mama's.

                          I went to Noodle House in Arcadia today... I didn't realize that all the noodles were green (probably spinach), not just some of them. It was pretty good.

                    2. Hey Chandavkl,

                      LOL, you're so right about the copycat mentality of Chinese eateries in So Cal! :) It's completely silly (and stupid) and inevitably having all the competition in a small concentrated area only undermines the whole situation (also note how there's like a Foot Massage place on every block in the entire San Gabriel Valley (>_>)).

                      I hope we get some reports back on these new places. I'll try and visit some of them soon.

                      1. So I just came back from trying out Mama Lu's Dumpling House.

                        In a nutshell: Disappointing.

                        I ordered the Xiao Long Bao, a Ji Tsai Zhu Ruo Shui Jiao (Ji Tsai Vegetable Pork Dumpling), and the Shen Jien Bao (Pan-Seared Bao). You can tell that all of the items are "handmade," as they have a thick, handmade texture to them. The problem is in the seasoning and execution:

                        * The Xiao Long Bao (Little Dragon Soup Dumplings) were overly *gummy* with their skins (on the thicker side, but a gummy texture to them). In addition the filling was underseasoned (note: I have a lighter palate and prefer things less salty as opposed to more salty, and even then, they were really underseasoned). The broth was pretty good, but the meat and overall taste fell short.

                        * Ji Tsai Vegetable & Pork Dumplings: The skin was too thick and the taste was really bland. Of course you can add soy sauce, but it was just so underseasoned that it felt unappetizing. 101 Noodle Express, Dumpling 10053, and Luscious are all much better.

                        * Shen Jien Bao (Pan-Seared Bao): A nice crispy texture (good searing), but it gave way to the same thing: Underseasoning again. The inside meat and vegetables were so bland and a few pieces had *undercooked* pork(!), that the whole thing came off as disappointing.

                        Lastly, the service (even with 4 wait staff) was horrendously bad (but you don't expect much from the small hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants ;). Mama Lu's just opened up, so I'd imagine they may need some time to get things sorted out, but it's not off to a good start.

                        (Note: They also (strangely) had a bunch of menu items crossed off already (a few types of Dumplings, Noodles, etc.).)

                        *** Rating: 6.0 (out of 10.0) ***

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: exilekiss

                          happier that you went than I. That said, any place that offers ji tsai dumlings and xiao long bao is either amazing or just out to make a buck, most probably lthe latter. My best experiences with xlb are at huaiyang places, the ji-tsai (jicai) dumplings are best at shandong jiaozi-guan, or at least beifang jiaozi-guan.

                          If they offered har gao as well, or sichuan chao shou(r), I wouldn't be surprised.
                          .

                          1. re: Jerome

                            You realise the next question out of my fingers... 程度朝手在哪兒?! Where do I get real Chengdu chaoshou???

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              jasmine in Monterey park had real chengdu snacks. Try Chongqing on Garfield and ask - i think they have chaoshou(r). BUt LOL on the characters
                              (正宗)成都炒手(兒)在哪兒?!

                              1. re: Jerome

                                Doh, that's what I get for using pinyin typing instead of bopomofo...

                          2. re: exilekiss

                            exilekiss, I went to Mama Lu's for lunch today, and I had a different experience.

                            We ordered four things: the Shanghai rice cakes, roasted beef noodles, xiao long bao, and the green onion pancake. The Shanghai rice cakes came out first. This dish was pretty standard, but we appreciated that it had lots of wok hay. The slight bitterness of the napa provided a counterpoint to the oiliness of the dish (ugh, that sounds so boojie [to quote the Fresh Prince of Bel Air]).

                            The roasted beef noodles came next. The cut of the beef was a bit unexpected; it was presented in slices rather than in cubes. Also, I'm not really good with cuts of beef, but it might've been brisket (with tendon) rather than just cubes of beef. The noodles were the thinner type. The soup was not beefy at all. We were really disappointed by this.

                            We enjoyed the xiao long bao most. They had pretty thin skins and were not gummy at all. The skins were thinner than Mei Long Village (MLV) and J & J's. The meat seems to be less seasoned than MLV's, but more than J & J's. There was about 3/4 of a spoonful of porky soup in every dumpling.

                            The green onion pancake was crunchy on the outside, but slightly mushy on the inside. There wasn't a discernible green onion flavor.

                            Service was great. A couple of the servers came by to ask us how the food was, and our cups of water never reached bottom. And for those of you who might be intimidated, everyone spoke English.

                            Thanks for the heads up, Chandavkl!

                            1. re: silleehillee

                              Hey silleehillee,

                              Thanks for the report back. It might be them finally settling in / stabilizing the ingredients / menu (or adjusting to feedback). When I went, they had just barely opened, so it's good to hear they are adjusting things.

                              The downside is from your report it seems like the only thing that was good from your order was the XLB (and it's really sad to hear about the Beef Noodles).