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What ELSE to get at Mei Long Village?

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I'll be directing my chow group over to Mei Long Village sometime this month to introduce them to XLB. But since we're driving from the SFV, it would be nice to order something else to round out the meal. Unfortunately, this group has adventurous stomachs but sometimes has xenophobic eyes -- if I can tell them that something is great, then they'll order and enjoy it, otherwise they'll pick something "safe". So, what else is fantastic at MLV?

Or, if MLV is a one-trick pony, then where else should we head for world-class XLB plus a few other excellent dishes that we can't get outside the SGV? (Preferably not too much farther away...)

Finally, one of our number doesn't eat red meat, and can't handle more than a little bit of onion. So bonus points if a couple of these dishes conform to his tastes. (Yeah, I know, tall order.)

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  1. MLV has many, many tricks up its sleeves. XLB just happens to be their greatest hit on the Chowhound hit parade.

    Their lions' head meatballs (pork) are excellent. Pork is technically a white meat, yes? The fried sweet&sour fish ("squirrel-style", don't worry... no real squirrels involved in preparation) is very very good.

    Noodles are excellent too.

    6 Replies
    1. re: J.L.

      I second the Lion's Head Meatballs. This is a must get dish at Mei Long Village!

      1. re: eileen216

        Jade shrimp. Wuxi spareribs. Candied eel. Vegetarian goose. Pork pump. Braised fish tail. Jellyfish head!

        1. re: condiment

          Ditto the recs from condiment, and to add a few others:

          Nian gao with shredded pork
          Scallion pancakes
          Mustard greens with tofu skins

          I'm also a sucker for their corn chowder soup but then your results may vary ...

          1. re: ipsedixit

            when i went to MLV late last year, they did not serve scallion pancakes (cho yiou bing). did they add it to the menu recently?

            1. re: wilafur

              They had it last time I was there, but I must admit it's been a while since my last visit (prob. over 7 or 8 months)

      2. re: J.L.

        CANNOT BELIEVE NO ONE HAS MENTIONED THE FISH HEAD SOUP WITH GREEN BEAN "NOODLES"!!!

        MLV is one of the best retaurants in the city, hard to wrong.

        They also do a special ordered brined pork pump that is less fatty than the regular, meltingly deliciousness of pure pork.

        I'll second, third or fourth the following:
        ribs
        shanghai rice cakes
        jade shrimp
        braised fish tails
        potstickers
        lion's head meatballs
        tofu skin with preserved vegetables

        STAY AWAY FROM THE TEA SMOKED DUCK (dry, overly salty)

      3. Go with the pork pump -- the meat falls off the bone and is as succulent as any pork I've ever eaten.

        I second (third?) the lion's head meatballs.

        My wife loves their wonton soup.

        2 Replies
        1. re: glutton

          I second the pork pump, it is a HUGE portion of delicious tender meat, and the sauce is delicious.

          If you like soup, I highly recommend the spicy beef noddle soup. The broth flavor is amazing. I need to head over there soon!

          1. re: CarlieInLA

            Mmmmmm, beef noddle.

            Absolutely, the pork pump is a must.... it seems expensive in (about $15), but it serves 4-6 people.

            We also really enjoy the pan fried rice cakes.... they are tiny, flat oval discs of glutenous rice dough, pan fried with a lovely brown sauce and veggies.... a great contrast of flavors and textures.

            Mr Taster

        2. I remember something like shredded pork with dried bean curd sheets that was very good and not at all intimidating - the dried bean curd sheets resemble noodles, paired with mild stir-fried pork.

          1. What is XLB? All the dishes you are talking about sound wonderful!!!

            10 Replies
            1. re: JEN10

              Hey Jen,

              XLB are short for "Xiao Long Bao" (literally Little Dragon Dumplings), known as also as "Soup Dumplings." They are the size of normal dumplings but round in shape, and contain a burst of unctuous Pork Broth in each one (in addition to the marinated Ground Pork and other seasonings). A specialty of Shanghai and the surrounding region.

              There've been extensive arguments on CH and in general about who makes the best XLB, with one camp pushing for the more rustic like Mei Long, and the other camp liking the thinness of Din Tai Fung.

              1. re: exilekiss

                The duck braised in brown sauce (sorry, I don't remember the proper name) was fantastic, as were the pork pump and lion's head meatballs.

                Andrew

                1. re: exilekiss

                  I am learning so much about Asian style food here on the CH site. Thanks for the info Exile!!!

                  1. re: JEN10

                    More specifically, Mei Long Village serves Shanghai style food. Stick with us Chowhounds long enough and instead of lumping "Asian" food into one category, you'll be eating Issan Thai, Khmer, Hyderabad, Hakata tonkatsu ramen and Hue imperial Vietnamese food with the rest of us!

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Mr T.
                      I just tried Vietnamese food this last week for the first time. I also had my first bit of Korean a couple weeks ago, oh YUMMMM. I am trying to hook up with a local chower and hit up some local places that were recommended. I LOVE this board, it is addicting.

                      1. re: JEN10

                        You sound like me 7 years ago :)

                        There are so many treasures to be found in LA. Go where the great food is, where the ethnic communities live, and you will be rewarded. If you expect them to come to you, more often than not you will get mediocre to bad results. Woo Lao Oak in Beverly Hills is a great example of a great cuisine dumbed down for people too intimidated to seek out the great stuff in Koreatown.

                        In fact it was this board (and Jonathan Gold's "Counter Intelligence" book and column in LA Weekly) which inspired a 7 month chow tour of southeast Asia, China and Korea with my then-girlfriend-now-wife. www.travelpod.com/members/adamandeva I wasn't a new agey LA Asia-phile or anything... I just love good food, and so does she... it was a match made in heaven :

                        )

                        (lots of great food pics on the blog.... still haven't finished posting all the pics from 2 years ago...)
                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          7 years!!!?!?!? has it been that long? yikes!

                          I always liked the wuxi spareribs and pork pump as well [though I seem to recall the pork needs to be ordered in advance]. And whether they came from Din Tai or Mei Long, I never got the fuss over the XLB--theys dumplings and thats good but there is sooooo much more to Chinese and Shanghai cooking than those darned dumplings......

                  2. re: exilekiss

                    Actually, it is Not Little Dragon Dumplings (小龍包) . I made the mistake as reading it that way initially for a long time as well. The problem is compounded in that I have seen a restaurant or two incorrectly use the dragon character.

                    The actualy character(籠) in the dish is also pronounced the exact same way, long (with a rising intonation), but there is a subtle additional radical (zhu -- (竹) bamboo) on the top of the dragon phonetic. This new character﹐ 籠﹐ has the meaning of cage or basket, and it references the container the baos are steamed and served in. Traditionally, and you will see this in China, the steamer is made of bamboo, and the bamboo bars on the bottom to let the steam through make it look like an inverted bamboo bird cage. In the US, due to health regulationis, the baos are steamed in metal containers that basically look the same as their bamboo counterparts. I personally find there is a slight difference in the taste between the xlb prepared in bamboo vs metal, but it is subtle.

                    Now, I am not a huge fan of the XLB here. They were unevenly cooked and I felt they were too big with skins too thick. Only 2 of the baos had juice in them, but when they did, it had a very nice flavor. I believe, that XLB are good here, I just got a bad batch. I will return one day, but its hard to get my group to return to a place since there are so many restaurants in the SGV.

                    Exilekiss, I hope you don't feel this was somehow an attack. It is not, I just wanted to add to the discussion about the naming of the dish. I found out the hardway and in a somewhat embarrasing situation. :-)

                    Plus I hope the characters show up correctly on peoples computers, never entered them to a message forum before.

                    1. re: exilekiss

                      Actually, Xiao Long Bao means little caged dumplings. The cages refer to the bamboo steamer...

                      The Long character (龍) is not the right one, but 籠 is indeed the right one...

                      1. re: J.L.

                        Hi J.L., zruilong,

                        D'oh! Thanks for the clarification (^_^;; my Kanji skillz have failed me! (O_o)

                  3. xlb, check!
                    lion head meatballs, check!
                    jade shrimp, check!

                    we also love the two kinds of spare ribs on the menu, I think wuxi and shanghai?? (I never remember which is which). One is sweet, sticky, and addictive little nubs of spareribs, the other is long braised in soy sauce --both delish!

                    They have an extensive menu, but we rarely veer away from these dishes, they are that good!

                    Don't forget to get a $15 foot massage a few doors over, while you're there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: debra

                      The sweet sticky (and delicious) one is the Shanghai style. Just anecdotally, most of the time I am at MLV every single table has a plate of the Shanghai style spare ribs. Every other dish mentioned here is good though. They do a particularly great version of the sauteed green beans with minced pork and the fish filets with spicy bean sauce are good too.

                    2. This is fantastic. Thanks, everybody. Chowhound pulls through again!

                      1. this might be a little different, but definitely one of my favorite dishes at mei long village - the shanghai rice cake (nian gao) with crab. just delicious. i also love the lion's head meatballs as well. their fried gyoza is really good too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Alice

                          gyoza is japanese.... potstickers is chinese....

                        2. Crispy Eels appetizer.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: broncosaurus

                            no one ever talks about this but...

                            Jio Nian Tang Yuan (fermented rice) soup w/ sesame balls. it's a fine version. sweet, winey with fluffy beaten eggs.

                            please don't make me type the Chinese characters...

                            1. re: TonyC

                              That soup isn't bad, but the definitive version is at Giang Nan in Monterey Park.

                              1. re: condiment

                                Second the motion that Giang Nan's JNTY is the definitive version thus far.

                                1. re: J.L.

                                  I like my "jio nian" without the "tang yuan".

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    then head over to Dean Sin World (Tastio) on Garfield. They ferment their own jiou nian and it's only $3 even if they cook it there.

                          2. There is another super dish at MLV that remains unmentioned: Chinese Okra with Crabmeat. Everyone I've introduced this too absolutely loves it. I GUARANTEE you will love it! Chinese okra isn't anything like "normal" okra--more squash-like and kind of sweet. Very, very yummy.

                            Another great dish are the Shanghai style spareribs--sweet and juicy!

                            For dessert, the red bean pancakes are excellent.

                            I also like the fish with white wine sauce, which is light and sophisticated. I always want to drink up the remaining sauce.

                            There are so many good things there...a large group is necessary!

                            1. What's the best time to go and get these wonders?

                              Also, how does is compare to din tai fung?

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Diana

                                When we're not on the hunt for dim sum, we usually like to hit the SGV restaurants for early dinner - around 5-5:30PM. This is the last hour of lull between lunch and dinner, and starting out your dinner with almost the whole restaurant to yourself is not uncommon. In fact, we usually seem to catch some of the restaurant crew chowing down on their dinners before the dinner service starts in earnest.

                                It is a great luxury that we have in SoCal to be able to compare and contrast xlb places, like folks in other parts of the country probably compare pizza joints, pickups or dental floss. With that said, to me, Din Tai Fung is more refined, that is, it has been refined nearly to the point of sterility. Mei Long's dishes are more earthy, substantial, and the menu items are more varied. I don't know if the two variations are due to DTF being a Taiwanese version of Shanghai cuisine with so much focus on manufacturing those xlb's, while MLV seems more like a family from Shanghai with a strong culinary bent heard that their home town's fine cuisine wasn't being fairly represented and decided to pack up and head across the Pacific to save their fine city's honor.

                                There is no question that DTF has xlb's down, along with some other dumpling-like goods. I've enjoyed some of their noodle soup dishes like the soup noodles with pork chop or shrimp dumplings. There have been a lot of heated debates about who has the best xlb's but I think most will agree that it comes down to style. How DTF creates their xlb's with such a thin yet sturdy skin is an engineering wonder. Yet it seems that such a creature could only be created somewhere like a manufacturing plant or a group of like restaurants. DTF does a very good job with their food, but because the competition in the SGV is so amped up, doing things very good can leave them out of the medal round.

                                MLV is uncontrived. Their dishes are what they are. Xiao long bao, Shanghai rice cakes, lion's head meatballs, jade shrimp, pork pump. Each of these dishes seems to have a natural balance, and each fulfills the expectations for what the kitchen sets them out to do. Depending on what time you go, you might have to wait, but there's no mega-queue to wait out while you count the decades of minutes like at DTF. I don't want to speculate the reason for the lines there, but I personally don't find it worth it anymore. MLV is much smaller, not nearly as white linen in feel, and is often overseen by a smartly dressed designer-bespectacled lady who is more concerned about you enjoying your meal as opposed to checking the number you're waving in the air.

                                DTF is a great for a lesson in xlb 101, but I personally prefer the slightly more robust versions at MLV. Like the patrons who devour them, there's nothing thin-skinned about them...

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Thanks for the well-thought-out answer!

                                  Will I have problems at MLV expressing my need to avoid nuts due to a nut allergy?

                                  1. re: Diana

                                    I'm lucky to have never had to address that issue, and I don't recall nuts being openly used in the dishes that we've enjoyed. I know for you, it's literally a life & death issue. Like many of the businesses in the SGV, passable English is spoken there by most you'll speak with but Mandarin is your friend. Most Shanghainese are fluent in Mandarin (kinda like Portugese speakers can also speak Spanish, but not the other way around), so I think that post on "expressing nuts allergy in Mandarin" that you and Das Ubergeek started will seal the deal for you. I'd bet a dime to donuts that you've run off a couple copies of that post and keep it handy in your glove box...

                                  2. re: bulavinaka

                                    Excellent summary, bulavinaka. (^_^) Totally agree.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Just a quick note... I know it's said often here that Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese version of a Shanghai dish, and while it's true in the literal sense (the owners are Taiwanese), the xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung are pretty unique even in Taiwan because the typical xiao long bao you find at night markets all over the country are doughy, thick-skinned, non-soupy things that you would hardly recognize if you'd only eaten your XLB exclusively at DTF, Mei Long Village, Dragon Mark, etc. Although prices are the same as they are here in LA, In Taiwan, Din Tai Fung is considered an expensive special occasion place (filled with visiting foreigners, by the way) because you can get a tray of the typical non-soupy thick skinned XLB at any night market for about a dollar (but they're not nearly as good).

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Just came back from my second delicious visit. The first, it was lunch with my husband and we just had every kind of dumpling we could eat. This time it was for dinner with hubby, son and bro and we tried some of the CH recommendations. Namely the Pork Pump. I asked our very polite and charming server if it really meant Pork Rump and he said yes. Anyway, we did have the soup dumplings, the pot stickers, pork pump, vegetable fried rice and a shrimp dish the name of which I cannot recall. I was going to order the Jade Shrimp but based on everything else we ordered, our server suggested this dish that was quite tasty. It had an orange colored sauce, was spicy with a touch of sweet. The soup dumplings were as delicious as they were the last time we had them. I still don't detect the subtle difference of skin thickness to Din Tai Fun's but I definitely would say they are a notch above. Especially since DTF has opened the second location which we just tried. Our food came lukewarm but that is a story for another post. Anyway, back to accolades for MLV. The Pork Pump came to our table. It was a well browned braised piece that looked like it would pop open sitting on greens swimming in a brown sauce. The server plunged a spoon into it to remove the bones and it fell apart. There is a yiddish term (I know, I'm talking about pork) "gedempte" which means "falling off the bone" which this meat did. It was delicious. The vegetarian fried rice was very flavorful without tasting too green. The potstickers had a wonderful crunchy bottom and the jasmine tea was quite nice. The service is very attentive. When I said to my son I would get more napkins for him, a server who was walking by overheard me and immediately took care of it. I love this place partly because of the food but for the service as well. They really care.

                                        1. re: Fru

                                          Schtick a spoon in it, it's done = gedempte

                                          1. re: Fru

                                            It's not really the rump... it's actually from the ankle/shin area.

                                            Mr Taster

                                    2. I went once with a Chinese friend who ordered everything in Chinese, including something she called "fatty pork" and it was *incredible*...I went back and couldn't find it on the menu. I'd ask her but she's away in Taiwan for the summer...anyone know what it could be? I ordered the pork pump, and while that was great it wasn't the little fatty lovely globules I was looking for.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: khh1138

                                        Braised pork belly or maybe rendered pork hock?

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Thanks! It's been weeks and I can't stop thinking about it. I'll order them both the next time I go back -- probably tomorrow. :)