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NOT in the San Gabriel Valley-- outrageously good Beijing lamb skewers (yang rou chuan) in.... KOREATOWN! Korean BBQ meets yang rou chuan.... amazing!

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Just returned from a place my Lovely Taiwanese Tasting Assistant (LTTA) spotted on Olympic the other night, which I originally mentioned in this post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/577283

For those in the know, Beijing lamb skewers are luscious bits of meat grilled over charcoal, and dusted with a mixture of cumin and chili powder. The things are addictive and outrageously good when consumed with beer, preferably Tsingtao delivered in a keg fresh from the brewery the same day. (Of course in LA, the bottle will have to do).

The three big Chinese characters atop the building were unmistakable... had we simply not noticed it before? No matter... we noticed it now: Yang Rou Chuan (literally lamb meat stick.... 羊肉串... the first character is supposed to look like a lamb with horns, the second is supposed to look like the ribs of an animal carcass, and the third is a pictograph of a shish kebab).

Tonight we decided to head out there and give it a shot, and WOW.... our socks were knocked off... for several reasons, which I will list below:

SOCK #1
It's Koreatown meets Chinese lamb kebabs.... which means TABLETOP BBQ!

Yang rou chuan Korean BBQ-- what a great concept!

And best of all... they use DEEP, RICH, HEAVENLY lump charcoal! This is not the pseudo charcoal experience of Tahoe Galbi. This is the funky, smoke-in-your-clothes Soot Bull Jeep charcoal experience.

And not only can you grill your skewers to your own preferred level of doneness, but you can season them as you wish! Along with panchan (panchan!), each person is presented with a little tray of cumin/chile/sesame seed powder. The barbecue contraption is basic, but designed specifically to accommodate skewers, with a high level "resting bar" to rest your skewers on when they don't need to be cooked anymore.

SOCK #2
At $12.99 for 10 lamb skewers, it wasn't exactly cheap (particularly in comparison to the $0.20 skewers we ate at hutongs in Beijing), but the meat was succulent, with a good meat:fat ratio, and certainly more generous than the $1.00 kebabs at 818 in the SGV.

SOCK #3
Each table is presented with a basket of shallots and garlic. We thought it was strictly for decoration until we realized their function..... you can skewer and grill them up! Brilliant!

SOCK #4
Item #14 on the front page, scrawled in pen and untranslated into english, is... goat penis! (Best of all, you can try your own goat penis for just $1.50 or $2.00, depending on what price your particular menu indicates.

)

The rest of the non-bbq menu seems to be a hodgepodge of Korean/Northern Chinese (the owner is from Jilin, near Haerbin in the north of China, near the North Korean border.) But frankly, we were so excited by the yang rou chuan that we just dove into that. (They do have beef and chicken skewers, as well some of the more unfortunately named items such as "Mutton Chunk Heart")

The restaurant has only been open for a month, and I highly recommend that all Chowhounds give this place a try. We need to keep lamb skewers this good on this side of downtown.

Mr Taster's Recipe for a Great Evening Out:
Get a few friends together.
Order several plates of yang rou chuan
Get a couple of Tsingtao beers
Let the good times roll.

Feng Mao Mutton Kebab
3901 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
323-935-1099

Mr Taster

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  1. sounds like a great find. curious to know what cut of lamb the skewers are as well as the source for their lamb (New Zealand? Local?). .

    do you happen to know if they have lamb ribs?

    6 Replies
    1. re: epop

      As with most workaday Chinese restaurants that do not cater primarily to westerners, the focus is on the deliciousness of the food and not the sourcing of ingredients. Also, it's important to have realistic expectations-- these are not Persian filet kebabs. They are comparatively small cubes of lamb which are primarily vehicles for delicious smoky, spicy, lamby deliciouness.

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        I've been thinking about this and have to disagree. For example, with the live seafood, what makes it great at SGV is this sourcing. The same goes for the homemade noodles.
        One's choice of meat is 100% essential to a great tasting skewer.

        1. re: epop

          But you're missing the part where I said "workaday" Chinese. Cantonese seafood is expensive, haute cuisine compared with the delicious little gristley skewers of lamb that are cooked up in the ancient hutong alleyways of Beijing (and other areas in China well). This restaurant channels the energies of that old man hunched over a pile of smoldering charcoal, roasting lamb kebabs for 20 cents each.... not expensive abalone and shark's fin soup. That old man is not "sourcing" his meat from anywhere except the market where he got it. There is a difference.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            I see what you mean, Mr Taster. But their lamb in an alley way can be extraordinarily fresh while ours, well, often isn't. It is an irony of modernity.

            I wouldn't want meat that is anything like the ones sold on NYC street corners, for example, but would gladly extol the virtues of most in Morocco, for example.

            1. re: epop

              I've spent a decent amount of time in China and I can tell you first hand that I don't trust the food in the dirty little hutongs of Beijing any more than I do in the alleyways of New York... but when I'm in China, I do a better job of pretending I don't know the meat could be of questionalble origins. There are no guarantees of food quality or safety in China, so you either have to starve, or take your hepatitis vaccines and dive in head first. Of course this is made much easier to swallow, so to speak, by the fact that so much of the food is outrageously delicious, despite the questionable sourcing and sanitary practices of many mainland Chinese.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                that's funny. I hope you stay healthy nevertheless. + there's always the new Boulud place in the old US embassy in Beijing. Crazy/

    2. Amazing find! I will definitely be checking it out. Thanks.

      1. Thank you so much for the report and the exact location. It's literally 5 minutes from where I live, so now I have to find a coalition of the willings and we'll try.

        1. So pardon the obvious, but how much food is 10 skewers? While they sound like alot, the cheap price (12 bucks) tells me that 1 order PP is necessary.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ns1

            Each skewer contains about 8-10 inches of lamb, cut to about 2cm cubes. We weren't terribly hungry last night, so one tray of 10 skewers, two chicken wings ($1.99 each), and a beer were enough to share between the two of us. If we went hungry, we could easily polish off 20-30 between the two of us. But really, consider the places where this food is served everyday.... the ramshackle hutong alleyways of poor Beijingers. This is food that's meant to be eaten while squatting on a little plastic stool while talking loudly about the day's events with your neighbors. It's as much about the experience as much as it is about the deliciousness of the food.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              great, maybe I should bring some of my vietnamese "homies" for a more authentic experience hahahaha.

              I'll probably go here tonight, will report back

          2. Another great post/find, Mr. Taster!

            I've often wondered if any regional/northern Chinese cooking finds its way into K-town, via the incredible diversity of Korean places that we now have. Or just individual noodle/dumpling dishes maybe?

            I also love that you recognized the pictographic characters (excuse my ignorance, but I had no idea it worked like that! Sort of OT, but does every kebab figure mean "kebab", or is this some other word co-opted for use as the word "kebab"? - if that makes any sense at all).

            3 Replies
            1. re: cant talk...eating

              The character 串 (pronounced 'chwon' with a downward tone) to my knowledge always means some kind of small meat on a stick (as opposed to al pastor, which would be big meat on a stick... definitely not 串!.) Mind you, not all Chinese characters are pictographs, mind you-- but in this case it works out like that.

              I haven't really grubbed around for Chinese food in Koreatown... in fact this was my first foray into that realm. But if this is any indication of what's out there, I may have to start digging around some more.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Wow! What a find! Generally I consider Korean Chinese food to be nasty. Kind of like Indian Chinese food, or for that matter Americanized Chinese food--cooked to the culinary tastes of the target audience.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  What is served here is a authentically Chinese, with kimchi as a welcome (but entirely separate) flavor. Boiled peanuts as well, if you're in to that sort of thing.

                  Mr Taster

            2. So I did go by tonight; Mr. Taster, I thank you, what a great rec.

              Full report tomorrow, but we definitely enjoyed our time there. It'll probably be our go to place when we don't feel like going to Park's.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ns1

                Great-- glad you liked it! I'll look forward to your full report.

                Did you try the goat penis? ^^

                Mr Taster

                1. re: ns1

                  You're keeping me in suspense, ns1.... I'm really curious to hear about your experience. What did you order?

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Didn't mean to leave you hanging ;) I'll be back soon, and with a camera next time!

                    We ordered the lamb kebabs as well as the beef kebabs. I'm more of the "Guy Fieri" kind of foodie vs the Andrew Zimmerman type, so I passed on the goat penis.

                    The meat and whatnot was pretty tasty by itself and with the dry rub, but really now the winner is the basket of shallots and garlic on the side. My only question is, WHY DON'T WE GET BLANK SKEWERS!? You gotta eat 1 of the skewers first so you can use it as a skewer for the garlic/shallots!

                    For the 20 skewers between me and the gf, we probably ate 2 bulbs of garlic, 1 clove per bite. Fan-freakin-tastic. Next time, more shallots, more friends, and more beer! I'm not sure we were eating it "right", but it tasted damn good haha

                    //edit

                    Wait wait wait, rereading your OP, did you rub the meat around in the seasoning before or after cooking?

                    1. re: ns1

                      Ahhh yes, I thought the same thing regarding the absence of blank skewers. In fact, if they had a tabletop cup filled with skewers (or even those metal korean chopsticks) located next to the basked of garlic and shallots, I would not have been so puzzled at first by their presence.

                      As for the seasoning, we seasoned some before, some during, and some after... and some before, during and after simultaneously. It was all delicious.

                      Mr Taster

                2. Hi Mr Taster,

                  Very nice find! :) I can't wait to try this out. With the chilly Winter it's a great time to get some good Lamb BBQ.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: exilekiss

                    Hello exilekiss

                    I hope you appreciate my exilekiss-style attention getting subject header :)

                    These lamb kebabs are seriously perfect food for this chilly weather. Would love to know what you think of this place. We seriously do need to get back there with a group of friends.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      if you guys wanna do a mini CH meet I'm down :)

                      1. re: ns1

                        you know, i've never done a chowhound meet, but i'd be interested to join if one was organized.

                        1. re: Rosiepigs

                          me too

                  2. thanks for the review. will try this place out in the near future.

                    1. Hey
                      I"m so glad you tried it. The funny thing for me is, just on the seventh, sunday, i was driving down olympic with a friend on the way to the Natural History museum and we were going to cap it off with a meal at Beverly Soon TuBu tofu house when I saw the big red sign with the Yang Rou Chuanr in HUGE Letters and it floored me and i made a note to try it.

                      So now, i will, although to be frank, i'm perfectly ok with them grilling the meat. And the garlic for grilling is ubiquitous in koreatown for grill houses.

                      have you tried the place on Valley with the xinjiang style lamb skewers? i'm dying to try that place as well although to be honest, my jones's are driving me to the blue cherry beijing style yogurt on main st in alhambra these days.

                      thanks for teh review.

                      note: some earlier posters seem to think this is a lamb bbq, a la korean bbq. Is it? i had the impression it's just seasoned but uncooked yangrouchuanr, cumin and garlic rubbed cubelets of lamb already skewered. it's not really bbq is it?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Jerome

                        It's skewered but NOT cooked for you. So in essence, it's kbbq since you grill it yourself.

                        "And the garlic for grilling is ubiquitous in koreatown for grill houses."

                        Not the same at all. KBBQ houses give you slices of garlic. Here is just a giant basket of garlic bulbs and shallots.

                        1. re: Jerome

                          We sat in a both next to the kitchen, and occasionally the Japanese-style door cover would blow aside and I could see the staff brushing the kebabs with something. Nor sure if it was just oil to help the meat brown well, or if it was an additional flavoring agent. And as ns1 clarified, you'll see when you go-- they provide you a massive pile of whole garlic bulbs and shallots (unpeeled) so that you can skewer and roast them yourself. Also, the skewers are served raw, without the cumin/spice powder applied (each person is presented with a dish of the seasoning to apply as one wishes). Add to that a few dishes of different kinds of panchan (mostly kimchi) and you've got the perfect accompaniment to beer. Great stuff. Oh and we did try to the 818 lamb skewer place and while it was tasty, and certainly a welcome addition to an otherwise chuan-less landscape, they were not as generous with the meat, and they barbecue it for you in the back. And no giant basked of eat-as-you-wish garlic and shallots... that's a big feature of this place.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Jerome

                            Hey Jerome, did you ever try this place? Curious to know your opinion.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              hey taster. don't know how i missed this thread. Been gonig for a while. Love the quail and the lamb. the potatoes in chili oil are great. All in all, like the place a lot adn love the service. The waitstaff are mostly ethnic koreans from china, and they can explain the stuff very weill in english. it's not korean bbq at all, and i'm very pleased with it.
                              the lamb is delicious.

                          2. thanx mr, taster, dude and your LTTA. what a great find!. went with a friend for lunch. had the lamb and "mutton liver," both amazing. oh, yeah, and an order of quail. also very good. me thinks this place is better than 818. service was very friendly and attentive and the menu - must be new - was translated. bull penis is now #6. must be charting up the hit parade. can't wait to read about you and your LTTA's next great find. i wish I had a LTTA.

                            thanks again,

                            kingford

                            1. nice find. we had the "combo A" for dinner - ten lamb sticks, an entree, one soju, and spicy noodle soup for two people. totally dig the charcoal almost touching the meat and adding that smoke flavor to the fattiness of the meat. thanks to the lady owner who had the good sense to show me how to eat the skewers. (as in making sure not to touch the hot metal with my mouth.) needless to say, i've never had stuff like this, and i'm extremely happy i tried it out.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: smssms

                                how much does the combo A run?

                                1. re: wilafur

                                  to answer wilafur and mr. t:

                                  combo A was $30 - it's meant for two. it's a good deal. they have other combos (B, C, etc.) for bigger groups. i don't remember the prices for the other combos, but it should be about $15 per head. next time i'll probably order a combo and add some more skewers. and booze.

                                  1. re: smssms

                                    thank you smssms!

                                2. re: smssms

                                  This "Combo A" seems to be a new invention. When I was there last (about a month ago), everything was ala carte. How many other combos were there, and what were the prices?

                                  Mr Taster

                                3. Oh man, they wrote about my discovery in the LA Times and didn't give me any credit! Da noive! ;)

                                  http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                  Mr Taster

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    oh, i really got to try this joint now.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      to be completely fair, this is uyghur style. In the last 30 years, it's become more common in hebei and beijing etc. when I was in Beijing, yangrouchuanr (lamb skewers) weren't as cumin covered - they were milder and had been marinated in yogurt (suan nai). but this is the prevalent style now with the large non-hui uyghur immigration.

                                      1. re: Jerome

                                        When I first started visiting my folks in Shanghai circa 2001, I saw these everywhere. Took me years to realize it wasn't local; the vendors were so damn ubiquitous.

                                        1. re: odub

                                          Newbie to Los Angeles Board and LA. Used to live on the east coast. Does anyone know where I can get a good lamb noodle soup. I used to get the best one in Flushing.

                                          This is what I mean.

                                          http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/0...

                                          thanks in advance.

                                          1. re: SushiChinesefan

                                            Not to worry... the dough slice lamb noodle soup at China Islamic is very good. Not hand pulled, though. The lamb warm pot contains thin glass noodles. Both dishes are intensely lamby. For hand pulled noodles, it's Ma Lan out out Hacienda Heights, though I don't think lamb is on the menu.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            -----
                                            China Islamic Restaurant
                                            7727 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA 91770

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              lamb is on the menu. the main soup is a lamb soup, i believe.

                                              1. re: Jerome

                                                At Ma Lan? I always got the beef noodle soup there. Had no idea lamb was on the menu. But then, I haven't been there in probably 2 years.

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  maybe it is beef. I just remembered it as lamb. have to go back and check. still love their stuff.