Xiao Long Bao and Cats' Ears Noodles In Reseda
- Chandavkl Nov 15, 2009 03:09 PM
Thanks to "hound Agent Woods for the tip on cats ears noodles and other non-Cantonese goodies in Reseda. The post referred to Tampa Garden in Reseda, but it's really a restaurant with three different names. The exterior signage says Chinese Delight, while the menus etc. say Tampa Garden Chinese Delight, possibly an ode to the previous tenant at that location, and the Chinese language business card carries a parenthetical name Happy Dumpling. (Wonder if that's the Chinese name.) The menu is relatively short, but it also has several varieties of dumplings (pork, chicken, lamb) as well as hand made noodles. Also chive cakes. The cats ears are different from some of the others I have, having the rough size and shape of a date. Chinese Delight/Tampa Garden/Happy Dumpling Chinese Restaurant is at 8241 Tampa Ave., SW corner of Roscoe.
Thank you Chandavki. I've been dying to try XLB since I first read about it on Chowhound. I never get out to the SGV. I'm going to give this a try very soon.
I only had the cats ears which were actually a little too thick for my taste. The durian and avocado boba looked interesting--maybe next time. Hand made noodle dishes also may have possibilities. Also would like to try the chicken dumplings, since most of the dumpling places in the SGV don't make a chicken version, and while the Americanized Chinese restaurants in West and South LA do make them, it's very hit and miss. (My favorite is George's House in Inglewood.)
Thank you for trying it out first for the team. I have heard of this place, and passed by it so many times. After seeing your review last night, my wife and I went to give it a try. The family is from Honan (河南), China. The mom was originally operating a restaurant from Princeton, New Jersey, she moved here to help her daughter and gradually introduce this Chinese Northern Cuisine. You would think that this place is a fast food chinese place, but it is not, it is a sit down restaurant. I have to say, the service was excellent, very accomodating. The mom was wrapping Pork & Dill Dumpling (all hand made dumplings are 5.95) when we stepped in. We were the only customers from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. So that was the first order of the night, since I like lamb dumplings, she suggested to prepare them potsticker style instead of boiled, as we already have that for the Dill Dumplings. We then ordered the Cat's Ears Noodles, I have to agree with Chandavkl, that the Cat's Ears are too thick/dense for our taste as well. As to Galen's question, if they serve it in a soup, the answer is no. My wife who is from Taiwan and she was expecting it to be in a soup as well, but their version is different (see pic). We then ordered Sauteed Vege with Hot Peppers (辣椒小炒), the vege was cut green beans. The last dish was the green onion pancake (蔥油餅), a very different version. I think it is more like 'hand grab pancake' (抓餅). Lastly, we ordered frozen dumplings - 25 pieces of Pork & Dill Dumplings and 25 pieces of Pork & Chinese Spinach to go. The dishes we ordered were between 5.95 to 7.95. 50 Frozen Dumplings are 15 (some are 12). Do not expect delicate dishes, it is more like home made, a little on the rough side. I will go back and try other dishes, they ran out of Celery and Dried Bean Curd (芹菜豆干), when we wanted one to go. They are very nice people and will try to accomodate your preference. The mom sat down in the middle of our meal and had a nice chat with us.
Wow! Wow! Thanks a lot, Chandavki. Who would expect a really great Chinese restaurant on Roscoe and Tampa! The xlb's are made to order right in front of you. Bigger than golf balls, smaller than tennis balls, they're huge and soupy! Both ladies there are very nice. The mother does not speak English and keep trying to communicate with me in Mandarin (which I don't speak). Next visit I'm going to try the lamb with knife cut noodles. I went for the 1st time this afternoon and may go back again this evening!
Thanks for the background info. It clears up a couple of things. When I went to the old Tampa Garden last year I didn't see any of the good stuff (except for the live crab in the tank), so when I saw the new exterior sign and the new menu a few days ago I had assumed it was a totally different operation. However, that turns out to be mom's new touch instead. Also, mom gave me a Chinese business card with something looking like a telephone number written on it, but which started off (646). Guess she's still using an east coast telephone number.
8241 Tampa Ave, Reseda, CA 91335
Hmmm I used to frequent a place called "New China Restaurant" in Hamilton NJ (close to Princeton) run by a couple probably in their late 50s.
It was located in a ramshackle wooden building and served predominantly northern Chinese food. I heard they closed a few years ago, wonder if it's any relation?
"The mom was originally operating a restaurant from Princeton, New Jersey, she moved here to help her daughter and gradually introduce this Chinese Northern Cuisine."
I just went this weekend because of this CH post, so thanks for the find!
Longer review and photos on my blog:
I was taken aback when I arrived. The restaurant Tampa Garden Chinese Delight looked like a cheesy strip-malled Chinese fast food joint, and the menu pasted on the door listed generic Chinese food and not the dumplings that everyone had been talking about. I was relieved they brought over another menu that listed dumplings and more authentic Chinese food.
There was two of us and we ordered:
1. Short rib, veggie and vermicelli noodle soup: The pork was tender and each piece had a lovely piece of crunchy cartilage and fat. The broth was soothing and flavorful.
2. Pancake with egg: The pancake acted like a pita bread that held the fried egg filling. I liked the outer crust of the pancake but I thought the middle section was a bit too doughy. 3. Pork and chive dumpling: The dumpling skins are on the thicker side. We didn't eat all the skins because we wanted to save room for the XLB.
4. Xiao long bao: These dumplings were huge and coarser than the ones I had at Din Tai Fung. The filling was bigger like the size of a mini meatball and the skin was thicker. In any case, the dumplings were still delicious and the hot soup filling was tasty.
This place is rather charming, mostly due to the mom who kept coming by to chat with us. All that food for $27 which could have easily fed another person. The mom hails from Northern China so the food is starchy, more filling and with bold flavors. You can tell by the large portions and the rough around the edges dumpling skin. I like to call it rustic. Don't expect the fragile dumpling skin or the delicate portions like those of the Shanghainese version. This is the type of food that a Grandma would make at home. There was a durian boba drink that was calling my name but there was no way I could stuff anything else in my stomach. Next time, I'd invite more people because there was way too much food for two people but yet we wanted to sample a variety of dishes. I walked away full and with a valuable lesson: Don't judge a restaurant by its ordinary exterior.
Thanks to all the CHs who recommended Tampa Garden. We had a delightful lunch there today: lamb noodle soup, XLB (of which the front of my shirt is still redolent), pork and dill dumplings, and cat ear noodles with chicken (most of this last came home with us). The mom and daughter are so sweet and accomodating, and the flavors were terrific. We'll definitely be going back!
Just wanted to revive this thread and to tell everyone thank you for recomending this wonderful place. The XLB were outstanding, yes the skins are thicker but I think this works very well and find that I like these better that the ones in Monterey Park or Arcadia. Mom and daughter (Michele) could not be more gracious. Please make a point of checking this place out....you will be glad you did
tried it for lunch, today.
we had the shanghai wonton soup - excellent broth, yundun very fresh and retained heat.
had the three flavor dumlings - steamed - available pan fried as well, quite good, the cat's ears maoerduo are availablewith chicken, lamb, beef, pork or shrimp. we opted for shrimp. they are bigger than the shanxi ones i've had. but they're good - a little "rustic" but chewy. Think a cross between cat's ear noodles and nian-gao -shanghai new years cake, the glutinous rice cake noodle thing. chewy. tasty. held the sauce well.
then had a simple congyoubing - scallion pancake. My friend loved it. I liked it ok. prefer it a little more oniony.
Was told the chef was from tianjin, but doesn't make, or know how to make goubuli dumplings.
when we sat down we were given the generic pan-chinese, canto-heavy with some ersatz sichuan dishes menu. almost walked out. spoke with them for 30 seconds in chiense and got the regular menus with the dumpling list. it's bilingual so don't be afraid to demand it.
the broth was good enough for me to use it as a beverage wiht the meal. Avoid though, most of the non-beifang dishes - i would steer clear of the xlb, with so many northern dumpling dishes available, why bother? same goes for the canto and sichuan dishes.
my personal tic, i guess.
We went with some other CHers Saturday night, and were totally charmed. Most of us thought the cat's ears were just fine; in fact, one of us went back in afterwards to get an order of those to take to her mom, and that was one of the dishes mentioned as the evening's favorite. This was our first XLB experience, and these may be thick and large, almost tennis-ball size, but they were delicious. As for the thick handcut noodles, I like rough-cut and chewy in a noodle. I thought the beef was delicious, but I want to go back and try them with lamb instead.
The only dish that didn't work well for me was the bo loc lac, and I'm not sure why it's even on the menu, though it is in fact on both the "tourist" menu and the "serious" one. This needs to be made with something like tenderloin; in this version, the meat was too chewy, the sauce too sweet, and the lettuce was in big chunks instead of easily manageable shreds.
Everything else ranged from very good through brilliant, and we still got out for $12 apiece, including a more than 20% tip.
We finally made it out here and gathered a last minute group of 12 hounds... it was awesome!!
First, P. had told me about this place (somehow I missed this post) and I wasn't too impressed as my experience with Cats Ears at the old Heavy Noodling left me feeling meh. But then he mentioned XLB... now he was speaking my language and we bumped it up in our dining schedule...
But after reading these posts (thanks so much everyone!) I felt we had a good sense of the place and so we ordered a wide variety of home style dumplings and other items... starting with...
Lamb Dumplings (Pan fried): There was QUITE the selection of dumplings on their special menu and you have a choice of steamed or pan fried. Michele will suggest if you have a hard time, but we knew we wanted these lamb dumplings nice and crisp. The reason I was so excited about these was that I LOVE the lamb dumplings at Chinese Islamic. Their dumplings are very similar in a rustic style, which I really enjoy so these dumplings totally hit the spot and in many ways were superior, the lamb flavor was balanced with the other spices of the dumplings, the filling was so tender, not too heavy. It completely set the mood for the rest of the evening.
Special Vegetarian Dish: P. is not shy about asking what the chinese character specials are on the wall. When he heard one of them had tofu, he had to order it. The dish was typical, but wonderfully fresh tasting. Not overly salty or sauced and the veggies were still so crisp. The tofu was cooked and marinated wonderfully one member of our party thought it was yummy shitake mushrooms and not actually tofu!
Leek Pies, other folks have mentioned and show pictures, but when they describe these as homestyle cooking, they aren't kidding! Mama is making the items fresh right in front of you (They actually have a table that faces Mama's workbench!! Anyway, we ordered Leek Pies and delighted in seeing Mama put them together. She was so deft with the dough and the filling so fresh and delightful looking. She made them just PERFECT so when they took back to fry, we got a well sealed, not too oily but super crisp crust with tasty herbal filling.
We also ordered steamed dumplings, Beef and Celery which worked very well with this prep. Her filling is minced together finely, so you get hits of everything with each bite so the strong flavors of beef and celery really worked well in dumpling form
Loc Lac Beef: What others are saying about the two menus is absolutely true. The 'real' menu is a mishmash of chinese, vietnamese and even thai standards! So when we saw that one vietnamese dish made it to the special menu, we took a shot. The prep was beautiul! The beef was tender and the compontents like mushrooms also very well cooked. But when compared to other Loc Lacs, it was a bit too sweet...
So, we went back to the basics... Spicy Wonton. A small dish, but it packed a MAJOR punch. Although mega spicy, I loved this style of dish so much more than the super hot dishes of places like Chung King, which tends to vacilate between being super spicy or being super schzuan peppery and nothing inbetween. I can't even begin to describe all that was inbetween this wonderful dish... but it was tasty!
After trying the Spicy Wonton, we went for another another spicy dish, Spicy Fish. This was an incredibly generous portion of a rich red fish stew. The broth here was more hearty and was a melange of even more wonderful spices and of course HEAT. The fish was the perfect choice for this (You can also pick Chicken, Beef or Shrimp) as it soaked up all the flavors but still remained tender. Mama laughed as she told us a story of a white woman who reguarly comes in and finishes a whole bowl of this by herself with just rice. WOW... must be a hound at heart...
And that wasn't the only soup we ordered, we had to try the beef handmade noodle soup. The beef soup was hearty but simple in overall flavor, not quite up to par with my favorite chinese beef soups (Mandarin Kitchen, 101 Noodle Express), but the noodles were these gnargly super long strips which made the dish a real stand out.
Towards the end our meal, the XLB made their appearance, again, made by hand by Mama so order them first! As noted, the skin on these are thicker than what you find at DTF and J&J. Further, the filling is a little more rustic the flavors were deeper rather than bright. I still prefer Mama Lu's version, but if this place was closer to me, it'd be deadly...
FINALLY... the Cats Ear Noodles. Again, I knew what to expect, but got the unexpected. Although the noodles had some chew and bite, they were hardly tough. Further, being sauteed in sauce, they just took on all the flavor of the dish. I decided I like this prep WAY more than I do in soup. We got shrimp with this dish which were cooked well although next time I would love it with Beef!
As will posted, all this food (Plus a great spicy cucumber appetizer and a round of 3 flavor dumplings) was 12 bucks for the 12 of us. It was astounding, food, cost, service.. all of it. :)
Thanks for the memories, Dommy! And the photos. For me, the high point of the XLB was not the broth, though it was good, but the deep lovely flavor of the enclosed meatball - it really surprised me with its rich complexity.
Yes, the Cat's Ears would be good with beef, or lamb if they'd do that, but the delicate tenderness of the shrimp was lovely; they almost melted on the tongue.
A delicious and memorable evening. One of the best meals we've had with this bunch.
Thanks, Dommy for the wonderful review and, like Will says, trip down memory lane. My most favorite dish was the Cat's Ears. So delicious. Also, I thought the Loc Lac Beef was fantastic. Those would be my top two. I did not really sense a noted sweetness, but it may have been since mine was mixed with the chili mixture that I had leftover on the plate from the dumplings!
I am not a huge dumpling fan, so I am not a good judge of them, but I do remember liking the first ones we tried - the pan-fried lamb dumplings. I loved the spicy wonton and took the extra sauce home with me (and added it to soup and a couple of other things).
It is a great place and I recommend it to everyone I know. Have not been back since, but will definitely go soon. Thanks again P & Dommy!! ;-)
We were there on Sunday morning for breakfast. Although their door says that they open at 11:00am, they were open minutes before that and welcomed us in. They are open every day from 11:00am to 9:30pm.
Mama was already busy at her table rolling and crimping some dumplings, and her daughter was busily setting up the tables. As has already been said, they are both extremely friendly and eager to please their customers.
We ordered some pan fried dill dumplings, some juicy pork dumplings and a dish of cats' ears noodles with chicken. Everything was tasty and the dipping sauces nicely seasoned each dish. But for me, our travel was worth the dill dumplings. They were so moist, tender and flavorful, unlike any others I had ever tasted. Perhaps -- as others have noted -- the coverings are a little more rustic than the usual SGV gems, but they were deeper in flavor than their SGV cousins. The dill filling melted in my mouth!
The juicy pork dumplings were richer than others we have sampled elsewhere. The cats' ears noodles had a nice chew, yet they were very fresh and soft.
Overall, this dumpling experience expanded us. The food is unlike any other that we have known.
As each dish was delivered, Mama came by to ask how we liked it. After our order was complete, Mama again stopped by with a dish of her special cabbage salad. It was not fermented; it tasted like fresh cabbage, hot sauce, red vinegar and sugar. It, too, was really delicious and offered a nice, cold crunch against our other hot dishes. It was, however, a little too spicy for our tastes.
I would like to return to order the dill dumplings again and to try a few other things on the menu. Tampa Garden Chinese Delight deserves the rave reviews here, and I do thank Chandavkl for your original post.
I stopped by today. I guess if I had read the thread a little better I wouldn't have been surprised by the generic-chinese-fast-food look of the place. I actually liked the thick chewiness of the cat's ear noodles, though I think I would have preferred them prepared some other way as well. Soup would have been good; instead they were stir-fried with veggies and brown sauce.
The mom (soon to be grandma, from the looks of it) at this place is reason enough to go. She marveled over my use of chopsticks, and came by the table several times to ask how I liked the food, apologize for her English (far better than my Mandarin), and ensure that I was drinking enough tea. I think if she were Italian she would have pinched my cheeks and declared "Yoo-a too skinny!".
I ordered a couple bags of dumplings to go, and she tossed in a couple freebies -- they were the whiter-than-white steamed bready bao, one with beef and string bean, and the other I didn't catch.
Oh, and she instructed me to tell my friends about the place. ;)
Has anyone tried the beef pancake? And do they do frozen XLB to-go? I forgot to ask...
I love the scallion pancake that Mama proudly recommended. It is very flaky yet not greasy. It also went very well with the sweet, sour, spicy cabbage.
The XLB surprisingly is not on their 3 menus but posted with photo behind the cashier.
I didn't care for the Shanghai wonton soup because of the strong seaweed smell. The filling in their wonton is also similar to that in the dumpling. I'd probably order the Wor Wonton soup next time and taste the difference. Their steamed dumplings( ground pork with chinese spinach) was pretty good, though.
It is in Mama's nature to be friendly and try to communicate and get feedbacks from her guests. This personal touch, I think, makes the place special besides the food.
When we finished our meal, Mama gave me a 4th menu to take home and it says Happy Dumpling - NY Times highly recommended No. 1 hand made dumplings.
And I, too, was given a business card that says Tampa Garden Chinese Delight (Happy Dumpling) with a 646 area code hand written phone number.
I won't really figure these out. However, next time I go, I'll take my time studying all 4 menus.
I ate there last week. Had the Xiao Long Bao and the Cat's Ears Noodles. Sorry to say I was disappointed by the food. Everything tasted the same and it took 45 minutes to get the food.
XLB was heavy. Cat's ears noodles were nice and light but the flavor was just not there. Also had the belt fish.
Disappointed. I was so excited to think there may be an alternative to driving to SGV for good Northern Chinese food. Reading about Tampa Garden on Chowhound, my hopes were high.
We arrived at around 1:20 on a Saturday afternoon. I was with my parents, both Chinese food experts. When we arrived I was excited to see the restaurant was pretty busy, and most of the clientele were Chinese. We sat down and started perusing the menu, there were a lot of items that sounded good. I had read about the stir fried cat ear "noodles" and the XLB. So we ordered one each of those and a bowl of beef noodle soup. The place was under staffed and the people that were working were unorganized and slow moving. Our server mentioned that it might be awhile for the food, little did we know "awhile" meant forever.
As we waited, a family sitting behind us had no common courtesy decided to play a cell phone game with the sound on. Basically it sounded like a cell phone constantly ringing for 20 mins. Everybody in place was wondering what the hell was going on. A young Chinese couple got up and asked how much longer till their food was ready. They must have been waiting awhile. The owners mom was responsible for making the XLB and it seemed like she was making them to order. But she would make a few and do something else, she started making ours about 30 mins after we ordered them. A table of Taiwanese people walked by our table and talked to us about the wait and how ridiculous it was.
We did not receive our first dish until 40 mins after we ordered. The veggie potstickers were not good, the dough used to make them was too thin so they were falling apart. The filling was bland and resembled the filling in a bad egg roll. At this point my mom was about to flip her lid. We noticed the mom starting to make the cat ear noodles, this was probably an hour after we had ordered. We decided we had enough and said we were leaving, they said the XLB would be ready in two mins and the cat ear noodles would be soon after. So we said we would wait for the XLB. Bad idea. The XLB were not impressive, the meat was dense and dry. No comparison to XLB from Mei Long Village, Din Tai Fung or Giang Nan. After all this time, they came by to tell us the noodles were sold out! That was great news. They brought out the cat ear noodles one hour and forty five minutes after we ordered them. The dish was not bad, but definitely not worth the wait. Similar to the problems with the XLB, the cat ear noodles just didn't have the finesse that is common with good cat ear noodles.
I'm sad that this place let me down. But I guess they have very few competitors so they can run a restaurant this way and people will still come.
8241 Tampa Ave, Reseda, CA 91335
Sounds like things are out of control there. When I went there were only two other diners, both ordering off of the Americanized menu, so they clearly sound unprepared for the onslaught of customers. Hope they can right the ship. I would say that one can't use a San Gabriel Valley standard for Chinese food anywhere outside of the San Gabriel Valley--not Chinatown, not Cerritos, not Lomita/Torrance, and certainly not places like the San Fernando Valley or West L.A. Finding authentic Chinese dishes in Reseda is daunting enough and I'm sure the local Chinese are pleased enough to have this alternative and aren't going to quibble that it isn't comparable to what you can get an hour's drive away.
Been twice, once with the SCARF group and again just the 2 of us. Good food served in a timely manner by lovely people. Have I had better versions of some of the many dishes at SCV restaurants discussed here and elsewhere? Of course. But everything was at least good and while sometimes more rustic than at other places, I like rustic and everything that we tried was tasty and worth ordering again. Would I travel to Tampa Garden from the SGV for good Chinese food? NO! But sometimes when driving through the SFV after a long day do I want to travel to the SGV for dinner, well sometimes yes and I do. But now I have an option besides Mandarin Deli for those times that I don't want to endure the extra time in traffic. Tampa Garden is, in my book, a welcome addition and sorely needed option for good Chinese chow in an area that has been lackin in options!
I've been twice. The only people there when I went. They're from Henan. So i didn't order the XLB. stuck simply to the northern real deal = cat's ear noodles, and the jiaozi - dumplings not veggie, meat. these folks eat meat. Orering xlb at a henan or shandong place makes as much sense as ordering them at a dimsum establishment.
the cong you bing/scallion cakes were quite good. The wonton soup - ok not originaly a shandong or northern dish, but was good and shandong style with the seaweed.
not worth an hour's wait - i agree. Very few restaurants are worth an hour's wait. DTF isn't either.
there is a type of dumpling similar to XLB - guan-tang baozi. They're from Shaanxi ( near xi'an) and have soup inside. They're not xlb but another dumpling with the same concpet of soup in skin with filling. These aren't guantang baozi either.
My sister and I went last night, and it was delicious. Had the XLB, pork with dill dumplings, and beef noodle soup. It wasn't crowded at all. We waited about 20 minutes for the XLB. I agree, a nice alternative to Mandarin Deli. I posted my review and pictures on yelp, including pics of the menu. Thanks for the great find!!
Went by tonight and had another good meal. Overheard the pregnant daughter say that they tried out a new cook a while ago and weren't happy with him. She said she'll stay home for thirty day when she has her baby as is Chinese custom. So they're trying to find front counter help and another cook to help out.
This is without a doubt, the very best Chinese food I have ever had!!
We didn't know how huge the portions were, so we over-ordered. But on the plus side, we brought back tons of leftovers and can enjoy this amazing food for the next day or so!
Three Ingredient Dumplings - these are handmade and the skin is thicker than what you might be used to. I can only describe these as Pillows of Deliciousness! The filling has a great flavor.
Green Onion Pancake - My mother loves these. I have rarely had them, so I don't know what they compare to. But this one was fluffy and had a light favor that got better as the pancake cooled down a little.
Bacon and Ginger Fried Rice - Little bits of bacon and egg. It tastes like breakfast and the bacon flavor was amazing.
Cat Ear Noodles with Chicken - oh my gosh!! The handmade noodles have a great bite to them, much like gnocchi. The chicken literally melts in your mouth, I have never had such perfect, tender chicken.
Orange Chicken - The batter was light and crispy, the chicken was moist and the sauce wasn't overly sweet. And yes, I know this isn't an "authentic" Chinese dish, but it's something we enjoy for what it is.
Again, the portions are HUGE. Most Chinese places serve entrees on those oval serving dishes, but here it comes on a regular size dinner plate and the food is piled high.
The daughter told us they don't use any MSG and you can tell. The flavors all come from the ingredients and the cooking.
I want to try everything on the menu. The Wor Won Ton soup looked heavenly and I am definitely getting that next time.
The food takes a little time to come out, but it is so worth it. I would rather wait 15 minutes for my fresh dumplings than have pre made food come out in 3 minutes.
Went yesterday and perched like one would at Grandmas. Pregnant daughter is Ning (Michelle). She will be on maternity leave until April. She cooks all the traditional chinese items. Her mom is Xin-ai. She makes all the noodles and dumplings. Ning's husband and Xin-ai husband are in the back cooking as well. Both Ning and her mom know of "chowhound" folk and are very grateful for our patronage. They have been in this location only one year having moved from their restaurants first in Flushing, N.Y. then in Jersey. Xin-ai is the most kind gracious chef I have ever come across. She really goes far to please her customers. And, her noodles and dumplings are fabulous. Yesterday, S.O. and I had chicken dumplings and shrimp (NO PORK!) dumplings, cats ear noodles w/seafood (I watched her stretch the noodles out) and a young Gai Lan w/garlic vege plate. Wonderful, kind and attentive family business. I really felt like I was sitting in their home having lunch made by my good neighbor, Xin-ai. Should you venture, tell Xin-ai you are from "chowhound". She'll like that. And, she'll make whatever you want!