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Fresh, Vibrant, Pure Shanghai Cuisine (and Home of the Succulent, Braised Pork Shank) - Yu Garden (Shanghai Yu Yuan) [Review] w/ Pics!

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(Formatted with All Pictures here:
http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2010/02...

In the culinary world, the freshness of the food is one of the most fundamental and taken for granted aspects in a restaurant. We've all run into that Rotisserie Chicken that's been sitting around for too long; the rack of Ribs that tastes like it was reheated; the Banh Mi Sandwich on stale bread; or the slices of Chashu Pork (in a bowl of Ramen) that tastes like it was made 2 days ago and served from the refrigerator. You'd think that it'd be obvious and a given for the chefs and owners of restaurants to only serve what's freshly made just for your order (or prepped that morning), but, sadly, it's not always the case.

In the realm of Shanghai restaurants in So Cal, with time-intensive, slow-braised items like Hohng Shao Rou (Braised Pork) and Ti Pahng (Pork Pump), finding establishments that serve these dishes freshly made that day are becoming rarer and rarer. So when you run across a Shanghai restaurant that makes its slow-braised meat dishes fresh that morning and throws out whatever doesn't get served to ensure freshness, it deserves to be applauded. That restaurant is Yu Garden (Chinese name "Shanghai Yu Yuan"), a new Shanghai restaurant opened across from Hawaii Supermarket on Valley.

Thanks to a craving one night for Shanghai dishes, I wrangled up one of my SGV Hounds and decided to try this new restaurant, remembering the tip from Chandavkl. Yu Garden is surprisingly small, with one row of HK Cafe-style pleather booths lining one wall, and Christmas lights hanging in the window, with the kitchen taking up half the floor space.

As we sit down and order, we hear jovial conversations of Shanghai dialect between the staff and several tables (in fact, in all 4 of my visits, my SGV Hounds note that there are multiple Shanghainese families and couples that are dining here, heartily conversing with the waiters and kitchen staff in their unique dialect).

(Note: Thanks to my SGV Hounds for the pronunciation help. All Chinese dish spellings are geared toward pronunciation.)

As part of their new opening celebration, Yu Garden is offering a free appetizer to every table: Gahn Shao Hsia Ren (Shrimp with Chili Sauce).

These Shrimp are non-butterflied (which might be off-putting for some) and wok-fried in a Sweet Soy Sauce. The shell is fried to the point where it's so brittle that it's edible along with the Shrimp itself. It's a decent dish, but nothing stellar.

But then imagine a transformation of a typically boring vegetable - Hsi Gua (Chinese Squash) - into something so absurdly delicious that the only thing you can do is just stop and bask in its glory. (^_^) That dish is their: Hsien Dahn Huang Hsi Gua (Chinese Squash with Salted Duck Egg Yolks).

Chinese Squash can be bitter at times, and it's usually pretty mellow and conservative. But in the hands of Chef Hu Bin (a professionally trained Chef who's been cooking for over 20 years in Shanghai before moving to L.A.), it's pure genius: The pairing of the silky, simple Chinese Squash with the earthy, sulfuric intensity of Salted Duck Eggs makes for the best Chinese Vegetable dish I've had in the past few years. Excellent! :)

And then, as if things couldn't get any better, their Tuh Suh Hsiao Yuan Ti (House Special Braised Pork Shank (their version of "Pork Pump")) arrives in all its quivering, luscious glory.

I've been really disappointed with the state of Pork Pumps in So Cal recently. Perhaps it's just bad luck / timing, but the last few times I've had Pork Pumps around town, it's always tasted dull and muted; they taste like they were reheated from the day before (or longer). So imagine my delight when I bite into this ultra-tender, moist, succulent chunk of their Slow-Braised Pork Shank, and it's *so* fresh and vibrant and delicious! :)

Chef Hu only makes a few of these Pork Shanks for that day and doesn't serve any leftovers the next day; once they're out, they're out. It has a pure, slow-cooked aspect to the Pork that's so soft and tender and unctuous that it's my current favorite version of this dish right now. For comparison purposes, I used to love Lake Spring's Pork Pump years ago, but their quality has been slipping for a while. I like Mei Long Village's version for its depth of flavor (over this one), and the now defunct Green Village used to make a good version when they were on. But they've all had off nights where you could taste the reheated facet once in a while. For now, I'll take the freshness and simplicity of Yu Garden's version over the inconsistent, deeper flavors elsewhere.

The next dish to arrive is their Gahn Guo Ji (Griddle Cooked Chicken Pot).

A searing hot, large metal pot gets put before us and there's a nice pungent aroma pouring out. Bits of just-cooked-through Daikon Radish, Cucumber, Celery and Chilies give a nice, crunchy textural contrast to the spicy-salty-sour fresh Chicken chunks. Like the Pork Shank, the Chicken tastes really fresh (not reheated). And while I appreciate the freshness, this is one example where the recipe needs a bit more tinkering: It has a nice tart-spicy edge and goes well with Steamed Rice, but it's not something I'd find myself ordering again.

Overall, the first visit was quite satisfying, and I couldn't wait to return to try more dishes. During my 2nd visit, one of my Westside Hounds brings along a friend from Shanghai (a big food lover), so I'm curious to hear what they think of this restaurant. :)

They want to start with a simple, tried-and-true dish: Hsiang Gahn Rou Hsi (Shredded Pork with Dry Bean Curd).

It's a decent version of the dish, but nothing to write home about. Chef Hu uses fattier strips of Pork than what I'm used to, but the Dried Bean Curd is fine.

Their Zao Liu Yu Pian (badly translated as "Fish Slices Fries with Wine" :) quickly makes up for it.

While it's not live fish, the Boneless Fish Slices taste fresher and thankfully not like dirt/mud that seem to plague many local restaurants with their Fish Slice dishes. But it's the Zao Ru - sort of like a fermented byproduct from Rice Wine making (as our server explains) - that really gives this dish its standout characteristic: It's enchantingly fragrant and has an alluring sweetness, and is wonderful with the Bamboo Shoots and Wood Ear Mushrooms.

Unfortunately, their Xiao Lohng Bao (XLB) ("Steamed Pork Buns") fall short.

Their Xiao Lohng Bao's have too thick a skin, leading to an imbalance of too much dough that overpowers the Pork and Broth filling. It's not horrible, but it's not going to topple the foodie favorites from the SGV.

Their Hohng Shao Rou Bai Yeh Jie (Braised Pork with Bean Curd) arrives next.

I've actually stopped ordering Hohng Shao Rou recently because too many places serve this reheated; it has the funk of being made 1-2 days earlier and reheated to order. But my guests wanted to try Chef Hu's version and I'm so glad we ordered it. :)

While it's a little firmer than I prefer, the chunks of Braised Pork taste so *fresh* and focused, reflective of their cooking philosophy. There's a pure, Light Soy Sauce flavor coming through, and the mix of fatty bits with lean meat in the Pork chunks are delicious with Steamed Rice. :) The Bean Curd Ties are a great textural complement to the dish, and help alleviate the strain of the dish turning too heavy. Delicious. :)

Their Hohng Shao Doh Fu ("Tofu Pot") is a fine example of simple, clean, focused cooking techniques.

Ostensibly, a simple, homely dish, but that's the beauty of their Hohng Shao Do Fu. Silky slabs of Tofu, Bamboo Shoots, Snow Peas and Mushrooms cooked in a Soy Sauce-based Brown Sauce. There's a purity and simplicity to it that's subtle and appreciated.

One of their most unexpected surprises is their Chuen Juen (Shanghai Style Egg Rolls).

Growing up in So Cal, Egg Rolls have always seemed to be a snack made for tourists, served with some horrific, artificial, glowing Sweet Red Sauce of some sort. :) I never order Egg Rolls at Chinese restaurants, but my guest from Shanghai was craving a bit of the homeland so we obliged.

As I'm about to take a bite, I look up and notice a beaming smile coming from both my Westside Hound and the Shanghai guest. I quickly take a bite and realize why: A super-light, flaky, *thin* crispy, crackling skin gives way to this liquid, piping-hot center of pure Da Baicai (Napa Cabbage) essence! Wow.

I've never had an Egg Roll like this before, and my Shanghai guest explains that this is "a real Shanghai Egg Roll," not the Westernized version that's more commonly found. They seem pleasantly surprised and says that it's pretty close to home. I'm just happy to have found my new favorite Egg Roll in L.A. :)

Their Tsohng Yoh Bing (Green Onion Pancake) doesn't fare as well.

Yu Garden's version is a bit on the greasy side, and too thick. It's a decent version, but there are better ones around town.

On another visit, we begin with their Suan La Tahng (Hot and Sour Soup). It's an adequate version of the classic soup, with sufficient tartness and decent peppery heat, but nothing to get too excited about.

On our server's recommendation, we decide to try the Bah Bao La Jiang (Eight Treasures in Hot Sauce).

While I've had Bah Bao Fahn (Eight Treasures Rice) dessert more times than I can remember, this is the first time I've tried this savory Eight Treasures in Hot Sauce. Per its name, this dish usually contains 8 components to complete the dish. Yu Garden's version contains: Dry Bean Curd, Shrimp, Bell Peppers, Mushrooms, Chicken, Bamboo Shoots, and Cucumbers. The missing eighth ingredient is Chicken Gizzard, but our server mentions that since it's not that popular in the U.S., they've withheld it from the dish.

While it sounds pretty interesting, the end result is a bit underwhelming: It's very sweet (heavy use of Tianmian Jiang (Sweet Bean Sauce)), slightly spicy and the Shrimp tastes a bit too briny (the only dish I've run across that wasn't as optimally fresh as possible).

The second of the recommended dishes from our server is their Tahng Tsu Hsiao Pai (Sweet and Sour Spareribs (lit. "Sugar and Vinegar Riblets")).

I never thought I'd see the day when any of my SGV Hounds would be ordering "Sweet & Sour" anything, but our server assures us that this version is an authentic Shanghai dish, similar to the more popularly named "Shanghai Hsiao Pai Gu" ("Shanghai Riblets").

True to its name, fresh Pork Spareribs are deep fried and then sauteed in a wok with Black Rice Vinegar and Sugar. It's sweet and tart, and better than the mainstream versions of "Sweet & Sour," but the Pork Ribs while very fresh, are a bit too firm at times.

Unlike their XLB, their Ji Tsai Hwun Twun ("Green Leaf Wonton") are excellent little pockets of goodness. :)

The little Wontons are very different from the more popular Cantonese / Hong Kong version, with a simple filling of Marinated Ground Pork and Shepherd's Purse greens. The delicate herbaceous Shepherd's Purse and pure Pork flavors come shining through, especially given the backdrop of their Gao Tahng, a light Pork Bone Broth adorned with Green Onions and bits of Egg.

(Note: Chef Hu doesn't add MSG to any of his dishes. The only MSG to be found would be the small amount that occurs in the Soy Sauce itself.)

Another standout dish would be their Tai Tiao Hsiao Huang Yu (Yellow Croaker with Seaweed).

It's nice that they use deboned Yellow Croaker fish instead of larger blocks of Grey Sole or Rock Cod that's used at some other places. The Hsiao Huang Yu tastes bright, oceany (in a good way), with a slight crunch in the batter, which is infused with a briny Seaweed that Chef Hu imports direct from Shanghai (he wasn't happy with the quality of the Tai Tiao found through local suppliers). This all adds up to one of the better versions of this dish I've tried recently.

I couldn't wait to let my guest try out (and for me to repeat) the mouth-watering, porcine experience that is their Tuh Suh Hsiao Yuan Ti (House Special Braised Pork Shank), so I happily order it again. :)

And from the first touch of the fork against the Braised Pork Shank (that causes it to easily yield and reveals a silky, super moist mass of long-stewed Pork heaven :), I'm happy to report that even on my 3rd visit, the Braised Pork Shank is as fresh-tasting and pure as my 1st visit. If they can maintain the freshness (so far, so good) and develop the flavors a bit more, this could become the definitive Pork Pump-style dish in So Cal. :)

On my 4th visit, we begin with their wrongly translated Nan Gua Hsien Bei Gun ("Pumpkin with Fresh Snail" (Note: It's not "Snail" but actually "Scallop" :)).

I'm usually not a big Pumpkin fan but this has to be hands-down, the best savory Pumpkin dish I've ever had anywhere. :) It sounds weird on paper, but it's a pure, magical distillation of Pumpkin essence that's so fresh, focused and simply lovely. The shredded Scallop adds a nice sea breeze counterpoint to the Pumpkin Soup. Delicious.

One of the daily specials this evening is their Hohng Shao Hsiao Huang Yu Do Fu (Braised Yellow Croaker with Tofu).

These are whole, little Yellow Croakers, slowly braised in a Light Soy Sauce. The Yellow Croaker tastes clean and vivid, and the Braised Tofu is a nice accompaniment. If there's one drawback it's the amount of bones in the Yellow Croaker, so those that don't like to fuss with fish bones should avoid this dish. Overall, I prefer their (deboned) Yellow Croaker in Seaweed preparation more than this version.

The last savory dish of the night is Pahng Hsieh Tsao Nian Gao (Crab with Rice Cake).

The Nian Gao (Rice Cake) slices are soft and supple, but what really makes this dish sing is the live Crab's inherent sweetness and bright brininess. It's perfectly cooked, and completely satisfying sucking out the fresh Crab meat while eating the Nian Gao. The intense and beautifully oceanic Crab Eggs and Guts are a great finisher.

If there's one dessert to get at Yu Garden, it would have to be their Gwei Hua Jio Niang Hsiao Tahng Yuan (Rice Ball with Rice Wine Sauce).

Chef Hu makes his own Jio Niang, the Rice Wine essence that's at the heart of this dessert, and the difference is remarkable (compared to other places around town). This dish first engages your sense of smell with some really fragrant Gwei Hua (Sweet Olive Flowers). I've had this dessert numerous times in the past 3 years, but this is the first time I've had it with Sweet Olive Flowers this aromatic.

It's only lightly sweet, allowing the Jio Niang flavors to shine and letting the Sesame Rice Balls to provide the rest of the sweetness to round things out.

Service is about as expected for this little San Gabriel Valley eatery: There are no busboys, so 2 waiters cover the needs of the entire restaurant, from clearing dishes to refilling tea and drinks and more. Yu Garden has a Lunch Menu from $4.55 - $6.55. Their Dinner Menu ranges from $2 - $29.95 (for the Eight Treasures Duck), with most dishes averaging ~$8. We averaged about ~$18 per person (including tax and tip). It should be noted their wonderful Braised Pork Shank ("mini Pork Pump") is only $8.95.

While simplistic at times, Yu Garden (Shanghai Yu Yuan)'s focus on freshness and its clarity of Shanghai dishes deserves to be commended. From their fresh Hohng Shao Rou (Braised Pork), to the delicious Shanghai Style Egg Rolls, to their earthy, vibrant Pumpkin Soup with "Snail" (Scallop) and the succulent, juicy House Special Braised Pork Shank, Yu Garden is a good place to stop in for some Shanghai cuisine. With some more development of its recipes, it has the potential to become a permanent mainstay of the San Gabriel Valley.

*** Rating: 8.0 (out of 10.0) ***

Yu Garden (Shanghai Yu Yuan)
107 E. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: (626) 569-0855

Hours: [Lunch] Thurs - Tues, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
[Dinner] Thurs - Tues, 5:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays.

-----
Yu Garden (Shanghai Yu Yuan
)107 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, CA 91776

 
 
 
 
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    2 Replies
    1. re: exilekiss

      This is a particularly stunning report, with very impressive photographs and description with just the right amount of detail. I am especially taken with the way you give entirely frank opinions on what is really good and what really isn't. Another great review, EK.
      By the way, are you a fan of the Japanese group Exile?

      1. re: Tripeler

        Hi Tripeler,

        Thanks. :) The next time you're in the area, give them a shot and please report back and let us know how it turns out. (And no, I haven't heard anything from Exile. What are they similar to?)

    2. One step ahead of me again! I was about to try it in April!

      1 Reply
      1. re: J.L.

        Hi J.L.,

        I'm looking forward to your report on this place. Don't miss out on the Braised Pork Shank and Chinese Squash with Duck Eggs at least. :)

      2. ya the chuen juen sounds like the real deal. I'm fortunate I get this everytime i go to mom's. It's great when bamboo is in season. I'm assuming it's got slivers of tender bamboo also.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cartbaby

          Hi cartbaby,

          Thinking back on it, I'm not sure if the Shanghai Style Egg Rolls had Bamboo. If they were there, they were in very thin, tender slices. The pure flavors of the Da Baicai (Napa Cabbage) was really the star of those Egg Rolls. Really nice. :)

        2. I had the opportunity to try this place out a few weeks back with the parents and we all enjoyed it. All the dishes we had were quite good. Even my mother, who is quite picky about serving sizes, taste and cost issues, was satisfied. If you like intestine, there is a version of the Griddle Pot with it where it's deep fried but not overly cooked. The name of another dish escapes me at the moment but it contained a black fungus that is apparently popular in China right now but is a rarity in the states. I'll see if I can find a menu and get back to you on it. I really hope this restaurant survives.

          4 Replies
          1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

            Hi taiwanesemalleats,

            Thanks for the report back. Is the dish you're talking about the Gahn Guo Dah Chahng (Griddle Cooked Intestine Pot)?

            And yes, please let us know the name of the other dish you had with the Black Fungus. I can't wait to try that. Thanks. :)

            1. re: exilekiss

              I believe so, yes. My parents did the ordering (and paying!) so I pretty much just ate what was put in front of me.

              1. re: exilekiss

                Just had food from Yu Garden on Saturday again. Parents ordered it to-go and when my dad arrived to pick up the order, he said it was packed with plenty of people waiting outside. Mostly lao wai. The dish with the black fungus is simply called "Mushroom with BBQ Pork" on the menu under the meat section but is not a good description. The BBQ pork is actually (my guess) braised pork belly stir fried with crisp bell peppers and the slightly chewy black fungus. The flavor was just like the first time I had it.

                1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                  Hi taiwanesesmalleats,

                  Thank you for the name of the dish and recommendation. I'll be sure to try that next time I'm there; sounds delicious. :)

            2. Hi All,

              Quick FYI: Yu Garden is installing their Credit Card Machine this week. They hope to have it ready by the weekend, but don't have a definite date, so if you plan on going this week, bring Cash as backup. (Then again, at their prices, it's not too bad. :) Thanks.

              1 Reply
              1. re: exilekiss

                Cash is king in the SGV.

              2. Inspired by the poetry (visual as well) of ek, we trooped off to lunch at Yu Garden, for what will be the first of many trips there!

                We ordered from the lunch menu ($4.55, $5.55, $6.55) and one from the regular menu.
                The egg drop soup was much more clean in its flavors than other SGV Chinese restaurants. Not too thick with cornstarch, it was a good start to the meal.

                First out was Shrimp with Chilli - from their lunch menu. This was not the one pictured in ek's report - no head on shrimp. (The menu shows the same characters for this dish - #2 on the regular menu - as in the lunch special - so I am wondering if they used shelled shrimp because we were non-Chinese?) Quite a bit of shrimp in a slightly sweet spicy sauce that had what looked like bits of puffed rice - may have been pieces of garlic. Quite decent, though this variant I would probably not order again.

                Then came the Fish Slices Fries (sic) with Wine - I deliberately chose this because I wanted a slightly less spicy dish to balance out the flavors. You could taste the Chinese cooking wine in this dish - and again while quite pleasant, it is not the dish to order again. But this first taste was good.

                Then they brought out the 4 Shanghai Style Fried Rolls. This was everything that ek said it would be - great crunchy light crust giving way to liquidy cabbage. Dipped in the vinegar, which the waiter indicated we should use, it was superb! Probably the best fried spring roll I have had in a long time (I am also partial to the fresh spring rolls at Vietnam House).

                The last dish was Braised Pork with Bean Curd. We asked our waiter for the pork recommendation, and without hesitation he suggested this. It was $5.55 worth of porcine goodness in a bowl - rich with flavor. The bean curd sheets were tied into some kind of a bow and has soaked up several of the flavor layers from the cooking!

                I had made a Google map and annotated several of the dishes ek described. The head waiter came over and wanted to see what it was - when I told him, he took that in to the kitchen and I got the sense he was making a copy - but he was showing it to the sous chef. The Sous chef - Raymond - came out and talked to us at length (it was moderately busy - all the tables along the walls were occupied). He wanted to know where and how we found out about Yu Garden - chowhound of course! He talked to us about some of the aspects of Shanghai cuisine and how he wants non-Chinese to also discover their cooking! Talking about the shrimp, he told us that there is a dish where he marinates raw prawns in cooking wine - and wanted to know if we would like to taste it. My lunch companion was full, but I braved it. Out came one nice sized spot prawn (the kind I buy live from the Chinese fish market in Rosemead) - shell and head on - marinated in rice wine, and some moderate amount of spices. It was absolutely delicious! However, I will head home for a dose of Imodium, just in case! :-)

                I hope this place not only survives but does well. A true chowhound and chowhoundworthy find!
                Thanks ek

                8 Replies
                1. re: suvro

                  "He talked to us about some of the aspects of Shanghai cuisine and how he wants non-Chinese to also discover their cooking! "

                  I think more Chinese restaurants are starting to see this. There are only so many Chinese people in the SGV. If the restaurants are to survive, they need to expand beyond Chinese customers.

                  1. re: suvro

                    Hi suvro,

                    Thanks for the great report back! :) I'm so glad you liked it.

                    Re: The Shrimp with Chili - Good to know (whew). It seems like the free appetizer version given to each table when we first went was probably made to be quick and efficient (no head removal), whereas the full order of them are properly shelled, etc.?

                    Love those Shanghai Style Egg Rolls as well! :) And the Braised Pork. :) That's really nice that they explained to you a bit about Shanghai cuisine. Can't wait to go back myself. Thanks.

                    Oh and next time, try their Braised Pork Shank and let us know what you think of it. :)

                    1. re: exilekiss

                      Our second trip to Yu Garden for lunch.

                      This was post the Linda Burum article in LA Times and we got in just in time to take the last empty table. They have put up the article, and the place was busy. While we were eating, several groups of Chinese customers came in and had to wait for tables to be vacated.

                      As I had mentioned in my last report, they asked how we had found out, and I had mentioned exilekiss' report. The person who came out of the kitchen - Raymond - came and talked to us for a while (that day we were one of 3 tables being occupied). I told him about chowhound and he was very interested. So after I got back from that last lunch, I printed exilekiss' report and mailed it to him.

                      Today when we went in, we asked for Raymond. He came out later during the meal and mentioned he had got the printouts. He also said after the LA Times article, business has picked up. He mentioned a bunch of girls who came and ate and took pictures - would that be your party, ek? Anyway. On to the food. I am still following ek's dishes, but picking and choosing what I want to try.

                      The first item that came out was "Bitter Melon with Salted Pork". We eat a lot of bitter melon in the eastern part of India that I come from. This was without the seeds, which is the most bitter part. The outer rinds were perhaps blanched in hot water and then stir fried with bits of fatty pork. Delicious! The bitterness in the melon is supposed to be good antidote for summer stomach problems in India, and growing up we hated eating it. Only later when the tastes evolve, did I come to like bitter melon.

                      The next dish that came out was a complimentary "Shrimp with Chilli" from Raymond. He had still not come out at this point. As I mentioned, in the last visit, the shrimp was shelled and not like the picture from ek. Today, it was full blast - head-on shell-on in a very nice slightly peppery slightly sweet sauce. Absolutely gorgeous - and had we not had 2 other dishes, this would have been the highlight of the meal. The shrimp are a bit on the small side, but sucking and chewing on the head, and then the rest of the body was heavenly. Must have, but from next time I will insist they not use shelled shrimp.

                      The next dish out was "Eight Treasures in Hot Sauce". Again flavorful, and exquisite to look at. Ours had the eighth ingredient - chicken gizzards. Because of the sensory overload, I did not chew through all of them, but all the other small morsels were extremely savory and delicious.

                      In between they gave us the egg drop soup, which this time I used as a palate cleanser.

                      The final dish was "Griddle Cooked Fish Pot". When they brought this out, it evoked memories of my childhood - smells of my grandmother's cooking. The huge portion of onions and garlic and the chillies probably were what triggered that memory (the most primeval of our 5 senses is smell and is deeply associated with memory). This is what dry wok barbeque is - there are a couple of dry wok barbeque places in SGV. Their version was one of the best. Along with fillets of fish, strips of turnip and potatoes (how rare in Chinese cuisine, just as noodles stop at eastern border of India, potatoes seem rare in Chinese cuisine), scallions, chillies, and huge amounts of onions and full cloves of garlic were wok fried in a very savory sauce. This is a huge dish and comes in a hotpot. We had far too much food, with the complimentary dish and the soup - so we did not order any rice.

                      All in all - excellent meal. Now looking forward to the third trip. Have to go early to beat the lunch rush!

                      1. re: suvro

                        Hi suvro,

                        Thanks for the detailed review of your 2nd meal at Yu Garden. Sounds like you had some wonderful dishes.

                        I'm glad they added in the 8th "Treasure" back in the 8 Treasures in Hot Sauce dish. :) I'm bummed we didn't have the Chicken Gizzards (boo! :).

                        I agree, I love their dry wok / pot dishes. And I'll have to try their Bitter Melon dish (I love Bitter Melon). (And no, that wasn't me; I finished my review quite a while ago :).

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          damnit, i tried to go there today, but there are closed on Wednesdays. In fact, a bunch of chinese restaurants have wednesday as their day off, why is it?

                          so had to go to tasty noodle house intstead.

                          1. re: kevin

                            Wednesdays (as well as Tuesdays and Mondays) are traditionally slow(er) days in the restaurant industry.

                            Did you expect them to close on, say, a Saturday?

                            Or did you expect them to open 7 days a week? This is a family operation after all, not a corporate one like Yang Chow or Mr. Lee's.

                            -----
                            Yang Chow Restaurant
                            3777 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              No, not at all. There just seemed to be a consistency in closing on Wednesdays rather than say Mondays.

                            2. re: kevin

                              Hi kevin,

                              Darn. I wish there was a formatting *Bold* option, so my note above "Closed Wednesdays." (in the original post) would stand out more. Hope you get a chance to try it soon. Thanks.

                    2. Thanks for the review, as always.

                      I just hope this location isn't cursed. Ever since Chau's Kitchen renovated the place, it's been one restaurant failure after another.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Hi ipsedixit,

                        Thank *you* and Chandavkl, raytamsgv and the rest of the SGV Hounds for the great recommendations. :) Was this the location of Romantic Steakhouse years ago?

                        1. re: exilekiss

                          Romantic Steakhouse was a few doors down.

                      2. We tried it twice this past weekend, and thought it was pretty good. My girlfriend and her dad are both from Shanghai, and her dad gave it his stamp of approval. The place is pretty new and clean, and the prices seem fair. Doing a pretty brisk business both of the nights we went in (Friday and Saturday). Staff was friendly and fairly attentive.

                        We tried a lot of veggie stuff - jicai niangao without the meat, hong shao tofu, long beans (also w/o meat), snake gourd with salted duck egg, There was a fish dish (I didn't try) which was apparently a little too lightly seasoned. The night we were there, there was an appetizer featuring some sort of wild green (I think malan tou - 马兰头), finely chopped (like dumpling filling) with baked tofu and some other stuff. I've had similar dishes before, but usually with different green vegetables. They also had a cold chayote-strip appetizer, which was pretty good, if a tiny bit salty. Still haven't tried the kaofu (one of my usual metrics for testing out a Shanghai place in terms of vegetarian stuff), and my girlfriend didn't try the xiaolongbao. We only got the free prawn appetizer the second night - not sure if it's because we ordered only vegetarian stuff, or because we were only 2.

                        The texture of the niangao was pretty good - one of the places in Focus Plaza (which overall was not amazing) won out on texture IMHO, but only just barely. Soft, but not mushy, chalky, or overly sticky. I think the jicai at Shanghai Xiao Chi is a little fresher tasting (it's almost always frozen here, so I don't think it's *actually* fresh at either place). This place used fresh shiitakes, which I thought was a nice touch.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: will47

                          Hi will47,

                          Nice! Thanks for the detailed report back. The one disappointment here I'd say is there Xiao Long Bao; I wouldn't recommend ordering that here. But besides that the other dishes have been pretty nice.

                          Thanks for the recommendation on the Jicai Niangao; I'll have to remember trying that next time.

                          You might want to try their delicious Shanghai Style Egg Rolls as well the next time you go (it's mainly Napa Cabbage and so good! :).

                        2. We went to Yu Garden for lunch today and were disappointed. The braised pork shank had funky off flavors, and the cabbage in the egg rolls tasted as if it had been boiled for too long. The sweet and sour spareribs were quite good, though. Maybe there's a different chef in the kitchen at lunchtime? Or maybe just an off day?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Peripatetic

                            Hi Peripatetic,

                            Thanks for the report back. Bummer about the Pork Shank; the 2 times we ordered it was it excellent and very fresh. As an FYI, the filling for the Shanghai Style Egg Rolls is supposed to be that soft (I was surprised as well, but got used to it by the 3rd bite :). My friend's Shanghai friend said that was one of the signs of the Shanghai Style Egg Roll (celebrating the Dai Baicai (Napa Cabbage), focused flavors, soft filling). I was expecting the usual Egg Rolls when it was ordered (with the more firm veggies and meat and shrimp, egg, etc.).

                            1. re: exilekiss

                              Thanks for your reply. I'll try them again for dinner. If I'm still disappointed it will be the first time in at least a dozen that my experience didn't square with yours.

                          2. Hi Exilekiss, my Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) and I tried Yu Garden last night on your rec. We ordered the squash w/ duck egg yolk, fish in wine sauce, the green leaf wonton and the shanghai egg rolls.

                            Guess what? They were out of eggrolls and wontons! Know why? Because the LA Times stole your find!

                            The waiter told us that the reporter was in last week and ordered many of your recs. The review was published yesterday (they had it in a little makeshift frame, propped up against the kitchen window). So today, the restaurant was filled up with foreigners, and they ate up all of the green leaf wontons and Shanghai egg rolls.

                            http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/...

                            The waiter suggested xiao long bao... I said no (taking your advice). He suggested guotie(!). I said "guotie is not a Shanghai dish!" so instead he suggested the noodles with green onion and dried shrimp, which was on the plastic tabletop menu as one of the specials. Great choice-- it was delicious. Essentially served exactly as described, again with very delicate flavors-- a very nice mildly charred green onion. The dried shrimp were sufficiently rehydrated so that had a nice crunchy chew and added just a tiny bit of fishiness. We also ordered the shanghai wonton soup... this was a bit too delicate for my tastes, as the soup itself tasted like hot water, and the wontons themselves tasted of just a slight wisp of porkiness. However, this is exactly the kind of dish that my Taiwanese LTA grew up eating-- her mom very often cooked the Taiwanese version of this bland soup, so she just loved it. If you've got a aggressive undertasting western palate like me, I'd give it a miss.

                            The fish in wine sauce was just as you describe... imagine wine blew, but instead of rice balls it's slices of fish, bamboo shoots and wood ear mushrooms. Unlike anything I had eaten before, but I quite liked it.

                            And the Chinese squash... wow, exilekiss, you were spot on with this one. My wife grew up eating this squash but had never eaten it cooked in reduced duck egg yolks. The saltiness of the egg contrasting with the slight sweet bitterness of the squash was surprising and utterly delicious.

                            Oh, and we were served a vinegar marinated bean sprout appetizer, but as we talked with the waiter, he wound up bringing over the chili shrimp as well. This is the only area we disagree... we thought the shrimp was fantastic. Full of flavor, sweet and spice. Oh, and you can eat the shells. Lovely all around.

                            The whole bill cost us $35 with tip, and we've each got lunch today. Definitely worth going to again.... we've got to try the pork shank next time!

                            Thanks EK

                            Mr Taster

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              Perhaps the Linda Burum is a dedicated reader of exilekiss's reviews. :-)

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                Hi Mr Taster,

                                Thanks for the great, detailed report back. :) No no, I'm guessing it should take the LA Times months to research to detail out a restaurant with multiple visits, so it's probably a coincidence. But thanks.

                                I'm bummed you didn't get to try the Shanghai Style Egg Rolls, definitely give it a try next time and the Pork Shank (hopefully Peripatetic's encounter was on an off-day); it was simply lovely the 2 times we had it.

                                And the Chinese Squash with Duck Egg Yolks! Yes! :) Isn't it just... delicious? And thanks for the rec on the Noodles with Green Onion and Dried Shrimp; I'll have to try that next time.

                                Did you end up trying the Green Leaf Wontons (Ji Cai Huntun)? Or only the Shanghai Wonton Soup (Shanghai Xiao Huntun)? I didn't get to try the Shanghai Wonton Soup (thanks for the thoughts), but if you didn't, definitely try their Green Leaf Wontons next time. :)

                                1. re: exilekiss

                                  Hey EK... They were out of both the green leaf wontons and the Shanghai egg rolls. We'll be sure to try it, along with the pork shank, at a later time.

                                  Our waiter told us the LA Times reporter announced her presence both times they dined there... Now, you know I'm no fan of reporters whose lazy legwork sends them to cull the food blogs into a column for which they are paid (i.e. feng mao mutton kebab!). Seriously, think about it... you would **never** see Thi N. publish a Times column a month after you wrote about it.

                                  But to announce your presence twice to the restaurant you are reviewing... that's a huge violation of journalistic ethics!

                                  Anyway, anonymity is the food critic's only method for ensuring that his/her readers will potentially have the opportunity to have the same experience. Now granted, I'm not suggesting that Yu Garden will be modifying their menu... it's the principal of the thing.

                                  /end soapbox

                                  But yes, yes yes thank you ever so much for the squash with duck egg yolks... I'm forever in your debt for that. In fact it inspired us to try and recreate the dish at home :)

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    That's kind of true, unless they write better than us chowhounds and get paid on that. I'm curious how much the counter intelligence aka the find reviewers in the LA Times get paid for their articles?

                                    So to recap, the fish slice with wine and the yellow croaker fish fried with seaweed are pretty darn good? Do they have a good eggplant with garlic sauce, I think the Times review mentioned that.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      You could email Russ Parsons at the Times food section for guidelines on freelance writers. Papers generally provide guidelines for freelance submissions for those who ask.

                                      So yeah, fish slices in wine and the chinese squash with duck yolk, definite standouts. Also the tabletop special, noodles with green onions and dried shrimp, also very good.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        Hi kevin,

                                        Love those 2 dishes. :) Also, try their House Special Braised Pork Shank; Pumpkin with Fresh "Snail" (typo for Scallop) (it sounds weird, but it's a wonderful soup). Let us know how your visit goes. Thanks.

                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                          Please describe the pumpkin with fresh snail soup. Clear broth with slices of green melon and scallops? Or what?

                                          1. re: sillygoosedown

                                            I posted some pics of it and description in my original review, above. :)...

                                            "On my 4th visit, we begin with their wrongly translated Nan Gua Hsien Bei Gun ("Pumpkin with Fresh Snail" (Note: It's not "Snail" but actually "Scallop" :)).

                                            I'm usually not a big Pumpkin fan but this has to be hands-down, the best savory Pumpkin dish I've ever had anywhere. :) It sounds weird on paper, but it's a pure, magical distillation of Pumpkin essence that's so fresh, focused and simply lovely. The shredded Scallop adds a nice sea breeze counterpoint to the Pumpkin Soup. Delicious."

                                            It's more of a thicker soup, like a puree / stew of Pumpkin with thin-sliced Scallop on top.

                                          2. re: exilekiss

                                            Hopefully they are open tomorrow for lunch, and I'll check it out. I don't eat pork, so I may have to scratch all those dishes.

                                  2. It's good. I would probably recommend Shanghai Restaurant instead. The dining experience at Shanghai Restaurant is clearly better; I think the food is at least as good.

                                    1. Hi EK. What a great report. I've printed it out so I can go to the restaurant and refer to the choices or else I'd never remember. I just watched an expisode of Anthony Bourdain on Shanghai. The one dish that seemed so popular with the people there was the Hainan chicken with rice. They showed all the condiments that went atop the dish and it made my mouth water. I know Savoy in Alhambra is popular for this dish but did they have it on the menu at Yu Garden? I am assuming it is a Shanhai style dish. If not, where would you recommend I go to satisfy this craving. We will definitely go to the Yu Garden, copies in hand and try many of your recommendations, soon I hope.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Neta

                                        Well, the provenance of Hainan Chicken Rice is from the island of Hainan in China.

                                        But the version you are most likely to find nowadays in restaurants has its roots/origins from SE Asian -- most notably places like Malasia, Thailand and Singapore. The disapora from Hainan to the outlying islands, combined with the native flavors, gives you the current iteration of this dish.

                                        Good places in the SGV to get Hainan Chicken Rice (other than Savoy) include Dong Nguyen and Pho Ga.

                                        I know there are places in Thai town / Hollywood, that also make good Hainan Chicken Rice, but I'm not familiar with those ... so maybe someone else can chime in.

                                        Cheers.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Siam Sunset's is wonderful.

                                          -----
                                          Siam Sunset
                                          5265 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            actually i dont think the hainan chicken rice that everyone is familiar with is actually from hainan, its from singapore / malaysia. I think the name is a misnomer b/c I think it was based on some dish from hainan a really long time ago (someone in singapore told me this; i lived in singapore for a little while).

                                            It's sort of a pain to make correctly, I've never had a good version in the US (the rice is particular hard to get right), savoy makes a passable version.

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              I believe the dish did in fact originate in Hainan (in WenCheng), and then was adopted and modified by Hainanese immigrants in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, etc.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                yah thats what i mean...but the version that is in singapore / malaysia etc is quite different from the original i believe

                                                1. re: Lau

                                                  Concur. I guess we're just saying the same thing in different ways.

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              First of all, thanks EK for the review. My friend is from Shanghai and she has not found a shanghai restaurant she likes, and I have been searching Chow and Yelp for help. We have tried a few and this is definitely the next to try. So glad you mention what you like and dislike. Also as important that you go back a few more times and even better tried some dishes that you like more than once. So this is absolutely a great review and I thank you for posting this.

                                              Regarding ipsedixit's post, for a second, I thought I have a gem no one knows about regarding Hainan chicken rice. Searching Google Map and Yelp and turned out to be Dong Nguyen. I am originally from Malaysia, so I know what is good Hainan chicken rice. I just so happened to run into this place after getting grocery from 168 Market two years back. For my preference, I think it is so much better than Savoy (which I have tried several times but could not really comprehend why people love that version).

                                              Again that's probably because I am from Malaysia and we like it prepared and taste in a certain way. Then I run into Pha Ga one night by accident and tried their Hainan Chicken rice. I swear this is the worst Hainan chicken rice I have ever tried (and I mean ever). The chicken was not fresh and felt like eating leftover chicken. Granted I went kinda late at night, so probably the chicken was not fresh by then.. yet that was not acceptable. Maybe it was an off night, but I have swear not to go back.

                                              Another place I like to go for Hainan Chicken rice is Pho Ly Thuong Kiet. I think its version is on par with Dong Nguyen's.

                                              Sorry I think I have just hijacked this thread, thanks for the post regarding this great find. I will try it out pretty soon.

                                              Do not mean to hijack this wonderful thread.

                                              -----
                                              Dong Nguyen Restaurant
                                              1433 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

                                              1. re: hoozswup

                                                Hi hoozswup,

                                                Thanks for your thoughts. :) I hope you get a chance to try Yu Garden and some of those Braised dishes (Pork Shank, any of the Hohng Shao Rou dishes, etc.). :)

                                                For Hainan Chicken, interesting. I've never tried Hainan Chicken in Malaysia, but it's good to know you think Dong Nguyen's version tastes like home for you.

                                                For Pho Ly Thuong Kiet, are you talking about the one on Garvey, near Garfield? I've never heard anything about that place, so this is good to know. :) Thanks.

                                            3. re: Neta

                                              Hi Neta,

                                              Thanks. I never saw the Anthony Bourdain special on Shanghai (darn). But I think ipsedixit summarized it best (I totally second ipse's recs above :). In the SGV area, I think it's Savoy and Dong Nguyen that are the front runners.

                                              There's also a recommendation for Rodded in Thai Town, but I haven't tried it yet (keep getting sucked into Jitlada when I head over there (^_~)).

                                            4. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Definitely putting this one on the list in case I'm in the LA area......sigh.....i miss shanghai cooking.....

                                              1. I went there yesterday, really disappointed. Ordered the pork shank and the flavors were muddy. The shank was well cooked, braised thoroughly but the sauce was overly sweat, viscous, just cloying on top of the fat. I poured excessive vinegar to cut it. "A" veggies were a little brown, sign of it sitting around for awhile or they weren't particular enough with their shopping. Tofu and pork stir fry was good but didn't think that the tofu-gan was julienned uniformly even enough for a consistent mouthfeel. Stir fried fish filet was the only good dish, clean flavors, light sauce with bamboo shoots and snow peas. We ate all of that dish quickly but sort of picked at everything else. Oh yes, our waiter proceeded to clip his nails onto the the tub where they were bussing the dirty dishes into. His manager yelled at him and made him stop, but alas the damage was done; me and my dining party were grossed out.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: tissue

                                                  I too was there last night, with my Lovely Tasting Assistant™. We had been there once before.

                                                  We tried 3 dishes we hadn't tried (and 1 favorite that we did) based on EK's review.

                                                  This time we got
                                                  -A veg wonton - really light and delicious, perfectly cooked wontons with a clean tasting, not-quite-bland broth.
                                                  -Shanghai egg rolls (oddly delicious-- tasted like a deep fried blintz with an oddly smooth, custardy interior despire the presence of ground meat inside). Dipped in vinegar... odd. But delicious. LTA has had these before in her homeland Taiwan, though they're not terribly easy to find there.
                                                  - Chicken in casserole/griddle pot (stunningly good! Although I question the authenticy of szechuan chiles in Shanghainese cooking, but I'm not arguing). EK, I'd revisit this one-- we really enjoyed this dish quite a lot.
                                                  - Melon with duck egg yolk - surprisingly, this was the weakest dish. The yolk sauce was not nearly as richly flavorful as what I remember from our last visit.

                                                  So, no need for the downhill alarm. Overall it was an outstanding meal, which I can reconfirm now as I've just finished consuming the leftovers for lunch.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    I had gone 2 weeks back but did not get the chance to write about it - till now.
                                                    We ordered:
                                                    Pumpkin with fresh snail - as ek warns in the original post - it is not snail but shredded scallops - I could not tell if scallops or some other seafood. This was a big soup bowl (think hot and sour soup large bowl size) of pureed pumpkin with some strands of seafood in it. Being from India, this pumpkin dish was a disappointment - unlike ek, I can't wax poetic about this dish which was essentially flavorless. We cook pumpkin year round in Indian cuisine (and they are much brighter orange-red than the pale yellow pumpkins here - closer to Musque de Provence - see http://whatscookingamerica.net/squash...) - and they can be very tasty in savory presentations. Compared to that this was a pale puree with no flavor at all! :-(

                                                    Griddle cooked chicken pot - as good as the fish pot we had ordered on a previous visit. Lots of vegetables and since this dish comes out last, by this time we are getting full and end up only picking the chicken (or fish) and a few vegetables that I like. The thinly cut french fry style potatoes are delicious as they soak up the oil and flavors of the stir fried chicken, and combined with the slight sweetness of the potatoes, this is great flavor. The turnips and bell peppers do not add much other than bulk. Next time I will ask them to add more potatoes.
                                                    House special braised pork shank - some of what "tissue" says above is correct, but never having had this dish before in any other restaurant, I don't have a baseline to compare. We liked the dish. It was very soft, and lots of flavor.

                                                    Shanghai fried shrimp - I have written about this before - it was excellent as usual.

                                                    Raymond sent out a small plate of fried marinated fish - and later came out to chat for a few minutes.

                                                    Can't wait to go back and continue trying some of the other dishes.

                                                    1. re: suvro

                                                      Having missed going to this place in a while, I braved it by myself today - since my frequent lunch companion is on a trip to China.

                                                      I had gone with the intention of ordering a lunch special dish, AND the Griddle Cooked Fish Pot - which has become my favorite dish there. But when I sat down, I noticed what looked like a fantastic dark sauced meat dish at the next booth, and out went my plan. I asked the waiter (and Raymond - who came out for a short while) which dish it was - and ordered it instead.

                                                      Sweet and Sour Spareribs ($5.55 lunch special) - really well fried meaty spareribs (bone in) with an incredible sauce - just hit the perfect notes of sweetness and vinegary sourness for me. Incredible! What other treasures lie awaiting for me to discover - have to go back more frequently!

                                                      The other dish I ordered was one of the pre-determined one - Beef with Onion - again $5.55 lunch special. This turned out to be just as good - tender beef slices with long cut scallions (Chinese leeks I suspect) with great "wok-hey" - perfectly flavored sauce.

                                                      They serve lunch specials with rice and soup - their egg-drop soup has the cleanest flavor of any Chinese restaurant soup I have had - I could have a full bowl of this than the cup - but it was good to preserve some space for their fantastic cooking!

                                                      1. re: suvro

                                                        Hi suvro,

                                                        Thanks for reminding me to go back soon. (^_~) I'm going to have to try your recommended Beef with Onions next time. And yes, the Griddle Cooked Fish Pot is quite tasty. :)

                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                          I went back today with a new dining companion - an old friend, but someone who had never been there. He took their takeout menu because he is going back with his SO very soon.

                                                          I went back for one main reason - griddle cooked fish pot. And it again hit all the high notes! Outstanding.

                                                          But in the meantime I have been winding my way through the rest of the menu. Because of my friend, I went a bit mild today.

                                                          First up was the shredded pork in special brown sauce - what a miraculous find! It was a mountain of thinly shredded pork, almost tubular in profile, very moist and succulent, drenched in a slightly sour and spicy brown sauce, topped by julienned scallions. This was on the $5.55 lunch special menu!

                                                          Next we got the walnut shrimp - this is not normally a dish I would choose, but I wanted to order something milder. This was also superb - a heaping mound of plump shrimp with a light crunchy crust, lightly sauced with mayonnaise, and caramelized walnuts.

                                                          Finally the griddle cooked fish pot was served, and my friend switched from picking at the first two dishes to fully devoting his attention to this.

                                                          I have long ways to go to sample other items on his menu - but this is now my go to restaurant!

                                                          1. re: suvro

                                                            Hi suvro,

                                                            Nice! :) On my last visit, our waiter mentioned that they were going to introduce some new Shanghai specialty dishes in the Autumn, so I can't wait to see what that's about. :)

                                                        2. re: suvro

                                                          I usually get the Griddle Pot with Intestine. So good

                                                  2. All right. Someone has to resolve this for me if they would be so kind. I always understood pork pump to be the shank and yet on another thread it was consistently referred to as pork shoulder. When I saw it served in Monterey Park it sure looked like a Chinese version of schweinehaxen to me and that would be the shank. Appreciate any comments.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Hughlipton

                                                      I think it is the shank. That is what Raymond said to me the time we had a discussion about it.

                                                      1. re: suvro

                                                        Thank you because that is what I thought and needed some verification.

                                                    2. Do they offer the pork shank at lunch?

                                                      I'm pretty excited by this, haven't had good Shanghainese food in quite a while.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Johnny L

                                                        Hi Johnny L,

                                                        Yes they offer it at lunch, but call ahead, or when you sit down order it immediately because sometimes they're in the middle of making that day's batch if you show up right when they open (it happened to us once, and they said it'd be another ~30 minutes if we wanted to wait for that batch; we, of course, obliged :).

                                                        * Tuh Suh Hsiao Yuan Ti (House Special Braised Pork Shank)

                                                        Please let us know how your meal goes. :)

                                                        1. re: exilekiss

                                                          sweet. Maybe I'll take my family there next week when I don't feel like cooking.

                                                      2. this is a great review exilekiss, i didn't see it until today...wish id seen it last week as i took my family and my gf to SGV to eat at Seafood Village (which i love), but would have rather tried something new

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                          Hi Lau,

                                                          Thank you. I hope you get a chance to try Yu Garden on your next visit to LA. It's not worth a trip from OC just for this place (like, say, Animal), but if you're visiting the SGV anyways, then definitely give it a try and let us know what you think. :)

                                                          1. re: exilekiss

                                                            Hey Exile...

                                                            Thanks to you, in part, we host a regular group of OC foodies at Yu's Garden from as far south as Dana Point. Some are pro chefs and wine industry folk. Bring your own glassware and wine (despite the prohibitive signs), go early and let Raymond do the ordering for you. We never order anymore, we just let the kitchen cook for us.

                                                            Really awesome. Thanks!

                                                            1. re: revets2

                                                              Hi revets2,

                                                              Nice! :) I'm glad your OC Foodie Group and Chefs enjoyed Yu Garden. Thanks for reporting back. Do you have any favorites? :)

                                                        2. Just got back from a trip to Yu Garden, to me it was nothing too great but decent food for a decent price.

                                                          The braised pork shank dish is a steal at $8.95 and I wish I had it all to myself.

                                                          The red braised pork belly was a good dish as well, I liked the balance between tenderness and the ability of the meat to keep itself together while I tried to pick it up with chopsticks. Some places will either boil it to crap or braise it so much that it falls apart too easily.

                                                          Overall I will be back to try other stuff but overall I wasn't too impressed with the complete picture, if it wasnt for the pork dishes I wouldn't return.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Johnny L

                                                            Hi Johnny L,

                                                            Thanks for reporting back. I'm glad you enjoyed the Pork Shank (and yes! what a steal at $8.95 :) and Braised Pork Belly dishes at least. :)

                                                            What were some of the dishes you didn't like? Just curious.

                                                            Overall, as noted in my review above, I appreciate them the most for their overall, clean, fresh cooking (i.e., not using leftovers, reheated meats, etc.). I don't think they're a destination restaurant yet.

                                                            1. re: exilekiss

                                                              i like the seawee fried fish, here, a croaker fish, yellow croaker???

                                                              good stuff, with the seassoning you top it with.

                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                Hi kevin,

                                                                Yah, they use Yellow Croaker for this dish (instead of random ground Rock Cod or Tilapia). Glad you like it. :)

                                                              2. re: exilekiss

                                                                I tried an appetizer of the roasted duck with a special sauce I could not recognize, it was ok.

                                                                I also got a dish of the tofu pot with vegetables which was cooked well but flavor wise was a little lacking.

                                                                I'm not gonna write it off yet so I'm gonna go back for some lunch specials.

                                                            2. This is a pretty epic post. I gotta be honest though. The food at Yu Garden has never struck me as particularly refined. It seems gritty and basic. Everything is fine, but nothing is memorable in my experience. I miss Green Village--the only Shanghainese food that's ever blown me away.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: sushigirlie

                                                                Have you tried Giang Nan, sushigirlie? It reminds me very much of Green Village.

                                                                -----
                                                                Giang Nan
                                                                306 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA

                                                              2. FYI, the fish fillet with wine sauce at shanghai mini town(next to golden deli) is outstanding. While they've gone downhill a bit in the last year, the one thing they still nail is this dish. I think it's something about the wine they use, but it is really delicious, and IMO, better than Yu garden which also very good.