REVIEW w/ pics: The Formerly Overlooked But Never Again Happy Kitchen
When it comes to the Chinese restaurants in San Gabriel Valley, there's a good thing and a bad thing about them. The good thing is that there are a lot of Chinese restaurants in San Gabriel Valley. The bad thing is that there are a lot of Chinese restaurants in San Gabriel Valley. Bad in the sense, that with so many to choose from, it's very easy to overlook a really wonderful restaurant amidst some that are just so-so. That was the case for me when it came to Happy Kitchen.
Funnily enough, in the strip mall where Happy Kitchen is located, I had previously eaten at restaurants on either side of Happy Kitchen, but didn't even know of its existence until I took the Six Taste New Chinatown Tour. On that tour, the three items we had were delicious enough that I knew I wanted to return for a full meal, which is exactly what I did.
So off I went with my dining group for an early lunch at Happy Kitchen where we got to enjoy 12 different dishes, starting with their Lamb Rice Noodle Soup which is cooked in a sea snail broth. Sea snails were also in the soup and this is one bowl that I could have easily just eaten on my own as an entree soup. It was delicious. The broth had a wonderful combination of ocean flavors from the sea snails and a little bit of richness from the lamb. I also liked that there was some heat to this soup, but not so much that it was overwhelming.
Having enjoyed the Beef Roll from the tour, I ordered it again and it was still as good as before. The wrapper had a light crunch to it and the cilantro added a nice peppery kick to the tender beef. I'm a bit ambivalent about the a couple of the dumplings we ordered. Although I thought the fillings of both the Beef Steamed Dumplings and the Shrimp and Pork Dumplings were nicely seasoned, the dumpling wrapper was too thick for my taste.
When it came to the Steamed Pork Bao, I had no ambivalence at all. They were supposed to be like Xiao Long Bao aka Soup Dumplings, but there wasn't any soup to be found inside this bao at all. So that was disappointing.
Another dish to hit the table was the Ginger Arctic Clams. The cool crunch of the celery went well with the tender chew of the clam. This is one plate of food that would be perfect on a very hot day. For this particular meal, we had Cumin Lamb in two different dishes. The first was Cumin Lamb Pan Fried Noodles and the other was Pan-Fried Cumin Lamb. Both tasted good and I liked how the chili flakes added a zing of spice to both dishes.
Also on the agenda for the meal was the Tea Smoked Chicken Leg. The smoking of this chicken leg is a 6 hour process. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait 6 hours, but it would have been worth it. I love the fact that the chicken is tender and moist and of course, had a wonderful smoky flavor.
Of everything we had up to that point, the absolute best was saved for last and that was the Double Cooked Pork. O M G! I rarely say OMG, but wow, this dish was that and more. I have no idea how it was prepared. I'm thinking it was battered and double-fried, but it didn't really matter. It was just so good. We were all feeling pretty full, but we all made room to eat some of this pork. In fact, a couple of my fellow diners even ordered it to go.
For dessert, we had Fried Sesame Balls, which were served to us warm. What a perfect ending to the meal. They weren't too sweet and they had a glutinous texture to them. When you took a bite, it had a soft-chewy mouth feel to it.
Overall, this was a wonderful meal. I got to re-try a couple of items plus I was introduced to some delicious new dishes. All I can say is that Happy Kitchen is now in my radar and it's certainly a restaurant that I would be happy to dine at again and recommend.
301 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
To see post complete with photos, go to:
301 W. Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA
We ate there last night and it was as good as you described. We had the pork dumplings (kids loved them b/c the taste was simlar to the ones at Luscious Dumplings,) the shrimp and pork dumplings and the scallop and pork dumplngs--all juicy and delicious, a little herby from the scallions. Also enjoyed the cumin lamb fried noodles, served piping hot and a bit spicy, the noodles chewy and tender. The double cooked pork was sensational, crispy and with cilantro strands on top. We got a free tea smoked duck leg and this is hands down the best smoked duck I've had. We will definitely be back to try the beef roll and that snail soup.
704 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776