Shanghai Dumpling House open in Monrovia
I was in the area and noticed a new Chinese restaurant that I believe opened just this year. It replaces a fast-food place which had replaced a Cajun shrimp place. The English name is "Shanghai Dumpling House". The Chinese name is Nanxiang Xiaolong, which may be reference to a XLB's alleged birthplace in Nanxiang, China (sorry folks, my knowledge of Mandarin and written Chinese are both limited). The staff there spoke English just fine, but just for fun, I tried to muddle my way through the meal with Mandarin.
I was eating by myself, so I ordered the juicy pork dumpling (aka xiaolongbao or 小笼包) and their beef rolls pie (牛肉卷餅). Eight XLB cost $5.95. The beef roll cost $5.55
It took a while to get the XLB. The waiter said that they make it fresh, so they made it after I ordered it. It was pretty good. There was a lot of soup. The flavor was more on the subtle side--the pork filling was very fresh, and I could taste it very clearly. For reference, the aroma and flavor weren't as sharp as those from Dean Sin World. The skin was moderately thin and stretched enough to avoid breaking as I lifted them off the steamer.
I didn't like the beef roll that much. The roll itself had a nice, crispy exterior, but they used too much hoisin sauce--it overwhelmed the dish. 101 Noodle Express' version may cost more, but you get more than double the amount, and it tastes better.
Monrovia is not known for its large Chinese population. I'm surprised that you can get some real Shanghai dishes here, including tripe, intestines, etc. They also have a small number of dishes designed for the non-adventurous eater: sweet and sour chicken, broccoli beef, and crab rangoon.
It's too early for me to pass judgment on this place because I've only had two dishes there. For those who live near Monrovia/Duarte, it is certainly more convenient than driving to San Gabriel, Monterey Park, or Arcadia.
Shanghai Dumpling House
215 E. Foothill Blvd., Monrovia
I've been there a couple of times since my first post. Here's some more information.
The XLBs have been consistently tasty, although they don't make them to order anymore. They only had one person doing that, and it was probably too time and labor-intensive. But they still make the XLB themselves.
The potstickers were wrapped and cooked to order. The skin was not too thick. They were delicious. The noodle soup with brown sauce beef (红燒牛肉面) was solid--not spectacular but quite acceptable. The Fried Bean "Curb" (i.e. tofu) & Potato Noodles soup was light and refreshing. For the record, it is NOT a vegetarian dish--it had a few large wonton-like objects that meat inside of them. We also had stir-fried rice cakes--very good. I think it was listed as "rice cake fried w/ kimchi", but I'm not really sure because we ordered using the generic Chinese name for it.
The Stewed Meatball in Brown Sauce (often called Lion's Head in other Shanghai restaurants) wasn't that great--too heavy and on the salty side. It was unusual in that this was served Western-style instead of Chinese style--it was on a plate with rice.
For appetizer, we ate a cold, peppery beef dish with a flavor like Chinese-style beef jerky. My wife liked it. I thought it was decent. The spring rolls were light and crispy. The waitress advised us to dip them in the vinegar. They aren't filling at all, but that's just their nature.
There's an appetizer called "Shanghai Confusion Meat". I kid you not. The waiter couldn't really describe it, so naturally--against my better judgment--I ordered it. I think it's the Shanghai version of Spam. It looked like chopped up pork glued together like spam, formed into a rectangular solid, and sliced into small squares about 2 inches across. It was too salty for me, but at least now you know what it is.
The staff speaks English. In fact, it's the only Chinese restaurant in the SGV where the staff has greeted me in English instead of Chinese. Menu items have okay translations.
In summary, it's an unusual restaurant for the area. Clearly, they are aiming for non-Chinese clientele in the area. The menu has only about 60 items, so it's not too overwhelming for the target customers. They serve a good selection of dishes that are both authentic (for the most part) but not too alien to non-Chinese customers. Dishes average about $7. It's a great introduction to Shanghai food for such customers. I like this restaurant because it's easily the best Chinese food in the local area.
It wasn't that long ago that the 101 Noodle Express beef roll cost about $5.50. I think it's up to $7 now. And frankly, my last one wasn't that good.... the meat was filled with tough, hastily cooked tendon and the wrapper wasn't crispy. This is not a downhill alert necessarily-- but it was disappointing.