Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Jan 31, 2012 01:58 PM

12 Reasons to Drive to San Gabriel

TonyC of Sinosoul and hereabouts has posted a round-up of possible -- if not passable -- Chinese eats West of the 5. I may have included the Korean-Chinese Dragon or Mandarin House but it otherwse rounds up the usual suspects and reminds me how well a Din Tai Fung would do somewhere over the Halo of Smog.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Odd that they qualified "Fu's Palace" as being synonymous with NY style Chinese food, and at the same time say that they serve the "war wonton" (which I had never heard of before coming to Los Angeles). I'd argue that Paul's Kitchen or even Genghis Cohen come closer, but in truth there really is no equivalent out here (for better or worse). Paul's is the closest wonton soup to the kind back east, and Genghis' eggrolls win that contest.

    Mr Taster

    25 Replies
    1. re: Mr Taster

      "Best" was an editorial decision by the higher-ups. Please, for the love of Buddha, read it with a grain/flake of MSG.

      Re: Korean-Chinese food
      I'm mentally allergic to that genre. It's putrid & a disgrace.

      Re: Fu's vs. Hu's vs. Twin Dragon vs. Mandarette vs. Genghis Cohen vs. NYC
      Caveat: I've lived in Flushing. For almost 4 years, I ate through Flushing's nooks & crannies, so the crusade for best "Manhattan" Chinese food in LA is really lost on me, ditto the J8L's Fortune Cookie Chronicles. The shuttering of Paul's Monterey Park in '98 brought no tears.

      The Eater piece was an exercise in meta-irony. Nothing more.

      1. re: TonyC

        > Re: Korean-Chinese food I'm mentally allergic to that genre

        Do you mean the cuisine as a whole, or as it's represented in LA? I can understand the latter, but properly made ja jang myun (sorry, none in LA restaurants) is a real treat.

        1. re: TonyC

          You wouldn't consider Feng Mao Korean Chinese with its panchan?

          1. re: sku

            Feng Mao is Chinese, with panchan. They hire Chinese chefs; the menu, down to the steamed baos and Chinese prints, is Chinese. It may be even be the best Chinese food not in the SGV. Again, because they serve Chinese food, not Korean-Chinese food.

            I believe Peripatetic's talking about the ilks of The Dragon, Plaza Mandarin, etc, with their tang suk, kampong, and jampong. "Properly" made JJM is an oxymoron. It's all just black bean paste, sad slices of onions, and sugar. There's no "properness" to it. It's poorly fusioned, mistakenly translated, Chinese food. This is not like how the Japanese have transformed and elevated French pastries. They desecrated a dish.

            "My" version of Korean JJM involves cubed 5 spice tofu, ground and cubed pork leg, carrots, sesame oil, light soy, all topped with julienned green onions and green peas. Of course you won't find that at any Korean restaurants. The concept of that is inconceivable, and improper, to "them".

          2. re: TonyC

            I read Fortune Cookie Chronicles with great interest. It was a real page turner for me. The girl speaks my language.

            Honestly, I have no problem with a list of the "best Chinese west of the 5"... in fact, I think it's long overdue. I had dinner tonight at BBQ Unlimited #2 thanks to your article, which I'm grateful to you for reminding me of.

            Having said that, it seems irresponsible to back up an assertion of a place being "synonymous with NY Chinese" with a dish doesn't exist there! (And which, by your own assertion, you don't really get). The wonton soup we eat there is generally served with simply with thick skinned wontons and red bits of charsiu)

            What is somebody suggested that Empress Pavilion was synonymous with Beijing Duck. Wouldn't it make you scratch your head? And then if that person said they didn't really get Beijing Duck anyway, what would you then think of their opinion on the subject?

            Anyway, don't get me wrong. I did enjoy reading the piece. I just think it's important to stick to talking about the things we know (at least when it appears in a publication... standards on discussion boards are much looser!)

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              Hu's Szechuan is inedible crap
              Mandarin Kitchen is exceedingly mediocre
              Feng Mao holds promise
              Hop Woo makes me feel good
              Fu's Palace looks amazing

              1. re: echoparkdirt

                Mr. T,

                Understand your concern with the "wor wonton soup" reference. My apologies, very fallable here. Strike that. But Fu's menu of moo goo gai pan, General Tso's, almond chicken is Manhattan-esque. You can also efinitely argue Ghengis Cohen/Mandarette/Hu's/ad nausea are more Manhattan-esque than Fu's; welcome you to post that to the comment section. Feel free to use 4 letter words. It drives traffic.

                Don't "get" Manhattan-esque Chinese as in: I don't really enjoy. There's nothing not to get. J8L, and many others, explained Manhattan Chinese to death. It's a relic of the past, like a Ford Pinto. No need to drive Pintos these days.

                echoparkdirt: Hu's is approved! I double checked. Blame your board brethrens (as recently as last June:


                Thanks to all who've replied, and disagreed. It was fun. Now, about that stinky tofu factory in Walnut...

                1. re: TonyC

                  Except... that "Manhattan Chinese" is still what the vast majority of non-Chinese people get when they order Chinese food in that part of the country. It's not relegated to the past-- it's very much current, and a part of most people's standard rotation. And I'm not just talking about NYC-- this type of Americanized Chinese food can be found all over the northeast. Not sure how far south it goes, but I'm fairly certain Maryland has this style of food, as does Boston. These roots run deep.

                  Remember, a lot of people don't even know that there are Chinatowns beyond Manhattan. Flushing is really a tiny part of NYC, way out beyond where most people are willing to travel. However, they are willing to go to the little greasy shop on the corner for the food they know and love-- those fat, deep golden brown eggrolls, sticky bbq ribs, clear wonton soup with floppy, thick skinned wontons and red tinged pork. This food *IS* Chinese food for most people back east. I know personally- for a long time, this was my Chinese food too (as it was for J8L- I particularly liked how she saw her mother's cooking differently, as being mundane- whereas the takeout Chinese was exciting and exotic). The difference is, I moved away. I developed my tastes beyond what I grew up with. Most people do not. It is for that reason that this local style of Chinese food not at all irrelevant.

                  Now what is that about a stinky tofu factory in Walnut?!?!

                  EDIT: Found an old reference to it from back in 2006, which I had all but forgotten about!

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    No doubt the Manhattan-Chinese is still omnipresent in America. It powered me through a Midwestern collegiate life. General Tso's on a bed of brocc almost weekly. Back then, there was no other choice. As do you, I choose not to digest it further. DChang has moved on beyond bibimbap & KBBQ, let egg foo young die in infamy.

                    Stinky tofu factory:
                    Chung Seng Inc.
                    115 Commerce Way.
                    Walnut, CA 91789
                    Go on Saturday for a special surprise.

                    1. re: TonyC

                      A special surprise? Reeally! Are they open to the public? It looks like it's in some sort of industrial park.

                      I spent 4 years in Missouri where the style was most definitely *not* Manhattan Chinese (though it most probably has roots there). In fact, they had their own odd thing called "Springfield Style Cashew Chicken" which the locals just love (it even shows up on non-Chinese restaurant menus.) I've notices that, more or less, the further west you go from NYC the more tenuous the connection becomes. For the greatest example of this, think NYC "chicken chow mein" versus what you get in LA.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Wow Mr. T, you really took me back with that reference to the Springfield Style Chicken. I grew up in Missouri (I'm Korean) and we would drive to K.C. for that. Brings back memories!

                      2. re: TonyC

                        It's funny how an increasing number of Chinese food items are actually made or grown in the US: dumplings, beef jerky, stinky tofu, produce, etc.

                          1. re: TonyC

                            We made it to Chung Seng this Saturday

                            Drove by the first time and saw a little tent outside with various bits and bobs... I was thinking, fresh stinky tofu?? Really? Alas, the high pressure sales lady was selling all manner of odd, uncertified organic-y things like laundry detergent and soap, as well as barley and rice. (Was this the little surprise you refer to?)

                            Inside the shop was a different matter altogether. I was expecting to be knocked over by the aroma of sitnky tofu, but there was nary a trace of the stuff in the air. (There was a sealed bag of lumpy, bluish tinted tofu in the refrigerator which looked an awful like the large squares that Stinky Tofu King uses (albeit not blue) but I didn't get close enough to verify. The did sell some very good tea boiled eggs (moist and flavorful) and a few kinds of pressed tofu in little to-go containers, as well as various other kinds of tofu (tofu for hotpot, tofu for wrapping, tofu dessert pudding, tofu for any occasion) as well as a little grocery in the back. Great place to have on the radar... thanks for the reminder. I found out about the place after returning from my 6 months in Asia and it's taken me literally over 5 years to finally get here.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: TonyC

                              Somehow I missed it on first read... I most definitely do choose to ingest the Chinese Food Of My Youth, but I restrict it solely to trips back home, and only at places which have excellent representations of the stuff. (No point in wasting the calories otherwise).

                              Back in November I went to King Yum in Fresh Meadows. There's absolutely nothing like this in LA, which would be some weird love child of Bahooka, Genghis Cohen, Chinatown Plaza and Tiki-Ti. They have flaming pu pu platters, fehcrissakes!

                              I love the guy at the end of the Yelp video with the Chinese face and the Brooklyn accent saying "We would love to show you what Chinese food should be."


                              For nostalgia, kitsch and freak show value alone this place is spectacular. It's so un-Chinese that it rises to the level of absurdity. It's Charlie Chan Chinese.

                              The great irony is that central Flushing is a 13 minute drive (or 50 minute bus ride) away. I should know-- I rode that Q17 bus twice on my last trip back. Yes, I went back twice.

                              Tony, I'd suggest on your next trip to NYC go to King Yum, which is perhaps the best representation of NY Chinese (or I should say the Chinese food style of the entire Northeast corridor) that you'll find anywhere in the USA at this point. Once you've got that as your benchmark, I'd welcome your comparison with Hu's.

                              Mr Taster

                          2. re: TonyC

                            Your enemies are already threatening to throw your Hu's endorsement in your face at some opportune time in the future.
                            I must say, this doesn't completely undo your years of impressive work in the la food arena, but it does raise serious questions!

                            1. re: echoparkdirt

                              Enemy? No way. Zach B linked to me twice this week on Midtownlunch: . That dude's my freakin' idol.

                              Like I said EPD, "The Eater piece was an exercise in meta-irony".

                              JThur01: believe I've already separately provided Chung Seng's hours to ya ;)

                              1. re: TonyC

                                Tony, yes thanks. Sunday was listed, but a call has already taken care of Saturday, closed Sunday.

                                Curious about their special surprise on Saturday :-)

                      3. re: TonyC

                        I agree with you on Korean Chinese in LA. I throw it in the same basket as Americanized Chinese food.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            you mean korean-owned sushi places or korean-japanese fusion, or both?

                          2. re: Chandavkl

                            I don't think there's anything wrong with americanized chinese food, it is what it is and if you don't compare it to authentic food, some of the dishes can be downright tasty, but of course, some are awful.

                          3. re: TonyC

                            But, who has the best egg rolls? You know, the real kind like you get in Manhattan :-)


                            1. re: JThur01

                              Clearly, you didn't visit the link I posted above!


                              Mr Taster

                        1. Unfortunately I think Feng Mao is the only worthy restaurant on that list and it's not even fully Chinese but rather a specialized lamb/mutton skewer place.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Johnny L

                            Some of the pan fried dishes are quite good. Sadly my favorite was removed from the menu-- a chile pepper, potato and eggplant dish which I understand is typical of that northern part of China near the North Korean border. The name in Chinese translates to something like "3 from the earth."

                            The owner (Lily) is absolutely delightful though, and told us that she'll make it for us if we request it. If you haven't tried it, I recommend it. It's a great accompaniment to the lamb kebabs.

                            Mr Taster

                          2. not to nitpick, but shouldn't the title be, "12 reasons not to drive to San Gabriel(?)" The link is about restaurants west of the I-5 right? Or am I missing something?

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: bolero

                              Yes, you point was most of the places are so lousy that one immediately wants to head East.

                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                Exactly. I'm afraid people are going to mistake this based on Eater's positivity. The gas money is worth it, especially for the amount of food one can get cheaply in the SGV. No contest, it's worth the drive.

                                1. re: JThur01

                                  Does every thread to kawtow to finding NYC-style chinese food? In the SGV, no less? That's like looking for an Olive Garden in Italy.

                                  1. re: david t.

                                    Yes, exactly. I don't understand the obsession with so-called "NY" style Chinese food but can only blame it on the number of East Coast transplants that move to Los Angeles that have never been exposed to real Chinese food

                                    1. re: Ernie

                                      "Why would anyone eat Tito's Tacos when there are so many real taco places in L.A.?"

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        For some reason it is considered an LA institution among the ignorant.

                                    2. re: david t.

                                      One of the best posts here ever. "That's like looking for an Olive Garden in Italy." Sums it up nicely.

                                      Again, there are folks looking for what is "real" to them. Problem is they either don't know or are unwilling to accept that what they know as "real" isn't.

                              2. Actually, JR's Bistro in Chinatown would stand up to some of the finer Cantonese places around.

                                Re: NY expats lamenting the lack of NY style Chinese food. It's no different from those of us raised here in LA missing our favorite childhood Chop Suey joints. Every so often I go to Paul's Kitchen in Downtown LA for pressed duck, with sweet and sour.

                                1. The original comment has been removed