San Gabriel Valley Chinese Crawl: Report
On Saturday I went with two dining companions on a Chinese food crawl of the San Gabriel Valley. We went to 5 restaurants in 3 hours, but we only ordered 1-2 things at most places:
1st stop: Luscious Dumpling – We arrived at 11 a.m., when they allegedly opened, but the tables were all full, so they must have started seating at 10:45. The wait wasn't bad though, and as we were waiting, we chatted a bit with the proprietor of the place next door, which opened two months ago (and was completely empty). After a short wait, we got our table, ordered, and enjoyed the little plate of complimentary pickled vegetables. We shared the pork/shrimp/chive boiled dumplings, and the fried pork dumplings. The boiled dumplings were good, but definitely not transcendent. Filling fell apart a little, and I felt that the wrappers were slightly (by about 1 minute) overcooked. This is quite nitpicky though, since the flavors were nice and we all liked them. Fried pork dumplings were excellent – crispy exterior, juicy interior—some of the best fried dumplings I've had in quite some time. Luscious, you might say.
2nd stop: Hui Tou Xiang Noodle House – This is the restaurant next door to Luscious Dumplings, and in the spirit of the Chowhoundish adventure, we gave it a try. What if it was amazing, and right under our noses? We asked what was best, and the proprietor told us that his XLB were better than Din Tai Fung (which I didn't really buy), but also that the hui tou pork dumplings were popular and delicious. We decided to order these hui tou pork dumplings, as well as the boiled fish dumplings. The fish dumplings were cooked properly and the filling had a nice texture, but I found it pretty bland. I know the taste of these dumplings is meant to be mild, but I thought it was too plain. The hui tou pork dumplings had a high meat/wrapper ratio…..the thin wrappers could have used a bit more time on the griddle, since crispier would have been better. These dumplings were long and narrow, somewhat like gyoza…but after such delicious dumplings at Luscious, I'm sorry to report that these didn't really compare.
3rd stop: Back on the original schedule, the next stop was 101 Noodle House. There was a wait for a table, so we opted for takeout, and we just got one order of beef pancake roll. I was tempted to order some dumplings here too (they had the largest dumpling selection of any place we visited), but I knew there was plenty more coming, so I didn't. The beef pancake roll was good – the order consisted of 6 large wrapped pieces, with thin roast beef, cilantro, and sweet (hoisin?) sauce. I've had versions of this in Boston that I like better, since in Boston the various places that make this use a thicker scallion pancake, which I really like. So while I enjoyed the 101 Noodle House experience, it wasn't as special for me.
4th stop: Beijing Pie House: I was in the mood for noodles, so we ended up with Big Plate Noodles, since one of my DCs had had their zha ziang mian recently and wanted to try something new. The noodles themselves were great – homemade, chewy texture. The sauce on the Big Plate Noodles was a tomato-meat sauce, which tasted almost Italian. It also contained bell pepper and onion….I actually found it comforting, but I don't think my friends cared for it as much. We also had the chive and egg pie….these pies are big (like hockey pucks) and this variety contained tiny white shrimp in addition to glass noodles, scrambled egg, and green chive. I don't love pancakes like these to begin with, so this wasn't my favorite dish of the day…but I think they make a very good version at BPH.
5th Stop: Dean Sin World, which might have been my favorite part of the entire trip, mainly because of the vibe and friendliness of the staff. We ordered wonton soup with shrimp wontons….they weren't as exciting as they looked in the photo on the wall (which had a shimmering shrimp), but the soup was mild and comforting, with bits of seaweed, and the wontons themselves (which also contained pork) were tender and plump. We also ordered the crab xiao long bao, which were excellent. The xlb arrived on the table with some of the wrappers punctured, so sadly we lost some of the soup….but the dumplings that weren't broken revealed a delicious broth (rich with crab taste), and a great pork/crab filling. These were some of the best xlb I've ever had, and the price was definitely right at $8.50. One of my dining companions ordered some more food from this place to go (to bring to his wife), so I got to try a little of this later….most exciting to me was the fried rice cake, which were like pan-fried mochi filled with bean paste. Yum. As we were leaving, the proprietor gave us a steamed vegetable bun to try (although I didn't personally end up trying any of this). There were a number of baked and steamed items sitting in the restaurant that looked good, and I would definitely like to try more here (and come back for the XLB).
By the end of our crawl, we were all very full and happy. The great thing about San Gabriel Valley is that I could probably do hundreds tours like this with different places/cuisines and never get bored. I'll definitely try to visit again sometime soon!
More about the rest of my trip in other threads! Will provide the links in reply to this post once I write them!
Photos of noodle dish and xian bing from Beijing Pie House, and the xlb from Dean Sin World
Yeah, it must have been 101 Noodle Express. We did eat our food immediately when it was ready....but sitting on a cement wall on the side of the parking lot.
The plan to put DSW last wasn't really that intentional...just worked out that way. I wasn't driving, so didn't pay a ton of attention, but I think we made a sort of loop. Luscious was the most out-of-the-way, while the last 3 places were all super close together.
I think on my next trip to SGV, I'd try to return to 101 Noodle Express and DSW again, and then try some other places! I sort of regret not trying the dumplings at 101....although I was REALLY full by the end.
Thank you for your food crawl report. Luscious Dumplings is not the best dumpling place imho, but that pan-fried pork dumpling is killer. We've learned from past experiences that one should plan on going early to either the lunch or dinner service. They tend to run out of stuff midway through the service and it's frustrating on one's expectations.
101 Noodle Express (right?) is a place I love to eat in - not take out. Most of the dishes need to be eaten relatively soon after they come out of the kitchen, and the don't-give-a-shit service is refreshing. We almost always tend to get the same lady serving us. Without fail, she carries over the eating utensils and napkins with both hands, raises her hands about a foot above our table, and drops them right in the middle of the table expecting us to sort it out and immediately walks away. She then eventually gets in a shouting match with one of the other ladies or someone in the kitchen. It sounds like your beef rolls are of a different style than what is typical in the SGV - I will stick with our version.
Beijing Pie house is all about the pies - the meat pies. For noodles, go across the parking lot to Kam Hong. I recently enjoyed a great meal at Sweethome Grill on Valley in San Gabriel - they also have killer noodles (supposedly hand-pulled but I think it's kind of a hybrid knife-cut/hand-pulled). If you're going there, as the name implies, the grilled skewers are good. But the cold vegetable dishes are not to be missed - cucumber as well as celery...
Dang, bulavinaka, I thought I was gonna be first to comment! :-) Not that it means anything at all.
Dave MP, nice write-ups. Glad you tried that place next door to your first stop, even if it didn't turn out. Sounds like an awesome tour overall, and glad you ended on the high point. Did you plan it that way, assuming you might like DSW most ahead of time and putting it at the end?
I'm going on my own SGV food crawl a week from today (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852040). Only place you went to in common with mine is Dean Sin World. Gonna compare the XLB to daughter Mama Lu's shop.
Modest vs. nuts, not mutually exclusive! :-) Also, I like to think of myself as the Asian Mr. T (T for Taiwan), so that's a fairly accurate quote. (No, not really.)
Hey, the SGV is at least the big toe! I'm making the most stops on my tour in SGV, though I'll be spending only a fraction of the money there (thanks, Animal and Red Medicine!). But I don't want to derail the OP's thread.