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Feb 22, 2006 12:07 PM

Does San Diego do East Coast Chinese Food?

  • m

After several years, I have found that SoCal Chinese Food generally means 2 things: PF Changs or too much garlic.

Now that we are living in SD, we are looking for "that great place" that does great sit-down and great take-out in the classic old-school East Coast (D.C. and NY) fashion....not too expensive, the crunchy noodles and hot tea are brought right to the table....the soup comes with the meal, the take-out is fast and good...and PLEASE don't be afraid of a little breading. I know you know what I'm talking about..... :)

Please help!

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  1. "After several years, I have found that SoCal Chinese Food generally means 2 things: PF Changs or too much garlic"

    Good to know that you are so well informed and you know what you are talking. I am just curious which chinese restaurants you have visited in the past in SoCal.

    13 Replies
    1. re: honkman

      Yeah I find that statement preposterous, esp. for SoCal, which I assume includes the whole Monterey Park scene. As to which Chinese restaurant the OP visited, I am thinking pf chang.

      1. re: Peter

        I was not trying to offend....and I was not saying that there is NO good Chinese food in SoCal.

        What I attempted to convey (I guess not very well) is that I am not looking for Asian Fusion cuisine, or a trendy fancy restaurant. I am looking for a family-style restaurant typical (to me) of the places I was used to back east.

        1. re: Mrs. Smith

          San Diego is not noted for its Chinese'd be far better off saving it for a trip when you're up in LA's Chinatown (Hop Li is excellent), or LA suburb of Monterrey Park, or San Francisco....they do, however, have many good Thai restaurants in San Diego.

          1. re: El Chevere

            That's odd - I have the opposite impression. What do you consider a good SD Thai restaurant? I've been looking for excellent Thai in the city.


            1. re: e.d.

              I like Celadon and Kitima (same owners) and Kitima.

              1. re: El Chevere

                Last I saw Celadon and Rama in the Gaslamp had the same Owner - Alex Thao. Celadon is My favorite Thai Restaurant in San Diego, but I really don't find the Thai food in San Diego to be particularly outstanding.

          2. re: Mrs. Smith

            Which restaurants did you try on Convoy ? I think there you have a large variety of different styles of chinese food. If you could give us some ideas which chinese restaurants you visited in SD and why you didn't like it than it would be easier to help.

            1. re: Mrs. Smith

              I think it depends on what you consider "good Chinese food". As you're using the term, "good" equals "what I'm used to eating as Chinese food".

              There are probably thousands of family-style Chinese restaurants in Southern California, but I think you're describing a variety that is relatively unknown on the West Coast. The only Chinese restaurant I've patronized that served the crunchy noodles was in Diamond Bar on Pathfinder Bl., but I think it burned down a couple of years ago....(no loss, the food was pretty bad).

              1. re: ricepad

                Now that I think of it, there's a place on Pearl St in La Jolla (Hong Kong?...they advertise New York Chinese food on their sign and are directly across the street from Pearl Car Hand Wash) that serve crunchy noodles and duck sauce.

                1. re: El Chevere

                  Yes, the China Chef across from Marrakesh. We dined there a lot, but since moving to North County, haven't been back for many years. It was definitely NY style Chinese. I used to like both the General Tso's Chicken and the Tung Ting Shrimp.

              2. re: Mrs. Smith

                can you name some of the dishes you are looking for? It will help if you are looking for Americanized Chinese or the real stuff that is found in SF, LA, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, etc.

                There are many different styles of Chinese cooking and if you are looking for stuff you grew up on, it was most likely Cantonese food because that was the first wave of Chinese immigrants.

              3. re: Peter

                Peter was 100% on the money with that post. It seems all to common that people who haven't a clue bash SoCal or San Diego. Monterrey Park is literally over run with excellent & authentic Chinese restaurants. As for San Diego, check out the places on Convoy as there are several dozen which are not P.F. Chang's.

              4. re: honkman

                There are PLENTY of good Chinese food restaurants in San Diego. There are four Chinese restaurants on Convoy St. that really stands out: Jasmine's, Emerald, China Max, and Imperial Mandarin. Jasmine's and Emerald has delicious tasting dim sum, better than any LA dim sum places that I have visited in Chinatown or San Gabriel Valley. Another good dim sum place would Lucky Star in City Heights area on 54th and University Ave. Although these other places may be more crowded and has an appealing atmosphere, Imperial Mandarin is my favorite because of the various delicious plates that they serve. Try the salt and pepper shrimp (request with no shell), catfish fillet (with black bean sauce), salty and pepper chicken wings, and walnut shrimp. The seafood here is excellent!

                If you head east to the Indian reservations, try the Hong Kong style noodles at China Camp inside Viejas Casino. They serve the noodles perfectly crisp with oyster sauce along with bbq pork and shrimp.

                There's a Jasmine's in East County at the Parkway Plaza mall that serves really good lettuce ground beef with oyster sauce.

                Man, I could go on with the countless number of Chinese restaurants in San Diego from the Clairemont area, to the gaslamp, all the way down to National City/Chula Vista. Just don't go to P.F. Chang's or Panda Express because they are not authentic!

              5. I know what you mean, I miss the east coast places that have good General Tso's chicken, those crunchy noodles dipped in orange duck sauce, etc. It seems like Orange Chicken is the closest thing they've got here to east coast style General Tso's chicken. I usually go to places in and around Convoy St, I heard there's an old school Chinese restaurant called Imperial Mandarin on Convoy but haven't had a chance to try it yet.

                1. Sounds like you need to check out Dumpling Inn on Convoy St.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: JS

                    Other places you might like: Jasmine, China Max Seafood Restaurant.

                    1. re: JS

                      China Max, yes!

                      But Jasmine? The quality/price relationship there seems skewed in the direction of price to me. I think I would try every other Chinese place on Convoy before I would go back to Jasmine. Your results may (and probably do) differ.


                      1. re: e.d.

                        I haven't been to Jasmine in quite some time - mainly because I prefer China Max and Dumpling Inn, depending on what I'm in the mood for. But I've certainly had some good food there, albeit a while ago.

                        Their Szechuan Shrimp and Scallops was great (if not quite authentically Szechuan): giant shrimp and scallops, hardly any filler in the form of celery and water chestnuts, and a generous amount of garlic and jalapenos.

                        1. re: JS

                          Jasmine is abysmally bad for the food and price. I think they've coasted on being the only game in town for years in SD and people thinking that it is "good" Chinese b/c they either didn't know better or had others to compare it with. I would rather wait and head to Vegas, San Gabriel or Artesia (had an outstanding Cantonese banquet there this weekend) for good Cantonese and dim sum.

                          1. re: daantaat

                            I think the last time I ate at Jasmine was over 5 years ago. Sounds like they have gone downhill since then. A shame.

                            1. re: JS

                              I hate it when that happens. I always worry when I post that there is a new chef or something else has changed since I was there last. And then sometimes maybe I got lucky and ordered the right things and the next poster didn't.

                              Not to say that you can't get good food at Jasmine, but I would try China Max, Emerald, Shanghai City (or is it New Shanghai?), or some others first.


                              1. re: e.d.

                                Sadly, New Shanghai is no more. It's been replaced by Jamillah Garden, an Islamic Chinese restaurant. I dearly miss the braised oil-less pork shoulder, and the super spicy szechuan chicken.

                                1. re: JS

                                  As an ex-New Yorker, I vote for Emerald as being "most like" NY Cantonese -- although I actually prefer the newfangled HongKong-ish food at China Max.

                              2. re: JS

                                RE: Jasmine - It's been years for me as well, but I did have good double-steamed soups there in the rare cold weather for San Diego. I think they're a seasonal add-on, not on the regular menu.

                      2. re: JS

                        Dumpling Inn is Northern Chinese food. I suspect from the original post that she is looking for 1970's style Cantonese food. The two cusines are quite different in flavors and textures.

                      3. You might like the Hong Kong Restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest--Fifth almost at the corner of University. Try the chow fun.

                        It is Fifth, isn't it, gang? Now I can't remember...

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Cristina

                          Hong Kong is on Fourth, between University and Robinson.

                          1. re: JS

                            Thanks, I had a senior moment. I think the Hong Kong would be just the ticket for the OP.

                          2. re: Cristina

                            Hong Kong has some great food, but their General's Chicken is that same, tired and JUST WRONG variation where they try to spice up orange chicken and call it General's Chicken,

                            People, General Tso's Chicken has NOTHING to do with citrus or orange, it is a beautiful bend of garlic and hoisin and soy and when done right it is sublime. La Manderette, a hole in the wall on the corner of Hollywood and La Brea in LA do the best that I've ever tasted done in a restaurant.

                          3. Just my $0.02 worth, but your mention of "classic old-school East Coast (D.C. and NY) fashion...." may have thrown the hounds off the scent, while NY is a given, folks on the DC board continue to lament the lack of any decent Chinese food in the District, with maybe one or two minor exceptions.

                            OTOH, like you, I occasionally get a desire for the pan fried noodles & bean sprouts that defined the cuisine in my youth. We threw an appreciation party for family and friends up here in central CA last month, picked out some really great dishes from a little local place, but the big hit (this was a seniors crowd) were the two aforementioned, luckily we'd doubled up on that part of the order. Lady PB and I enjoyed the massive leftovers of the other "stuff" for days.