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First Look At Peking Tavern

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It's ironic that just a couple of days after an out of town visitor made a request on this board for Chinese food in downtown outside of Chinatown, with the responses pointing out the relative lack of such fare, that I made an unscheduled visit to Peking Tavern on Spring St. and found a potential gem. In the unlikely location of the basement of an old building near the corner of 8th and Spring, we have what might be the best Chinese food in downtown, including Chinatown. Now in one way saying that Peking Tavern is better than anything in Chinatown isn't necessarily that large of a compliment, since compared to the San Gabriel Valley, a comparison to Chinatown is setting the bar kind of low. Also the main fare at Peking Tavern is dumplings and other types of eats that off the top of my head can't be found in Chinatown, so technically there's nothing in Chinatown to compare it to. On the other hand, given that during its soft opening Peking Tavern is crowded with locals and hipsters, it's surprising to find food this good being served to that audience. We tried the pork dumplings, the juicy beef dumplings, the pumpkin shrimp dumplings, plus a combo salad. Everything was excellent, and the dumpling wrappers were great. The pumpkin shrimp dumplings may sound odd, but the sweetness and texture of the pumpkin works well. Of course, Peking Tavern is in its soft opening period, the menu is evolving, so things could change. But at this point things are very encouraging. Peking Tavern is at 806 S. Spring, adjacent to the garment district.

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  1. Pumpkin shrimp dumplings odd? Isn't that a staple at 101?

    11 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      This is real pumpkin. I haven't had the ones at 101 Noodle Express, but I know what some Chinese restaurants in the SGV call pumpkin is really some other kind of squash.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        The other squash is Kabocha, isn't it?

        1. re: JThur01

          Yes, that's what you see in the stores and a lot of the Taiwanese and other restaurants

          1. re: Chandavkl

            For some aggravating reason, so many places call Kabocha Squash "pumpkin" and it isn't. There are vague similarities, but the flavor is entirely different.

            1. re: Tripeler

              Its like calling a slice of sweet potato pie pumpkin pie.

        2. re: Chandavkl

          You haven't had the ones at 101 Noodle Express, get to work buddy.

          1. re: kevin

            They're among my favorites at 101, along with the sole dumplings and the pork and leek.

        3. re: JAB

          they also make them at mama lu's kitchen, where, BTW, a non-chinese came out of the kitchen dressed in food prep gear (the hair net, gloves, and full apron) during lunch today. i'm not sure what to think about a latin-american assembling the XLB i had at lunch.

          while i was waiting for my lunch companion, mama was prompted to ask me if i'd been to her other two places on garvey. i had to tell her: "hai mei you".

          1. re: barryc

            You should have told her you used to buy the frozen bags out of her living room.

            1. re: Chandavkl

              it's still not clear to me why she asked.

            2. re: barryc

              You sound like me after my visit to DTF.

          2. Thanks for the report. Eager to try it out.

            1. Thanks for checking it out, I've been wondering about this place.

              1. Downloaded from their facebook page, here's a pic of those pumpkin shrimp dumplings.

                Oh MY do those look good!

                 
                2 Replies
                1. re: happybaker

                  Those look really fucking good.

                  Any pork in them ????

                  1. re: kevin

                    Their facebook page listed what dishes would be good for pescatarians - and those dumplings were on the list. So I'd say, no pork in them.

                    Must. Have.

                2. I work right there, and am dying for them to open for lunch. I called and was told "about two weeks". Mid-November, can't wait.

                  1. Tried it a couple of weeks ago and been angling for weeks to go back....

                    We found the dumplings pretty good. Not SGV Level (Mama Lu's is always a yard stick for us) but much better than ROC and other more westerly Dumpling places.

                    We ordered the Beef Roll. A Small portion, but it wasn't a fancy version. It touched upon every note a good beef roll should have. But aside from the portion size, I found the scallion pancake a bit too crisp. In some ways, I like the Fox Hill's 101 noodle express version better because it has a bit more of a chew...

                    We also ordered the Zhajiang Noodle Bowl. Again a small portion, but LOADS of flavor. We liked it, but it wasn't as nuanced as we'd like.

                    What we LOVED where the Smashed Cucumber Salad. I so want a bucket of that stuff. And they honestly recaptured the Beef Noodle Soup of my Youth.

                    The owner came by to chat and he said he wasn't trying to play in the SGV game. He wanted to recapture his experienced in HK of his youth. I was in SGV when we got some of the HK exodus. HK cafes began to spring up here and there and I LOVED that beef noodle soup. Nowadays, the most beef noodle soups in SGV mirror pho. Too thin. Too much Magi. This one was robust, had body. A little tea cup of this was revitalizing.

                    Althought the portions are small, it's not a place that is grossly over priced. They also have great happy hour specials. The cocktails are meh. But this cusine really is more beer centric and they have a good beer list as well. When we went it seemed to be embraced by a cross section of DTLA dwellers. There were definate return business and an overall good vibe! We WILL be back. Probably this week... I need that soup.

                    --Dommy!

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Dommy

                      Wow, that sounds awesome!

                      Thanks for this info!

                      1. re: Dommy

                        wait so he wants to recapture the hk of his youth.. by making non cantonese food?

                        as for the beef noodle.. which restaurants make beef noodle like pho that aren't partially vietnamese?

                        1. re: blimpbinge

                          Most recent Beef Noodle Soup Let Downs: Shau May, A and J and 101. And of course, ROC... but I think that would go without saying. None of them had the soul of the soup I had in my youth. Instead they just seemed to be dishwater broths with aromatics.

                          The same experience at many more before them, but I've stopped keeping track of the SGV places I try unless they are truly exceptional. Too much heartbreak.

                          --Dommy!

                          1. re: Dommy

                            Considering I can't find ANY chicken soup in a restaurant as good as my parents made it (or me, with their recipe) I'm thrilled you found Peking Tavern.

                            It's a gift to be able to go out and get the soup of your heart when you don't have the time to make it yourself.

                        2. re: Dommy

                          "Too much Magi"
                          =======

                          You mean "Totole". Maggi didn't open its Dongguan production line til '11 and attempted to penetrate China (by China, I mean the non-Cantonese speaking majority of Chinese) too late. By then Totole (Shanghainese) was already giving away tons of free MSG (or bouillon, whatevs) to every restaurant on Valley Blvd. Commies > Swiss even if Nestle is the biggest food company in the world.

                          Monja, Remy's, Nha Hang Lu, Noodles King and even Daiho are clearly not doing whatever is being proclaimed here in terms of SGV's beef noodle soups. Perhaps look a little harder beyond sewage posing as stock at places like Kang Kang, ne Shau May.

                          Shau May's sole purpose is to serve hungry, single, male China laborers in LA. What is Peking Tavern's?

                          1. re: TonyC

                            To serve skinny, single, female Chinese-American laborers?

                            1. re: chrishei

                              To serve skinny, single, female Generation Z ABC's?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Nice. I'm so there.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  I'm so beating you there.

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    Single. Female. Gen Z. AbCs. (quoting a fellow hound).

                                    Now that's my cup of tea.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      Good luck fighting off all the Justin Bieber wannabes.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        It's part of the eye candy diet. No need to fight anyone off.

                                        1. re: ns1

                                          They obstruct your view.

                                          Fight on!