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Oct 19, 2013 10:06 AM

First Look At Peking Tavern

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.