Lucky Noodle King

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Lucky Noodle King
534 E Valley Blvd, Ste 10
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 573-5668
www.luckynoodleking.com

Funny how things turn out…

We had this grand plan of finally going to Chengdu Taste this past Saturday. I actually wasn’t the one who suggested it, because I was among Canto people, and you know how weak they are at handling spice ;). But my friend Ben lives near the restaurant, and was very curious about Szechuan/Sichuan cuisine. Of course, it didn’t take much to get me excited about going, and I even went as far as announcing our impending dinner on Twitter, and asking the local big shots (Clarissa Wei, David Chan, SinoSoul) what to order. Knowing how busy the restaurant is, especially after the J. Gold review, I suggested that we have dinner before 6pm. But NOOOOO – these idiots insisted on 7:30, even mentioning that an hour’s wait is doable. Little did they know…

I warned these idiots thusly – there were at least 20 parties ahead of us. We had planned on watching a movie at 10pm, so figured an hour’s wait was okay. But half an hour passed, and only 2 names were crossed out. Then an hour passed, and only another 2 were crossed out. People were not coming out – must be because of the free wi-fi! Anyways, there was no way we would get in and eat dinner before the movie, so unfortunately my dream of dining at Chengdu Taste will have to be fulfilled another day. Since we were so locked in on Sichuan food that night, I first thought of Chung King as the contingency plan – but they closed at 9 (c’mon, really?). But luckily (pun unintended), nearby Lucky Noodle King came to the rescue.

Lucky Noodle King had been on my to-dine list for quite some time, but it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle when the Andrew Wiggins of the SGV universe enters the picture. The restaurant had the spotlight itself a couple of years ago, when J. Gold reviewed the place, and subsequently naming their dan dan mian as one of his top 10 dishes of that year (Mr. Chan echoes a similar sentiment) – so in no way should this dinner be considered some also-ran. We got there around 9, and the place was empty (they technically close at 9:30). But by mid-meal, the tiny restaurant was packed, all 5-6 tables of it. Upon being seated, we received a plate of spicy cabbage and peanuts, which set the mood for the night: Hot in Herre!

I consider my spice tolerance to be moderate, and it held up pretty well during dinner. But I sweat A LOT when I eat spicy foods (doesn’t help being fat), and I went through the napkins quickly – but it burned so good. We basically ordered the most basic of Sichuan dishes, since the guys weren’t familiar with the cuisine: water-boiled fish, mapo tofu, wontons in chili oil, Chongqing fried chicken, and of course the dan dan mian. The first 3 dishes were executed as well as any version I’ve had in the SGV. But let’s talk about this dan dan mian that’s so hot (again, pun unintended). Every version I’ve had of the dish goes heavy-handed with either the spice, the sesame paste, or the peanuts, but never all 3 aspects. But Lucky Noodle King balances these characteristics of the ideal dan dan mian well (although it might not seem like it above from the angle I shot the dish at), and they worked off all each other wonderfully.

The Chongqing fried chicken was the table favorite, but it was probably the weakest dish of the night for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was still good, but I wanted the pieces of chicken to be crispier. Also, there seemed to be some bits of sugar tossed in – not sure if that’s supposed to be there, but I didn’t like the wok-charred pieces I ate, thinking that they were chicken (maybe the dish was Americanized for us?). Will probably try the intestine version next time, or get one of their hot pots or double-cooked pork – I will definitely be returning. Regardless, the dinner was a successful one, and we were lucky (okay, pun intended here) to have Sichuan food of this caliber while deciding on the fly.

And sorry for starting off this post so Chengdu Taste-heavy…

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Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Chinese San Gabriel $ B+

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China Poblano

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China Poblano
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7900
http://www.chinapoblano.com/

So China Poblano is the final product of what was supposed to be a Chinese restaurant The Cosmopolitan commissioned Chef Jose Andres to conceive? Sounds a little… preposterous. My theory: the hotel wanted to give Chef Andres two restaurants to appease him as the top dog in the building, but Chef didn’t know what type of restaurant to open (especially if planning for é was already in the works within Jaleo – since Spanish and “modernist” are what Chef’s known for). In the end, he probably conceived the idea of a Sino-Mexican fusion while drunk. But hey, Asian-Latin fusion? It’s been proven as a successful combination (see: Roy Choi restaurants).

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The menu concept of the restaurant is actually a little different than I expected (but the $0.88 pricing to some of the Chinese dishes is pretty hilarious) . For the most part, the two cuisines are kept separate in their own categories and individual dishes. But there are dishes where the fusion magic happens, and those are the most interesting-sounding dishes. I had already ate dinner at Holsteins next door that night last summer while I was in Vegas, but seeing that those takeout windows were actually working (I thought they were just for-show decor-wise at first), I decided to order a couple of the tacos for the walk back to our hotel room.

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I ordered the Silencio, which has duck tongue and lychee, and the Viva China, which has beef tendon, Kumamoto oysters, scallions, and a Sichuan peppercorn sauce. For $5.50 per taco, they were actually pretty fairly priced, factoring in the ingredients and location (although the other dishes are on the high side). The freshly-pressed tortillas (not sure if they were flour or corn, but could’ve been a combination) had a nice griddle to it, but were a little too soft and thin as vessels. The combination of ingredients were quite interesting, but didn’t necessarily work as a composed taco. Still, the menu as a whole looks fun and promising, and I’m hoping to try the restaurant as a whole in the future.

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Chinese/Mexican Las Vegas/The Cosmopolitan $$$ B-

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JTYH

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I’m REALLY behind in updating this blog – blame it on apathy, laziness, work, even the rain. But my fatass has still been dining out, adding to the long list of places I need to write about. Sure, I can prioritize some and completely disregard others (which I do to a certain extent – since I do plan on getting to all of them eventually), but this blog is first and foremost a dining journal for myself. So it would not serve its true purpose if I didn’t write about all the restaurants I’ve visited, albeit half-assed most likely.

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Back in August, I went to JTYH in Rosemead for an early dinner (5pm-ish) after leaving work early on a weekday to pick up my car from the shop in South El Monte (yeah it’s really far from me, but I really like them). “Foodies” and Yelpers are probably already familiar with the restaurant (I will have to credit SinoSoul yet again for the discovery), making the trek for their famous Shanxi dao xiao mian (knife-cut noodles). And the most popular and well-received version of these noodles, the lamb noodle soup, justified their praises. Dense, slippery, toothsome – you name it, these noodles got it.

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As for the rest of the menu, it reads like a standard conglomerate of Northern Chinese cuisines. You got your standard beef rolls and dumplings, as well as the spicy Szechuan/Yunnan dishes. I ordered the Chongqing-style fried pig intestines (loved it), the pan-fried pork baos (like greasy bastard sons of the ones you’d find at Shanghai restaurants – pretty good), and the “cat ears” to-go (fairly standard, but solid). In an ever-so-crowded (and increasing) field of Chinese restaurants in the SGV, JTYH has proven that it can stand tall above the competition.

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Chris Hei grade: B+

JTYH
9425 Valley Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 442-8999

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Baccali Cafe & Rotisserie

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Cafes in the SGV – blah, blah.

There was a discussion on Chowhound re: late-night restaurants in the SGV started by The Offalo, and all I could think of was cafes. My conclusion: SGV is not a culinary haven after 10pm. But if I did have to choose a cafe, then Baccali would arguably be my current choice. Typical expansive menu that you’d find at a typical cafe, but Baccali executes it pretty well. Don’t get the chicken though, even if they do feature it as a specialty – it’s dry and fairly bland. Steak is decent for a medium-well cheap cut, as good as it’s going to get at a cafe. I usually stick to the noodles, and that’s where I would direct most people. After you party hard with your AzN and FOB friends, there are far worse things to eat.

Chris Hei grade: B-

Baccali
245 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 293-3300

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Shanghai Restaurant

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Came here with family for grandma’s 80th birthday. We had two large tables in the back, and ordered the biggest set menu they had. Everything was…forgettable. Everything was either too oily, too salty, or too bland. Even the dongpo pork was just decent, and everyone knows what a pork belly whore I am! Only second base for this one. Service was ok though. And I had a really good time with the extended family. Just wished that it was at one of the other Shanghainese restaurants that were on my to-dine list. Anyways…love you grandma!

Chris Hei grade: C

Shanghai Restaurant
140 W Valley Blvd, Ste 211
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-0991

Huge Tree Pastry

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In west [Taipei] born and raised,
On the playground was where I spent most of my days…

First of all, I have no idea if I was born and raised in the western part of Taipei, and I probably wasn’t spending most of my days on the playground due to all that smog. However, despite Eugenia’s recent Trump-like rants directed at me like I’m President Obama, I’m still a Taiwanese boy at heart – food-wise. But like Will on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, my time in LA has made me soft. I had forgotten my culinary roots! Doesn’t help that there isn’t a plethora of Taiwanese options in LA, and that I grew up west of Downtown away from all the Chinese people, but now that I’ve grown up there is absolutely no excuse to continually put off rediscovering all the foods I grew up loving.

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The road to recovery begins with Taiwanese breakfast (for a guide/background, I point you to Serious Eats’ article, written by LA-based Clarissa Wei). One of the most popular places for Taiwanese breakfast is Huge Tree Pastry on Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park. I’ve been to their former location with my grandparents, but that was a long time ago. The biggest problem for me with regards to getting Taiwanese breakfast is that I can’t get to SGV before these places close on weekdays, and I sleep in on weekends (hence me being away from dim sum for far too long as well). But here I was one day, in Monterey Park visiting grandparents and running errands. Yes 6pm isn’t an optimal time for shao bing you tiao, but when else am I going to have an opportunity?

I walked in, placed my to-go order (to-go because I was buying stuff for days), and of course pulled as much Mandarin out of my ass as I could without sounding like too much of an idiot (love the owner). Niu rou shao bing, fan tuan, gua bao, dou jiang, mi jiang – all my childhood friends! It was like an elementary school reunion for a loner fat kid in Taiwan. Of course, I threw Eugenia a bone and ate the other 95% of what I brought back. Not wanting to go into detail, I’ll say that this is simple food for simple folks. No gimmicks here – just simple ingredients in simple preparations. But such banal descriptions cannot describe the ability that the food is able to accomplish in satisfying a Taiwanese boy’s inner childhood memories and pleasures.

I’ve been back a couple of times since, and each visit has been late and me ordering way too much to-go. But if I’m heading east to SGV and it’s before 7pm, I’m making a beeline for Huge Tree Pastry, and no one better get in my way.

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Chris Hei grade: B+

Huge Tree Pastry
423 N Atlantic Blvd, Ste 106
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 458-8689

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Ji Rong

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Ji Rong is currently my go-to choice for peking duck, over the likes of Beijing Duck House and Duck House. Like the other restaurants mentioned, Ji Rong specializes in various Northern Chinese cuisines, though it doesn’t really do any of them too well – the dishes are somewhat hit-or-miss (try to stick to the regional dishes rather than the lunch specials, etc.). When we went for lunch last month, the place was packed with locals, as usual. Because they’re usually pretty busy, you have to call in to reserve the duck. Regarding the duck, the skin is crispy and has the excess fat removed, while the rest of the duck meat is shredded and served with pancakes, tian mian jiang, scallion, cucumber – the usual. The duck meat is a bit bland, but combining all the ingredients into a duck burrito is just delicious. So go if you have a peking duck craving, or let me know if there’s a better place, because I’ve been continuously searching…

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Chris Hei grade: B

Ji Rong
8450 Valley Blvd Ste 115
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 280-8600

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