Newport Seafood (3)

Another place I’ve already written twice about, so won’t say too much here. But Newport Seafood continues to be my favorite Chinese restaurant (even if it’s not completely Chinese). It was a crime not returning for over eight months, so it was the perfect place to celebrate my birthday early with family. There were only four of us, so didn’t get to order too much. Of course, the lobster and beef loc lac are must-orders, and the clams are always a hit with my family. Decided to try the fried frog legs this time, since they were out of elephant clam (geoduck) – they were pretty good, but nowhere near the quality of the other three dishes. Still, everything else was as good as ever. And we went around 5:30pm on a Thursday, so the restaurant was less than half full. By the time we left, it was packed. So go early, since they don’t take reservations.

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Chris Hei grade: A

Newport Tan Cang Seafood Restaurant
518 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 289-5998

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Ding’s Garden

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For an area with so many Chinese people, you’d think that there would be a plethora of quality Chinese options as well in the Rowland Heights area. Unfortunately, the options are nothing compared to the heart of SGV. But we’re in the area quite a bit, as most of you who actually visit my blog know. We were originally going to go get dim sum at Happy Harbor, but it was closing (we went at around 2:45). Faced with the decision of going to Coconut Bay without NFL games on, Han quickly looked for another place for us. He found Ding’s Garden, in same plaza as Coconut Bay.

For some reason I assumed it was Taiwanese cuisine, but realized my mistake when I saw the numerous beef noodle soup and xiao long bao options on the menu. The six of us (myself, Han, Natalie, Daniel, Liz, and Stephen) ordered: 2x beef noodle soup, cold appetizer combo, onion pancake, and XLB for Liz. It was enough, since we weren’t that hungry, and Stephen didn’t want to eat the tripe, bean curd, etc. because he’s as white as rice (which he probably doesn’t eat either). Nothing great, and nowhere near the quality of similar restaurants in SGV, but everything was fairly solid.

Beef noodle soup tasted…like beef noodle soup. The cold cuts were pretty good, too. The onion pancake was interesting, because they weren’t the thin ones most people are accustomed to. Rather, they were thick and doughy, reminiscent of those sesame pancakes you see at Chinese Islamic restaurants. And the outside was crispy as if it had been in a deep fryer. Not bad, although I’ll take the normal version any day. Overall, Ding’s Garden is arguably my favorite restaurant in the area now, and isn’t that just a bit sad…

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Chris Hei grade: B-

Ding’s Garden
18922 Gale Ave, Ste A
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 810-0600

Ding's Garden on Urbanspoon

Beijing Pie House


Photo credit: Gastronomy

Came here on a random Wednesday night when I was in the area. It was on one of my Foursquare to-try lists, and I figured it would be something simple and cheap. And it certainly did live up to those two expectations. But after reading a favorable article from LA Weekly, would it live up to those expectations?

Beijing Pie House is known for their northern Chinese items, the xian bing in particular. Xian bing, named as “pies” on the menu, are these thick discs of dough stuffed with filling. Think Chinese papusas. The best and most popular variation is the lamb one, and it’s a good one. You have to eat it carefully and slowly, because the inside is hot and juicy, and can squirt all over the place (get your minds out of the gutter, people). It’s kind of like a ghetto version of the shen jian bao, really.

I also tried the jing dong rou bing (at least that’s what the Chinese looked like to me – the English name is “homeland meat cake”). I liked this one just as much as the lamb pie. It has alternating layers of spiced ground pork and pancake (like the one used to wrap beef rolls). The zha jiang mein (“Beijing Style Noodles,” for reasons I can’t comprehend) came out chilled and deconstructed, which I have no problem with. But mix it all together and what you get is a subpar mutt of a Chinese and Korean version in one.

There were only a couple of other tables when I was there. Both tables had the lamb hot pot only. It didn’t look like anything special though – just slices of lamb you could find at 99 Ranch and some veggies. There were also a few to-go orders, and I think in the future that is what I’ll do. Order some lamb pies and meat cake, and you got yourself some pretty damn good snacks. But it wasn’t the most exciting of foods, and I don’t know if I would go out of my way to dine there for northern Chinese, especially with Dean Sin World and 101 Noodle Express nearby.

Beijing Style Noodle
Beijing Style Noodles ($5.99)

Lamb Pie (4)
Lamb Pie ($7.99)

Homeland Meat Cake
Homeland Meat Cake ($7.99)

Chris Hei grade: B

Beijing Pie House
846 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 288-3818

Beijing Pie House on Urbanspoon

Lake Spring Shanghai

Lake Spring Shanghai Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael R Perry on flickr

What happened to you, Lake Spring Shanghai? You used to be the belle of the Shanghainese cuisine ball in SGV, the class valedictorian. Then like all the Asian girls I know from UCLA, you hooked up with some white guy and things went down from there. Then you rediscover your culture, started studying again, and looking like the hot, smart Asian girl who you once were. But now? I’m not so sure…

If my lame analogy above is hard to follow, this is what happened: my family and I loved and frequented Lake Spring Shanghai for a long time. Then a new owner (I think he was Jewish, at least according to SinoSoul) took over, and the food went downhill. Then my grandma said that the old owner bought back the place, and the food was good again. And it had been pretty good during my few visits over the last couple of years. Not as good as I remembered, but still one of the better Chinese restaurants in SGV.

My grandparents still love the place, and go on a fairly regular basis (the servers know them). And we decided to go for Chinese New Year’s eve…WE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE. I guess they overbooked the place, and people who thought they could walk-in showed up in horror of what they saw. It was like trying to squeeze onto a MTA bus at 7am – everyone was packed close to one another. You got old Chinese people trying to snipe tables that they didn’t reserve, and everyone just standing next to tables, cluttering all walking lanes and the entrance. The fire marshal would’ve fainted at the sight.

But what about the food? As with most places in SGV, the quality really goes down during special days like this. Everything is either pre-made or half-assed, or in our case most likely both. It’s really hard to get on them during a dinner like this, but they should’ve planned it much better. We were among the earliest seating with a reservation at 5:30, and it was still a complete mess in terms of what was served. Pork hock was dry and bland, sea cucumbers were rough and uncleaned, soup was like oily water. The only good thing all night was a plate of veggies…enough said.

I’m sure they’re better than this normally. Lesson of the day: don’t eat in SGV on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Chris Hei grade: C

Lake Spring Shanghai
219 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 280-3571

Lake Spring Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Beijing Duck House

12/25/11

For a “duck house,” Beijing Duck House sure has a lot of seafood. And it’s not as if they’re good at it, either. The family decided to come here on Christmas day for lunch, like most Chinese families in the SGV who don’t abide by American traditions. I was actually really excited about coming here, because I haven’t had peking duck in a LONG time, and I had read a positive review of the restaurant by Jonathan Gold in LA Weekly months ago. My grandma ordered a set meal, where an order of duck came with numerous dishes and a soup made from the duck leftovers. Sounded very promising.

After waiting for an extended period of time (even though we came early and the restaurant wasn’t packed yet), the dishes started rolling out. First came a sauteed squid dish. Then a sauteed vegetables dish. Then a sauteed fish dish. All three of these dishes seemed to be prepared the same way, and said way wasn’t very good unfortunately. Just a bunch of stuff sauteed in a salty sauce x3. Following these was a spicy sauteed fish dish of sorts, but the fish was just terrible in this one. There were also a couple of side dishes in the form of duck liver and smoked fish. Both were surprisingly unspectacular.

Then came the main attraction: the duck. Although the duck tasted fine, it appeared to be pre-cut and prepared far in advance, so it wasn’t very hot coming out. Also, the skin had no crisp whatsoever. Taste itself was decent though, and pancakes were nice, but factor in everything else and what you have is an okay peking duck with a poor supporting cast. If I wanted to nitpick even further, I could mention that some of the meat was a bit over. Even the soup made from the duck felt lifeless. And the shredded duck with bean sprouts was like all the other sauteed dishes :(

I was really looking forward to this meal, and sadly it didn’t live up to any expectations. Maybe it was just an off day, but if I were to visit a peking duck restaurant, I’ll err on the safe side and visit Duck House or Ji Rong next time. My peking duck cravings have since grown exponentially due to this meal, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Chris Hei grade: C

Beijing Duck House
6420 Rosemead Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91775
(626) 286-5508

Beijing Duck House on Urbanspoon

Supreme Dragon

Photo credit: Anita L. on Yelp

We started playing our basketball games in Covina lately, as opposed to Industry/Rowland Heights. Since we had no idea what to eat in Covina, Han suggested that we still go to Rowland Heights to eat (I think he really wanted to eat Chinese). Anyways, he brought up Supreme Dragon, so that’s where we ended up going.

After trying various dishes ordered by everyone at the table, I have come to the conclusion that Supreme Dragon is basically a poor man’s version of 101 Noodle Express and Dean Sin World. Their dishes, like the xiao long bao and beef noodle soup, aren’t as good as those two places, but still quite solid. Supreme Dragon is best restaurant I’ve tried at Rowland Heights so far. The pan-fried bao, in particular, was good. They’re smaller than what I’m used to (rather cute-looking, actually), but they were fried well and tasted good. I would have no problem coming back after games on Sunday.

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Chris Hei grade: B-

Supreme Dragon
18406 Colima Rd, Ste E
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 810-0396

Supreme Dragon on Urbanspoon

101 Noodle Express

Photo credit: Gastronomy

Danno has ordered their beef rolls to-go a couple of times when I’ve been at his house in recent months, but I haven’t been back to dine in at 101 Noodle Express in at least a year. But I drove past the restaurant after dropping my grandma off at her Chinese opera class on my way home, and I thought: “What better time than any to have some of the beef rolls I’ve spoken so much about again?” I ordered it to-go of course, having just finished lunch with the family.

PhotoStill very good, and still the best beef rolls I’ve had. The restaurant has some good noodle and dumpling dishes as well, but they’re nothing of the beef rolls’ caliber. I normally wouldn’t write about a single dish that I’ve taken to-go, but I don’t know when I’ll be back to eat at the restaurant, so this minor post will have to suffice. Hopefully it’ll be soon, so I can give everyone a more detailed account.

Chris Hei grade: B+

101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 300-8654

101 Noodle Express on Urbanspoon

Seafood Village

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The family decided to come here for my grandparents’ 59th anniversary, because it was near their place. I remember coming to Seafood Village a while back, and thought that the food was decent, but not noteworthy. But my grandparents said that they’ve been here recently, and it was pretty good. So I was definitely open to the idea of trying it again. Also, who am I to complain? I’m terrible at making decisions, and I was in an area where there are a dozen restaurants per block.

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We ordered a combination of lunch special dishes, and house specials that are displayed on the restaurant’s walls. The pork belly dish was good, as was the tofu and seafood dish and the black bean oyster dish. Their version of the beef loc lac was nowhere as good as Newport’s (way too sweet), although their clams with basil weren’t too far off. Overall, it was a solid lunch, but was very filling and satisfying. If I do go back, I’ll have to order their house special crab, and some more of-the-wall seafood dishes (literally).

Chris Hei grade: B

Seafood Village
684 W Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 289-0088

Seafood Village on Urbanspoon

Kingburg Kitchen

Photo credit: Eileen T. on Yelp

Two things came to mind when TTH suggested this restaurant last Sunday: 1) oh god, another Justin Ko recommendation? and 2) what kind of Chinese restaurant name is “Kingburg”? Of course I had my reservations about this place as a result. But if he is indeed right about this, then I would have myself another cheap noodle and dumpling place to go to in the SGV. Plus he was about to win his fantasy football matchup for the week, so anything was possible.

PhotoBeef Noodle Soup (Spicy)

PhotoDumplings with Pork, Sea Cucumber, and Shrimp

The restaurant has an interesting option where you may select one of the noodle dishes and five pieces of dumplings for either $6.50 or $7 (depending on type of dumplings you order). A pretty cool option, especially if you’re dining solo and want some variety. The beef noodle soup was not bad, but could’ve used a little more salt. The dumplings, while not as juicy as I had hoped, was pretty good once paired with some soy and vinegar. Kingburg (still don’t know why it’s named so) doesn’t do either particularly well, but both the noodles and dumplings were both decent.

Chris Hei grade: B-

Kingburg Kitchen
715 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 282-2386

Kingburg Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Green Island

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Despite the number of photos I have, I think I’ll just do a lazy post for Green Island. We came here a couple of Saturdays ago. The restaurant looks relatively new (located in that new fancy-looking plaza on Atlantic Blvd with the condos), and is the sister restaurant of the Temple City one that shares the same name. Inside the restaurant, the decor is more upscale than your traditional Chinese restaurant in the SGV (however tacky it looks), and there’s even individual TVs at some of the booths/tables.

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PhotoWe had six people, and ordered eight dishes (two were freebies because we ordered more than seventy dollars I believe). Some were pretty good, but most were just average. I was really hungry that night, so I ate everything with joy. But it’s a good thing I had time to let my thoughts about the restaurant marinate, because I have a tendency to let my hunger dictate my palate at times. Everyone raves about the fried rice (we ordered both the “prime rib eye” and eel varieties), and they were really filling, but take away the dog and pony show that is the stone bowl with table serving of mixing the rice, and what you have left is just a simple order of fried rice (although it was decent). The majority of my apathy of Green Island stems from their “pork belly” dishes. They weren’t really pork belly, but rather just some fatty cuts of cheap pork in my opinion. They could’ve just said pork, but with the pork belly in the description, I definitely raised my expectations of those dishes. Total letdown.

So average some decent dishes with some disappointing ones, and what you have left is an average restaurant. My group really liked the restaurant though, so there is a good chance I might be back to reassess my opinion of the place. And if you’re looking for value, Green Island does provide that (we ate all of the above for less than fifteen dollars per person including tax and tip). Still, if it was my choice I wouldn’t choose to come here.

Chris Hei grade: C

Green Island
500 N Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 289-7788

Green Island on Urbanspoon