Kirk is on vacation, Cathy is doing bunches of things, so Ed (from Yuma) has today's post on an unusual eatery in San Gabriel Valley.
I had been researching restaurant possibilities for Tina and my trip to LA, and I was intrigued by a short post that Kirk had written back in August, 2009, about the Northern Chinese Restaurant. It was his second restaurant of the day, so he sampled only a few dishes, but hinted that he would be back. If he ever went back, he never told us readers about it.
Tina and I were looking for something different, something we'd never had before, so this place seemed intriguing and its location just down Valley Boulevard in Rosemead was close to our hotel:
The interior, with only about 14 tables, was clean and attractive. Of course, I wondered what a faux rococo pastoral tapestry was doing on the wall in a Chinese restaurant, but it’s certainly better than a bare wall:
We had arrived a little before 6 PM, by the time we left every one of those 14 tables had customers, sometimes large family groups. Tina and I were the only non-Asians in the place, and maybe the only people there who didn't have family ties to northern China. Nonetheless, we were treated well and the menu had clear translations for each of the over 200 dishes available. It was easy to point to what we wanted on the menu, so there was no confusion in the ordering.
The first dish to arrive was the Dried Tofu with Hot Pepper:
Talk about something different that we never had before! Those pale ribbons are not pasta, but strips of dried tofu. The light sauce had a mild pork flavor and the jalapeno slices added a nice spice and crunch to the dish.
Next was a huge bowl of Sour Napa with Pork Belly Soup:
In addition to the suan cai and pork, there were also chunks of frozen tofu and at the bottom of the bowl long transparent noodles.
For me and Tina, this was true comfort food. You can give pork and sauerkraut a different name and throw in some tofu and noodles, but it is still pork and sauerkraut, a combination that brings back memories of my childhood. The sour cabbage had been prepared perfectly so that the finished dish was sweetly sour, the mild tang cutting through the richness of the meat.
A cold dish, the Spicy Cucumber then arrived at the table:
This simple dish was a perfect palate cleanser – salty, garlicky, spicy, and crisp.
When I thought I was finished ordering, the young man wondered if we wanted rice, so I asked if there was something more typical of northern China that he would recommend, and he pointed to Smoked Meat and Pancake. So I ordered that also:
As soon as I saw it, I realized that this was a dish which Kirk had really enjoyed back in 2009. Of course he had called it by its real name, Xun Rou Da Bing, and of course we really enjoyed it in 2016.
The pancake was like a yeasty flatbread with a bit of chew and a nice crusty exterior. We happily would have eaten the bread by itself, but the dark bean paste sauce was wildly good and deeply flavored. The smoked pork was mild and okay, but if you put it and some scallion strips on top of a wedge of pancake slathered with sauce, you ended up with a very very tasty slice of Northern Chinese pizza: But we weren't finished yet. The last dish to hit the table was the one that turned out to be our favorite overall, Cumin Toothpick Lamb:
The numerous chunks of gamy lamb were all speared with toothpicks. Some pieces were very tender and some a little bit chewy and gristly. The meat, tossed with stir fried onion, was flavored by abundant chili flakes, ginger, cilantro, sesame seeds, and especially cumin seeds. The combination was masterful.
Of course, as you have probably already figured out, we ordered way too much food even for two hungry people. We joked that we needed some starving imaginary friends to help us finish. We did eat most of the smoked meat and pancake in the restaurant, but we still had tons of leftovers. The cold lamb was still incredible two days later.
For us, this was more than just a different and interesting meal, it was a real feast.
The next day, we went to the Getty Museum and kept crossing the paths of a couple of young Chinese women. As we were leaving, we found ourselves waiting for the same elevator, and I asked if I could take their picture. Kindly, they said yes:
Afterwards, we chatted a bit and I learned that the young lady on the left was from Shanghai and the one on the right was from further north. "Beijing?" I asked.
"No, north from there." So I said that Tina and I had just eaten at a northern Chinese restaurant and had dishes like sour cabbage and pork.
While Kirk is out of the country, Cathy posts the most, but today Ed (from Yuma) posts about an old favorite with a new name.
Tina had some slack time at work, so she and I drove up to LA for a few days. During the day we went to LACMA, the Getty, and the Huntington where we especially enjoyed the Chinese Garden:
We stayed at the Hilton on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel. That meant a lot of windshield time to LACMA and especially the Getty, but it also meant that we could have dinners in the San Gabriel Valley, which is a very good thing.
In particular, we wanted to go to Seafood Village in Temple city where we ate several times in the past, but that restaurant (as well as the one in Monterey Park) has been renamed Seafood Palace. Had the quality changed? In addition, we’d always ordered the special deep-fried crab, an amazing dish, but this visit we wanted to see what else the kitchen could do. We went there twice for dinner.
Both times we parked in the large lot behind the restaurant and entered through the back door:
One evening, we ordered a bottle of white wine; Seafood Palace had only two white wines, but we were happy with the Emmolo Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc:
It was complex, medium bodied, and dry – remarkably sophisticated with a very fair markup.
The first dish we ordered, the crab and fish maw soup, arrived in a large attractive bowl:
Wonderful soup. Imagine an egg drop soup with crab flavored broth packed with almost chewy, semi-gelatinous, and mildly flavored fish maws (air bladders). So good we each had three little cups:
This squid dish, salty baked squid I think it's called, really doesn't look baked:
The very light and somewhat salty crust has a bit of a crispy crunch and a touch of chili heat. The squid itself was remarkably tender. The tasty cephalopods were topped with slices of jalapenos and scallions and were served with white pepper and red vinegar.
The garlic fried snow fish (alias black cod, sablefish, butterfish) had an equally light breading and was moist, rich, and properly flaky:
Very well prepared. Not greasy at all, the fresh flavor of the fish accented with garlic.
One of our favorite dishes was the chiu chow scallops and asparagus:
Chiu Chow (various spellings) refers to cookery in the style of Chaozhou (various spellings), a city at the northern coastal apex of Guangdong province. In many ways the cuisine is similar to Cantonese but shows distinct Southeast Asian influences.
The asparagus was thick, fresh, moist, and cut perfectly. The large sliced scallops balanced the vegetable well and the mildly spicy sauce brought everything together. Even the scallions and roasted spinach leaves made small contributions.
We also loved the oysters cooked with scallions and ginger:
Scallions are often underappreciated, but here the fresh green onions became the main vegetable. I also liked the numerous oysters, mildly funky with that taste that reminds me of estuaries or small backwater coves. The ginger likewise was abundant, and the presentation emphasized the similarity of knobby and irregular ginger roots and bumpy and uneven oysters. Sort of a culinary pun.
The braised chiu chow duck was a little more problematic:
Every piece of duck was a bony piece of duck. The sauce was strongly flavored with ginger and leek, but I detected a slight odd herbal note and cornstarch. The hot pieces of duck were also hard for me to eat with chopsticks, lips, teeth, and tongue alone. The next day, however, in the privacy of our hotel room, Tina and I used our hands to devour the pieces of cold leftover duck, so I guess the duck was pretty good after all.
On one visit, we had the house special fried rice:
It was interesting, permeated with seafood flavors but light in texture. There were small clouds of egg white, thin slices of asparagus, scattered shards of crab, and occasional bits of shrimp. The rice matched well with the food, but it was the only thing that seemed kind of high-priced ($13.99).
Overall, however, Tina and I were delighted with Seafood Palace. The service was generally good even though the young man serving our wine didn't seem quite sure how to do it; nonetheless, he and the other servers consistently did well. If you want to see costs of the two meals etc., here is meal #1 :
mmm-yoso!!! is a blog about food. Kirk is busy today and traveling around looking for food, Ed (from Yuma) is busy consuming food and preparing another interesting post about Yumans and their available food choices, so Cathy is writing this post.
Kirk blogged about a few visits when Szechuan Taste first opened,he also mentioned it in mid-March last year. Despite his not so favorable assessment, The Mister has been having on and off cravings for 'spicy' food and we've made a few visits. During our first visit, I determined that the tabletop condiment selection, with the metal tin containing sauce of spices mixed with oil is necessary for me to be happy with the flavor + heat levels here. The Szechuan chicken lunch special ($7) is served with the egg drop soup. It is fine for someone who is used to take out Chinese food, and not spicy to me, again, necessitating the addition of the tabletop sauce. The seafood crispy noodles ($11)is not made to be spicy and the flavors are pretty generic, but enhanced with the addition of the sauce. The green onion pancake ($5) is well made, with the flaky layers quite tasty. However, I ended up wanting more heat and dipped pieces into the sauce part of The Misters choice:of mabo tofu ($9). This was a good sauce, complimenting the tofu and ground pork and not needing any additional 'heat' component.Even the sauce that the spicy wontons ($7) were swimming in wasn't spicy enough for me. Yet, we returned again, hoping for some spicy heat with flavor, perhaps by trying another part of the menu. On this rainy day, the Lamb and fish hot pot ($14) was excellent in both flavor and heat level. Finally, a dish which needed no condiments!The light flavor imparted on the tea smoked duck ($13) was just right and no spice needed to be added.
Hit and miss, not terrible if you have expectations of Chinese food, not great if you are expecting Szechuan.
Szechuan Taste 8199 Claremont Mesa Blvd San Diego 92111 (858) 754-8888 Website
Driving past one of the many strip malls on Convoy, I glanced and noticed Myung In Dumplings was gone. In just a matter of weeks Shan Xi Magic Kitchen had opened. Shan Xi? So we have Xi'an Kitchen (Shaanxi) up the street and now Shanxi down the street?
Man, they really spruced up this place.....
The menu seems to be mostly Shaanxi (maybe they left out the extra 'A') and other regional (I believe I saw twice cooked pork on the menu) items. Sadly, I saw no Mao Er Duo (Cat's Ear Noodle 貓耳朵), a classic Shanxi item on the menu. Still, there were a few of my favorite dishes on the menu....starting with one that was love at first bite in China. Yang Rou Pao Mo. I've given up on finding "real" Yang Rou Pao Mo in SoCal and have resigned myself to the versions here. With that in mind, I really thought the flavors were quite good.
This was enjoyably gamey and rich in the tummy coating way good, muttony, Yang Rou Pao Mo is. It wasn't very salty; though the pickled garlic was too salty. Not much meat or bean thread in this...mostly the wrong type of waxy, pasty, counterfeit leavened bread. Still, it's the best version I've had here in SoCal, richer and more gamey than what Xi'an Kitchen serves.
I wanted something else to go along with the Yang Rou Pao Mo, but really didn't want a carb load, nor did I want anything particularly heavy, so I chose the combination three vegetables.
Man, this had a ton of garlic on it! The eggplant was nicely done, the insides quite molten. I also liked a the mild green chilies, which just had a little "zip". Very simple, but decent.
So, I sent out photos to my friends and of course they wanted to try things out. So Candice, "YummyYummy", Xiāngjiāo, MrQ, and FCMichael met up for lunch.
We started with the Shanxi staple, the sliced noodles.
The noodles weren't particularly good, kind of brittle, and this was a very simple prep. The use of vinegar reminded me of a more Shanxi style dish.
The Garlic Eggplant though, while pretty oily, was quite good.
We quickly noticed that dishes weren't overly salty here. Nice garlic flavor.....pretty decent standard Chinese fare, with decent wok skills.
Since we had a large group, we got the Da Pan Ji (Big Plate Chicken 新疆大盘鸡). I usually love the potatoes in this dish, but we were all a but underwhelmed at everything but the size of the dish.
The chicken was on the tough side and the flavor in spite of looks very tame. Quantity over quality here.
I had to order the Cumin Lamb of course; Zi Ran Yang Rou is one of my favorite dishes.
Other than needing more cumin, the flavor was good. The meat was sliced too thick for my liking and it needed much more color.
One of the favorite dishes of the day was also the cheapest at $4.99, the Pidan with Tofu.
Nicely refreshing, good balanced flavors, not too spicy or salty, you could make out each item in the dish. I'm sure the Missus is going to like this one.
Of course we got the Yang Rou Pao Mo, which was even more gamey this time around.....probably a bit too much for Candice, but "YY", "XJ", and I really enjoyed it.
Even though the food here seems more Shaanxi than Shan Xi, (perhaps it's written correctly in Chinese - I'll ask the Missus), we thought it a decent option for regional Chinese in Kearny Mesa and preferred the dishes here to those at Xi'an Kitchen. Things seem to be looking up on da' Mesa....I hope they keep on coming.
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen 4344 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
A quick note - for those who enjoyed Myung In Dumplings; they've moved to the food court in Zion Market. I'll get a post done soon!
I gotta give it up for Ed from Yuma. In his post on Emerald, he mentioned "Kirk doesn't seem to eat dim sum here anymore". Which is spot on. There's no way I can convince the Missus to grab dim sum in San Diego.....or even my Chinese coworkers. This doesn't mean we haven't been having dim sum, it just means we haven't been having it in America's Finest City. Over the last year, we've been quite busy and not able to get on over to the SGV as much as we'd like. And when we've had to drive there, the Missus has had one spot in mind, Sea Harbour....while my list of places to visit has grown; it's been Sea Harbour, which I've posted on a number of times, including a COMC post, that the Missus wants to visit. So yes Ed; we don't eat much dim sum in San Diego anymore....but it doesn't mean we're not eating dim sum.
It seems we pretty much get the same thing.......so let's just have some photos...
That is not to say that everything Sea Harbour makes is delish....there are those dishes, like the Seafood Pan Fried Noodles that fall short....
And they have gotten rid of some of our favorites....no longer on the menu.....
They've replaced them with other dishes which I'm hoping is as good as this.
We've been to places that folks claim to have "the best dim sum on the West coast". None of them have hit the right notes for us like Sea Harbour. Again, it's the distinction of favorite, versus best....I won't claim that Sea Harbour has "the best" dim sum on the west coast, but it's our favorite place, in terms of execution and quality. Perhaps those who say that Jasmine (yes, folks actually say that) has the "best dim sum on the west coast"......I think they've confused "favorite" with "best".
Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant 3939 Rosemead Blvd Rosemead, CA 91770
It had been a really long day and there was no way I'd be making dinner. So what to pick up on the way home? Village Kitchen and Thai Papaya come to mind, but since by the time I'd be getting home, the Missus would be off to work this one was for me....and I was craving Kwai Fei Chicken. It's been over ten years since I mentioned getting this dish from Golden City and I still crave it a couple of times a year. And I usually get it from Golden City....even when they were located on Convoy way back when. Over the years, I've posted on the place 15-16 times, you can find all those posts on the Big List.
I ended up doing take-out and ordering more than I should have.
Over the years, the chicken's gotten to be a bit drier and tougher. Still, topped with that ginger-scallion-sesame oil sauce, what I call my "cold ginger chicken sauce", because that's what we call the version of Kwai Fei Chicken we eat back home in Hawaii....this is comfort food to me. Especially when the weather gets warmer......savory - herbaceous flavors, with a slight pungency....I can just eat the sauce over rice!
I decided to get some Roast Duck.
Which, on this visit wasn't very good. It wasn't overly salty like many versions in San Diego and it was fairly tender.....it was truly lacking the beany paste and mild five spice flavors I enjoy. Overall, quite bland.
What was really delicious; I'd say even better than the Kwai Fei Chicken on this day was the Pork Intestines with Preserved Vegetable....for some reason, this isn't on the dinner menu, but they were nice enough to make it for me.
The intestines were prepped quite well......I guess it would be even better if it were fried and crisp, but the earthy-musty flavors were nice without being too much. The salty-sour preserved vegetables, which also had just a touch of sweetness kept things in check as did the onions, which added a nice pungency to the dish. Man this was good.
With all the new places opening left and right, it's easy to over-look the rather worn Golden City. I'm glad I didn't on this evening.
Golden City Restaurant 5375 Kearny Villa Rd. San Diego, CA 92123
It's winter in April! At least that's what it felt like last night. A couple more revisits for your consideration.
777 Noodle House:
Another weekend, another list to take of. And another stop for a noodle soup breakfast. It seems like I drop by here every couple of months. And while Ly Heng surely tops this place in terms of Pho/Hu Tieu Nam Vang, I still like the folks working here. They are so nice and friendly.....they still call me "sir" after all these years. Looking at the dining room it struck me that 777 is just one of those places that looked worn since the day they opened.
On this day, I had my sights set on the Pork Intestine Egg Noodle Soup. Strange, but I think it's gotten better over the years, at least I believe better than the first time I had it. Or perhaps my tastes have changed. The noodles were perfect on this day a wonderful counter point to the blanched bean sprouts. The broth wasn't too salty, slightly porky, and had taken on some of the flavor from the intestine.
777 Noodle House 4686 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92105
Island Style Café:
So I got in my loco moco fix. It kind of happened by accident. I was going to lunch with Calvin and Deanna.....due to the rainy weather, pho sounded like a good choice....but they wanted "something different". It really doesn't get much different, even in terms of loco moco's, than the Kaloko Moco.
I thought this was better than the one I had last time, though the easy over eggs were style a bit over cooked. The crepe is such an oddity, but it just goes well with this loco....... The burger was better than what I had before and the gravy wasn't too salty...and heck; there's even some veggies! Check out the carrots! Ha!
Deanna, who is from the Midwest really wasn't ready for this, so she got the teri beef and Korean chicken....she loved the mac salad here, so maybe there's hope for her.
Island Style Cafe 5950 Santo Road San Diego, CA 92124
Tina and Ed (from Yuma) just spent a weekend in wonderful San Diego. We came, we saw, and we ate. Thus, this post at mmm-yoso!!! Tomorrow, Kirk or Cathy will be blogging this blog. Stay Tuned.
Sunday morning Tina and I got together for dim sum with her college friend, CF, who moved to San Diego a few years ago. Dim sum – where in San Diego? Kirk doesn't seem to eat dim sum here anymore, so this blog wasn't much help, but I did see that Emerald had been remodeled and had switched over to menu ordering. Thus, this picture to start the post:
The interior has been extensively remodeled:
When we sat down, we were given a picture menu of the items available, and a long two-sided checklist. I felt like we were voting, not choosing brunch. After the order had been processed, the ballot with a printed list attached was returned to the table:
The system seemed to work well and the dishes arrived one or two at a time, not all at once. When we decided we were still hungry we were able to add more.
The dried shrimp rice rolls were my least favorite item:
There was very little dried shrimp flavor and the noodles, which should be the focal point, were overcooked and too soft. The Chinese broccoli was a nice touch.
We all enjoyed the steamed pork ribs with black beans, but they were generic with nothing about them special:
The barbecued pork tarts were new to me. Slightly bland so hot mustard really perked them up. Their pastry exterior had a pleasant soft crunch though I would've liked more filling:
The seafood dumplings were good with a large shrimp inside. The wrappers were thin and perfectly prepared:
Baked barbecue pork buns are an old favorite of mine, slightly sweet and done well here I thought. More bbq pork than in the tarts:
And we all loved the squid in five spices:
This has been one of my favorites at Emerald for many years. Smaller portion now, but classier presentation. The tentacles are pleasantly crunchy/chewy and a little salty. Now served with two sauces –spicy ketchup and hoisin:
We decided that the little sea-critters tasted best with a touch of each sauce together, kind of a yin yang thing.
Truly amazing to us were the pan fried leek buns:
Fresh vegetable flavors intense inside a nice thin wrapper:
The last item we ordered was another favorite, steamed bean curd roll with meat:
These wrinkly rolls proved that looks can be deceiving. Ugly outside, beautifully meaty within. A good conclusion to the meal.
As Kirk will attest, I'm nowhere near knowledgeable about dim sum (and Chinese food in general). But for my palate this was pretty solid. Certainly better than a lot of dim sum I have eaten over the years. The ordering system works well. When I needed to get someone's attention, I could get it.
While I do miss the Cantonese chaos of carts and cart ladies, I prefer a menu card system. Sometimes back in the day, we'd never see the squid. Sometimes the cart ladies didn't show me the interesting stuff, “you no like.” And sometimes the carts would arrive in the middle of conversations that got lost while we chose shu mai or har gow or turnip cake. Also the menu helps things show up fresh - sometimes even too hot to handle.
Online, some people object to being charged for tea and some thought the prices at the remodeled Emerald too high. You can judge for yourself:
While your results may differ, we left Emerald feeling happy and well fed.
We each got a different version of hot pot; "PL" got the "House Special Hot Pot", basically stinky tofu.
While the amount of protein in the hot pot isn't substantial; the overall portion size is. In addition, we were asked several times if we wanted our broth topped off. In spite of this being "stinky tofu", this wasn't very pungent, the flavor quite mild overall. But at least it wasn't too salty.
Three sauces are provided, the bean curd based sauce is the best overall.
"YZ" got the Korean Style Hot Pot.
One interesting thing to note.....the heating gel used is pretty potent and very hard to control. "YZ" broth kept bubbling up and she had to hold up a napkin to avoid getting splashed.
I got the Lamb Hot Pot, which, according to Lily should have had suan cai. The stuff in my hot pot tasted like plain napa cabbage, lacking in any fermented flavor and not even close to the suan cai we make at home.
The lamb was very tasty and gamey, the mung bean noodle, which I chose instead of rice wet quite well in this along with the enoki mushrooms and tofu. I'm not a fan of blood cake, but I really like the version served here, nice texture, ever so slightly sweet without a strong metallic flavor. I do wish the broth had a bit more flavor though. Along with one fill up of broth; this was more than I could finish.
So what about Lily? Well, the point of this lunch was to chat and enjoy so I took only one shot of every hot pot. As you can tell, it came out much too blurry. Lily ordered the winner of the bunch the Ma-la Hot Pot, which had a nice spice; not super spicy, but quite flavorful. She gave me a nice taste in one of the bowls provided.
Kind of a bummer that the photo of the best item of the day didn't turn out.
Luckily, John and Candice had some time to grab dinner and with the weather unseasonably cold, hot pot sounded like just the thing.
This was very light and lacking in the nice mild sweetness I enjoy.
Candice ordered the Curry Hot Pot which was decent and John the Sate....which must have been good, because he basically destroyed it. I was having such a great time chatting that I forgot to take a photo of the Ma-la Hop Pot, 'doh, lightning strikes twice. So you'll have to settle for this photo and basically take my word or it that this is pretty much the way to go here.
As an extra bonus, I noticed that this came with some intestine....something I really enjoy. Heck, even the fish balls tasted pretty good here. Wish they had a bit more bean curd skin though.
Well, I'm just going to have to drop by again...probably soon if the weather holds its course. As of this writing, I probably enjoy the hot pot, well at least the hot and spicy version (the rest are on the bland side) here more than QT Pot, though I need to revisit them soon. The folks here are nice and since it's grand opening trying real hard. Candice recognized one of the owners as previously working at Noble Chef. I hope they do well....check them out and let me know what you think!
Boiling Passion 3904 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Some photos that have been languishing around for a while....it's time to C(lear) O(ut the) M(emory) C(ard).
Brunch at Tiger! Tiger!:
We'd kind of avoided brunch here as the menu seemed uninspiring. After returning from our last trip, we'd been working hard, so decided to just relax and see how the brunch was here. We were pleasantly surprised. Especially by the wood fired potatoes with the guajillo aioli.
Tiger! Tiger! 3025 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92104
"YZ" had completed a big project, so we decided to go out and grab lunch. We hadn't been to Chef Chin in a while. It was an ok lunch. The best item by far was the Xun Yu, the Jellyfish Head with Chicken the worst.
Chef Chin 4433 Convoy St San Diego, CA 92111
Carnitas' Snack Shack:
It had been over a year since we last visited and the Missus wanted a snack.....and this is Carnitas' Snack Shack, right? We shared the pulled pork hash, which was delish....the fries were much too salty though.
Carnitas' Snack Shack 2632 University Avenue San Diego, CA 92104
Aaaah, there you go....my memory card is a bit lighter now!