Summary: I grew up in LA and now live in NY. Man-oh-MAN do I miss the food we can get here!! Reasonably-priced sushi that tastes great, fantastic Taiwanese and Chinese food with clean flavors, and of course, Mom's great cooking.
On to the standards I usually hit when I go home:
Still a fantastic value. I can rant forever on the lousyness (lousiness?) of the low-to-mid-priced sushi options in NYC (cold clumpy rice, striated fish with no semblance of texture, lousy cuts...mutter muttter mutter)....but Sushi Gen is great esp for its price. The wait was long (45 min on a Wednesday night?), but mostly it was because everyone wanted to wait for a table.
The sashimi dinner my mom got was what everyone at the tables was waiting for (around $22). And what a deal: she got at least 10 pieces of your usual suspects (tuna, squid, yellowtail, etc) plus a clump of spicy tuna, ...blah blah blah. I'm rarin' to get to my own meal so I'll skip her great deal. My own a la carte order consisted of: silken albacore tuna on a salad, negi toro rolls (I like them! Do I have to be defensive about that?), rich little satchels of creamy uni, yellowtail (god, I'm salivating now), perfect little ama ebi, the accompanying shrimp head soup and fried shrimp head, ankimo (liver). The only thing that didn't stand up to par was the ankimo. It just didn't have the optimal flavor or texture, but i forgive them this off night (have had better there before).
I just sailed out of there, so happy and sated.
Still tops in my book. I think I ate there 5 times in 2 weeks. Btw the 4 of us in my family, we usually got: veg dumplings, *3-ingredient dumpling (sea cucumber, shrimp, and meat), *the pork chop rice, the steamed spareribs with the fermented rice stuff on top, *the greens (absolute favorite, order this if you go to balance out your meal), *the egg rolls, the shrimp dumplings, *the appetizer pickled cabbage, maybe the appetizer soy tripe..we had more, but my brain forgets it in its drugged stupor. Note: starred items are particularly good.
I love this place. Mostly because you can order a balanced, clean , but flavorful meal there (I know people complain of the blandness of the food, but dangit, order multiple things! Diversify what's in front of you and you'll get flavor!) Their chili sauce is good too. P.S. You can order some to go. They sell the chili sauce individually and ladle it out of this ENORMOUS metal bucket.
P.S.S I don't get the furor over Din Tai Fung. It's good, but for regular eating, it seriously has no soul. And my parents live 5 minutes away. We chortle at the lines as we pass by. Since my mom has figured out how to replicate the appetizer, we find little need to stand with them folks. That line is ludicrous!
GOLDEN DELI. Or whatever that Vietnamese place is called on Las Tunas in the shopping center the Newport restaurant's in. Divine! I usually get the broken rice thing, but was just in the mood for some pho this time...and dug in. I can't even describe what the difference is between this manna and the Vietnamese food in NYC. It's a balance of sharp, perfectly on-point flavors and textures, that marry at the end to create a mouth-gasm. Things to get: the rice with pork, an egg omelette thing, pork slivers, etc (#96, i think); the noodle soups; the appetizer meats (your choice) wrapped in lettuce. Their dessert-y drinks are good too. I like the green frozen drink pictured on the back (It has, I think, mung bean, coconut milk, ice, green jello slivers, and red bean)
The place is clean too. We peeked in at the folks in the kitchen while we waited in line and give them thumbs up for some thorough cleansing of their raw greens.
BIFENGTANG. The newer location on Las Tunas. I haven't tried this place before, but it looked popular. Everyone seems to order the crab here, but I'm not terribly impressed with that dish: dry stir-fried but not terribly flavorful. For me, this place was more an interesting trip than a terribly tasty one. We got: the aforementioned crab, the sauteed fried oysters with cucumber, & the cold half-chicken with green parsley sauce. The sauteed oysters had too much breading/flour action going on, resulting in a bit of a viscuous experience, but otherwise, the flavor was fine. The chicken was...eh. Too cold and nothing special.
We almost made it to Dumpling House since I was determined to show my mom how cool Chowhound was (and produce some sort of culinary jewel near us in the SGV that she didn't know about)... but ah well, next time.
I'll report on the place next to Chang's Garden and the dim sum places some other time. Oh, and MASTRO'S! Jeepers, I had a great chowing trip.
In the meantime, if anyone knows of any other great places to eat in a 20 min drive radius from Pasadena, do pass it on. Wishing all chowhounders a great upcoming year..