“In the realm of Shanghai restaurants in So Cal, with time-intensive, slow-braised items like hong shao rou (braised pork) and ti pang (pork pump), finding establishments that serve these dishes freshly made that day are becoming rarer and rarer,” says exilekiss. “So when you run across a Shanghai restaurant that makes its slow-braised meat dishes fresh that morning and throws out whatever doesn’t get served to ensure freshness, it deserves to be applauded.” Yes, Yu Garden is a most devoted maker of Shanghai pork.
Tuh suh hsiao yuan ti—house special braised pork shank—“arrives in all its quivering, luscious glory,” says exilekiss. Most of the Shanghai-style pork shanks and pork pumps around town have been so disappointing lately, says exilekiss, tending toward dull, muted flavors. But Yu Garden’s version is ultratender, moist, succulent, utterly vibrant, fresh, and delicious. It has the pure taste of slow-cooked pork, says exilekiss.
Chef Hu makes only a few of these each day, and he doesn’t serve leftovers; once they’re out, they’re out.
Zao liu yu pian—fish slices fried with wine—has a wine sauce that’s enchantingly fragrant, says exilekiss. Crab with rice cakes has soft, supple rice cakes, but what really makes this dish sing is the live crab’s sweetness and brightness, says exilekiss.
One of the most unexpected surprises: chuen juen, Shanghai-style egg rolls. The superlight, superthin, crispy, crackling skin gives way to a liquid, piping-hot center of pure napa cabbage. It wows, says exilekiss.
Not everything here is great. But the great items knock it out of the park. The cooking is simple, and focuses on fresh, clear flavors.
Yu Garden [San Gabriel Valley]
107 E. Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel