Martin Strell reported some distressing experiences in a San Gabriel Chinese restaurant: He called ahead to find out if a dish was available, then drove over to find out they were sold out of the dish.

Mr Taster responds: You just have to adjust your expectations for San Gabriel. “I’m married to a lovely Taiwanese woman and we’ve spent several months in both China and Taiwan, and the San Gabriel Valley restaurant scene is authentically Chinese, both in food and attitude, which is to say that one shouldn’t go to either China or SGV with a western style expectation of service,” explains Mr Taster. “We had multiple experiences in China (not just with restaurants) where, in an attempt to be helpful (or, perhaps it was in order not to lose face—we never were able to figure this out), people repeatedly and reliably told us false things, or things they really had no personal knowledge of. As a result, we enter into our interactions with SGV restaurants with low to no expectations for service, and we’re rarely disappointed—even on those occasions where the restaurant is out of a signature dish.”

Mr Taster tells several stories of desperately tracking down Beijing mustard cabbage, making calls, being promised Beijing mustard cabbage, and showing up to find no mustard cabbage. “Just chalk it up to the price of being a Chowhound,” says Chandavkl.

The best way to control for such menu fluctuations and unreliability, suggests Mr Taster, is to come with a researched laundry list. Have many items you’re interested in trying, and you’ll be able to roll with the punches. “I’d save the phone reservations for a time only after you’ve been to the restaurant enough times that the owner knows you’re serious about it,” says Mr Taster.

Discuss: You, Me and Ugyhur: Omar’s Xinjiang Halal (SGV, Pics/Review)

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