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Good Huaiyang Chinese food at Lake Spring in Monterey Park (long)

jerome | Jun 20, 200108:07 PM

Well, when Silver Wing moved, there went my huaiyang snacks. But last night went to Lake Spring in Monterey Park on Garvey just east of Garfield. They are now on the North Side of the street. Often, restaurants serving this kind of food will call it Shanghai food, or Yangchow or Hangzhou. The three traditional centers are Yangzhou, Hangzhou and Ningbo. It's the food of the Yangtse delta.
What was great? Well the Lions Head Clay Pot dish was amazing, best I've had (pork huge meatballs with bamboo and winter mushrooms and cabbage) and the broth was great. We got the house special chicken which is a riff on beggar's chicken (Chinese here is FuGuiJi). What looked like a whole poussin was stuffed with mushrooms and herbs, wrapped in lotus leaves and then aluminum foil (no clay because of lead content) and then baked(?). Incredibly tender, fall off the bone good - we asked for lotus seeds to be put in it when we advance ordered (24 hrs necessary) and they were great. Eat with steamed buns.
The eel with chinese chives/yellow leeks/jiu-huang was good but too similar in flavor to the lions head. The Smoked fish appetizer was chewy and tasty, but beware little bones (carp?), the braised shrimp appetizer good but too szechwan-lite, not a great choice here. The xiao-long-bao, smalled steamed buns with a bit of soup inside were good, but I've had better in LA. THEY ARE NOT stingy with the zhenjiang black vinegar which I like.
Desserts were mixed. The steamed eight-treasure rice (babao tian-fan) made with glutinous rice (nuomi) was the best I've ever had, we got a medium order. The other dish, wine lees soup roundels (Jiuniang Tangyuan) was horrible. It was similar to a dish I had in SF two weeks ago at another Huaiyang restaurant on Clement near 15th, Fortune Village(?) or something like that. But the dish there, Osmanthus flower dumpling soup (Gui-hua tang yuan) was refreshing and light and sweet. Here, the dish tasted bitter and off -not sure as I hadn't had it before, but it really did taste like there was some kind of dishwashing liquid left in the bowl. Now, I'm not saying there was, but all four of us found the dish unpleasant.
If you like "Shanghai" style Chinese food, or want to try it, this is as good a place as any. The House Special chicken is $28, and I do recommend you ask them to put lotus seeds - lianzi (LEE-yen-dzuh) in the chicken as well.

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