I did a post requesting Chinese restaurant recs around Easter. I had great recommendations (Thank you!), but due to circumstances beyond my control, ended up trying none of them. Finally, yesterday my husband and I ventured out to try Homestyle (301 West Valley Boulevard) in San Gabriel. We had a great experience and a lesson was learned.
When we got there (about 11:45 a.m. on Sunday) there were no other customers. We had seen recommendations for the Garlic Eggplant (cold appetizer), so we knew we wanted that. We were going to try a cumin beef dish and pork dumplings and something else to start. I lived in China for a year, in Shandong Province, so I was excited about getting some authentic Northern Chinese cuisine.
We ordered the Garlic Eggplant, then the waitress kept suggesting something I didn't understand. After a couple of minutes we realized she was saying "Sweet and Sour Pork." Well - I wanted authentic Chinese food, not the Americanized version, so this seemed odd. I tried to explain, but she insisted that this was delicious and one of their specialties, so we succumbed. When she next tried to get us to order "Kung Pao Chicken" we realized what was going on. (I should note, that though I lived in China, I have very limited knowledge of Chinese, and I tend to be too shy in trying out the words I know. I shall not be so shy in the future.) We explained that we wanted something different, not something we could get anywhere, so I ordered the Cumin Beef. She was worried, because she said it smelled funny, but we said we didn't care, and we were sure we'd like it. We also ordered pork dumplings.
The Garlic Eggplant had good, garlicky flavor accented by cilantro, but I'm afraid I didn't care for the texture (too mushy), and I guess I prefer eggplant hot. Still, we were happy we tried it.
Then the cumin dish came out, but instead of beef, I think we got lamb. (The waitress told us it was a "little sheep.") She was visibly nervous about how we would like the dish, but it was amazing! The meat was thinly shaved and very tender. The lamb flavor wasn't overpowering, and the cumin came in the form of whole cumin seeds, so you got the cumin in bursts of flavor as you bit into the seeds - yum! I absolutely would get this again.
The sweet and sour pork was - alas - just that. Good sweet and sour pork, but nothing new or authentic. Lesson learned - she was trying to help us get items familiar to most Americans. Still, the dish will make for great lunches this week.
At this point, we decided we wanted to try another, more authentic dish. A Chinese family had by this time sat down at the table next to us, and when she heard us talking, she offered to help. (She looked scornfully at the sweet and sour pork, and assured us that was not what we should have gotten.) They kindly gave us a taste of some tofu (noodle?) and chili dish that they had ordered. It was fabulous, spicy, but not too spicy. (She didn't know the English name, but it was #66 on the menu.) She suggested we try a fermented cabbage and fatty pork soup. So we went for it. When they ordered some Shi (Xi??) Fan, the waitresses also brought us a couple of bowls to try. I was overjoyed because this wasn't on the menu (that I could see), but it was what I ate for breakfast every day when I was in China - not for everyone I imagine, but I love it.
The fermented cabbage and pork soup, when it arrived, was wonderful (if you like cabbage, which I do). The broth was hot and comforting, the cabbage was just vinegary enough, and there were also bean threads and tofu, which had been frozen and processed in such a way as to give it a different consistency from the tofu we're used to.
Entire bill for the food plus tea and two Tsing Tao beers each was $37. There were only two of us, so we brought home enough leftovers for 2 or 3 more meals.
I will definitely go back. Food was good. Waitresses were very nice, and we had a wonderful time.