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Restaurants & Bars 4

Hua Garden in Monterey Park - (long)Some Yunnan spec's, mostly Szechwan dishes

jerome | Sep 2, 200101:18 AM

Went to Hua Garden for Lunch on Friday. 301D N. Garfield in Monterey Park. Chinese name is Yunnan GuoQiao Yuan (pinyin), Yunnan province "Crossing the Bridge" Garden.
Talked to some of the folks there. The wait staff is from all over China, our waitress was from Tianjin and a woman who seemed like a proprietress or such was from Emei Shan in Szechwan. As for the menu:
Although they bill themselves as having Yunnan/Dian cuisine, most of the dishes are from Szechwan (does it look funny to write Sichuan?). The few Yunnanese dishes were excellent.
The #1 dish on the menu is "Crossing the Bridge" Noodles. This is a famous dish with a lore about a wife bringing her scholar husband food to a pavilion on an island in a lake. The broth was boiling hot and kept so by a thin layer of oil (or fat) on top. When the wife reached the bridge, she would throw the noodles into the pot and they would be cooked by the time she reached the study. The dish is known all over China as a spec. of Yunnan (cert. it was known in Beijing and supposedly was a favorite of both the Kangxi and the Qianlong emperors). In any case they serve it here. It comes with a choice of noodles, or the specialty, mi xian or rice threads which have a slightly thicker consistency than rice noodles and taste like thin wheat noodles to me (one can also get regular and thick rice noodles I believe). The broth was subtle but great, and at the table, they throw in thin sliced meat, soy skin(fu zhu) and vegetables and the noodles. It is all cooked quickly and with no lamp or heat like with a hot pot. I found it delicious.
There was also a dish I'd had in China but not here called Steampot chicken (qiguo ji) with a broth. This is made in a special earthenware pot that has a thin cone rising up in the center that is hollow. The pot is placed in a steamer and the steam not only heats the pot but enters the pot through the cone in the base. The meat, vegetables and flavorings produce a flavorful and very clear broth. And there was a dish with minced pork and preserved vegetable ( it wasn't szechwan zhaicai, or a mustard green, but some kind of Yunnanese pickle). Salty, spicy quite good.
The szechwan dishes were all excellent. There is a bar with cold dishes that aren't on the menu but that you can order by pointing at- cucumbers, peanuts, etc. The szechwan dumplings - chao shou, were good but I've had better. But the boiled beef/fish dishes were quite good and the sauce was very hot.
Someone on the board had posted that they missed Chengdu snacks. This place also has some real (zhengzong) Szechwan dishes like the Szechwan fire pot - ma la huoguo, in individual servings.
I'd say go to try the Yunnan dishes, but stay for the Szechwan food (they have the soups, yuxiang pork and eggplant, dry cooked "gan shao" dishes).

The one intriguing Yunnan dish on the menu was niu gan bai, beef dry white. Have no idea, nor did my chinese friend who went with me. Also, the menu doesn't divide the dishes between Yunnan and Szechwan fare, you have to ask the wait staff (similar to most of those old "Mandarin" restaurants, that didn't differentiate between Shandong, Huaiyang and Szechwan dishes). Worth a try.

Oh, and btw, deerfield garden on Atlantic and Garvey has lots of Beijing dishes, including instant-boiled lamb/mutton (shuan yang rou). Great when the weather gets colder.

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