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Restaurants & Bars 2

Juon Yuan

Thi N. | Nov 12, 200308:17 PM

A friend - fellow named Barry, who reads this board regularly but doesn't ever post, damn his soul (hi Barry!) - took me to Juon Yuan. Shanghainese restaurant right next to (I mean, right next to - shares a wall with) Green Village in the San Gabriel Square.

Food style so different it's a little mind-whirly. I suspect, from what I've gleaned from this board, that Juon Yuan is Shanghai-by-way-of-Taiwan style - Shanghai flavors, tuned towards a less grease-tolerant, more fresh-and-direct palate (based on this place, I'd say a distinctly Cantonese palate). (This might appeal to those on the board who complain of Shanghai food's stick-to-your-intestinal-tract fat-intensity. Like Jerome, if I remember right.)

It's good.

Had: turnip and pork soup (quiet, delicate, clean), chopped greens and tofu skin salad (cleansing, mild, and sort of fun). (I think this is the same dish that J.Gold wrote up about Green Village in the Best of L.A. - but I completely failed to find it there. He noted it was untransalted. I spent about 5 minutes struggling with the waitress to find the dish and failed. Can somebody help me? *Green Village* is where I need the cleansing, ungreasy salad, not Juon Yuan!)

More exciting: steamed, lotus-wrapped pork ribs. Tastes like the pork pump with preserved bean sauce at Green Village, but less outrageous-fermented-unholy-in-your-face, am-I-delighted-or-am-I-nauseated fervor, and more sauveness. And a beautiful scent of pork, lotus leaf, and anise over everything. And, I would guess, the little numb-tinglies of (surprise!) Sichuan peppercorns. I would say I was insane for that last call, except that all the dishes on the menu that weren't Shanghai were Sichuan. This is a fine dish - if there is a fault, it smells significantly better than it tastes (it tastes super, it smells ungodly good), so there's sort of a letdown thing going on.

Most exciting (to me, at least - I think Barry was sort of gesticulating with giggling at the pork ribs): fried tofu, served with a sauce that is the essence of that brown Shanghai stock sauce, with ginger and scallions and jazz. Delicate, fresh, curdy tofu with a softly crispy outside. Sort of like good Japanese agedashi tofu. I ate half the plate.

And, "fish slices in rice wine sauce", I think it was a rice wine lees sauce. A pure, indescrible, single flavor - my favorite dish. Can't describe. One of my very favorite dishes in all of San Gabriel, I think.

Ended up being, with tip, $15 a person.

Concluding remarks: utterly different personality from Green Village. Green Village is more lusty, wild, greasy-carnal, intense. Juon Yuan is more suave, cool, perfectionist, into purities. I prefer Green Village slightly, but, well, that's my personality, I think. Barry prefers Juon Yuan; I can see why. I seriously dig both.

Next up on Shanghai whistle-stop tour: King's Palace.


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