Last month, I tried Peking Duck for the first time at Lu Din Gee and what a tasty experience it was. Our group opted to do the Peking Duck in three ways. First, it came out on a plate with the tender duck in the middle and the crispy skin surrounding it. Along with that duck came wrappers, plum sauce, scallions & cucumber. You can either eat the duck on its own or make your own duck "burrito." I did a little of both. I honestly could have just eaten the duck and not anything else. The meat was tender and moist and the skin was crunchy and had just the right amount of saltiness to it. It was the perfect dish.
Unfortunately, the next two duck dishes were disappointing. The second way was duck that was supposed to be stir-fried with bean sprouts. That duck must have been invisible because I certainly didn't see any mixed with the bean sprouts and even without the duck, the whole dish was just uninteresting.
The third way was Duck Bone Soup with tofu. They really must have cooked those bones to the bitter end because the soup was quite milky. As for the flavor of the soup, I found it bland. I did like the tofu in the soup though. It had a spongier texture to it that I've never experienced before, so I found it quite interesting. In the future, I would just opt for just the Peking Duck, meat and skin, and not even bother with the sprouts or the soup.
Our dining journey at Lu Din Gee did not end with the duck. We actually ordered 8 other dishes. One of the standouts was the Cumin Beef. That is a must order. The beef was really tender. I read in a Jonathan Gold review that there's actually a technique that Lu Din Gee uses called "velveting" that will tenderize the toughest of meats.
In short, it is a technique wherein the meat is marinated in a mixture that includes corn or potato starch and sometimes egg white. Then, it is “oil-blanched” in a vat of deep-frying oil for a very short time until it is partially cooked. Then, the oil is discarded or strained and saved, and the meat is stir fried until it is finished cooking, along with all of the other ingredients of the dish. Sounds like a lot of work for the restaurant, but the results are worth it.
Also, the combo of the cumin, soy sauce and the chili used to cook this dish really gave this dish a lot of flavor and a spicy kick to your taste buds! What more can you ask for?
Along with the duck that had to be pre-ordered, the Buddha Chicken had to be pre-ordered as well. The sight of that dish when it hit our table caused us all to say "Wow!" What we all saw was a whole chicken with the head attached sitting on this large platter. We weren't quite sure what to expect when we cut into it, but what we soon found out was that the whole chicken skin was stuffed with chicken, water chestnuts as well as various seafood. Scoop some of that on your white rice, eat and sigh with bliss. I'm craving some of that Buddha Chicken right now.
Following the Buddha Chicken came the Lotus Nuggets which was basically pan-fried slices of lotus root - another first for me. I really enjoyed the crunchy texture. We also had a crab cooked in sake and black pepper and wouldn't you know it, the restaurant cracked everything for us from the top of the crab to the crab legs. That definitely made for easy eating.
The dish to arrive last was the stir-fried vegetables with bamboo. It seemed odd to get the veggie dish last, but that's how it happened. Yet another first, because this is the first time I ever had bamboo fungus and it was very similar to the spongy tofu in the Duck Bones Soup. Just like the tofu, I really enjoyed the bamboo fungus.
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Lu Din Gee and would definitely go back without even thinking about it. The service was so-so, but the food more than made up for it. Plus where else can you get napkins the size of an aspirin that enlarge when you put it in a cup of tea? Once moistened, you than take said napkin to clean off your hands. Like a kid, I found the whole notion of tea expanding napkins quite fascinating. Sometimes we're charmed by the silliest of things, don't you think?
To see pics, go to:
Lu Din Gee
1039 E Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 90189