We were intrigued by Jonathan Gold's review of this place in this weeks LA Weekly so we gathered up the pups and headed out Saturday afternoon to check it out for ourselves.
Northern Chinese Restaurant is located at 8450 East Valley Blvd. Rosemead, 91770. It is open 7 days a week from 11am to 10:30 pm. It is a little tricky to find---its on the east side of the Empire(?) Shopping mall between Walnut Grove and Delta Ave off Valley. But hey, this place was definitely worth the hunt. The front of the take-out menu includes a bunch of Chinese characters and then the English translation of China Great Chef Master. It sort of reminds me of the famous loved chef em-toni on the front of the Sunnin menu in Westwood. In both cases, the claim is quite appropriate.
The restaurant is decorated in your basic Chinese reproduction furniture. It reminded us of some places in Beijing. Knowing we intended to order way too much food, we took a table meant for six. Service was quick and attentive.
Taking our lead from the Gold article, we ordered the Shenyang Faked Dog Meat and the Cumin Squid [in the first section of the menu, #4 and #8] to start. Our selection caused the waitress to ask, in a befuddled tone if we had seen the article and we said we had. We went on to order Spicy cucumber, 3 skewers of Fried BBQ lamb [#6 and #14 under Appetizers], Xin Jiang Lamb [#17 under Chicken Beef and Lamb], Fried on Choy with Garlic [#10, veg] and 2 orders of Chinese Pancake with green chive and egg [#1 under Northern Pastry].
Then we attacked the dumpling section which is described as Shenyang Lao Bian Dumplings. I think the Gold article mentions that this region is known for dumplings. In our case, our small son has never met a dumpling he didn't like so we picked out three kinds:
#1--your classic pork and sour cabbage, #9--celery with lamb and for something a bit different, #7, Fennel with pork.
After the order was placed, the chef himself came out, most likely to see if 2 adults and 2 small children had really ordered such a ridiculous amount of food. He showed us a copy of the article and asked what paper the article came from apparently, someone had just handed him a copy of the article and he was unfamiliar with LA Weekly. The staff seemed more than a bit floored that the paper was on the westside and that people might be coming from the westside, i.e. Santa Monica, Brentwood, Venice, to their restaurant.
The veggies and fake dog showed up first and boded well for what was to come. Not sure what real dog tastes like---husband and I had debate about whether we would want to know or not--but what we were served was quite yummy. Gold compared it appearance wise to pulled pork because its sort of thready meat. I found it a bit more chewy--but in a great way. The squid was tremendous---lots of tentacles, almost like french fries with cumin and a light coating. None of us could stop eating it. The spicy cucumbers have the same sauce as the cucumber and jellyfish salad at Homestyle restaurant---in sort yummy. The fried on choy disappeared from both kids place probably due to a nice healthy dose of garlic.
While the Xin Jiang lamb is described as spicy and it did have lots of red peppers in it, it wasn't that spicy. Small girl decided that was her favorite and ate a good portion of the serving by herself.
The Chinese pancakes were half moon shaped and included glass noodles with the egg [sort of scrambled] and chives. They were tasty.
Then came the dumplings---about 8 or 10 to an order. Juicy, thick skinned and delicious. Despite being stuffed, my husband and I each managed to have some of each dumplings, but our son ate THREE rounds of each and that was on top of eating everything else. He pronounced them very excellent dumplings.
At varying times during the meal, the chef and presumed owner came out to see 1] if we liked it and 2] if we were really eating all that food. He seemed quite pleased by our reaction.
Towards the end of the meal, a mini bus with Chinese tourists showed up. They took up the two largest tables. Their meal appeared to be pre-ordered. Although we tried hard to see what they were eating, other than a large whole fish and some sort of noodle dish, it was impossible to tell without going and standing over them.
We packed up all left-overs and enjoyed them for lunch on Sunday. Total cost: $54 included tax and tip. We highly recommend this place.