On Saturday I went with two dining companions on a Chinese food crawl of the San Gabriel Valley. We went to 5 restaurants in 3 hours, but we only ordered 1-2 things at most places:
1st stop: Luscious Dumpling – We arrived at 11 a.m., when they allegedly opened, but the tables were all full, so they must have started seating at 10:45. The wait wasn't bad though, and as we were waiting, we chatted a bit with the proprietor of the place next door, which opened two months ago (and was completely empty). After a short wait, we got our table, ordered, and enjoyed the little plate of complimentary pickled vegetables. We shared the pork/shrimp/chive boiled dumplings, and the fried pork dumplings. The boiled dumplings were good, but definitely not transcendent. Filling fell apart a little, and I felt that the wrappers were slightly (by about 1 minute) overcooked. This is quite nitpicky though, since the flavors were nice and we all liked them. Fried pork dumplings were excellent – crispy exterior, juicy interior—some of the best fried dumplings I've had in quite some time. Luscious, you might say.
2nd stop: Hui Tou Xiang Noodle House – This is the restaurant next door to Luscious Dumplings, and in the spirit of the Chowhoundish adventure, we gave it a try. What if it was amazing, and right under our noses? We asked what was best, and the proprietor told us that his XLB were better than Din Tai Fung (which I didn't really buy), but also that the hui tou pork dumplings were popular and delicious. We decided to order these hui tou pork dumplings, as well as the boiled fish dumplings. The fish dumplings were cooked properly and the filling had a nice texture, but I found it pretty bland. I know the taste of these dumplings is meant to be mild, but I thought it was too plain. The hui tou pork dumplings had a high meat/wrapper ratio…..the thin wrappers could have used a bit more time on the griddle, since crispier would have been better. These dumplings were long and narrow, somewhat like gyoza…but after such delicious dumplings at Luscious, I'm sorry to report that these didn't really compare.
3rd stop: Back on the original schedule, the next stop was 101 Noodle House. There was a wait for a table, so we opted for takeout, and we just got one order of beef pancake roll. I was tempted to order some dumplings here too (they had the largest dumpling selection of any place we visited), but I knew there was plenty more coming, so I didn't. The beef pancake roll was good – the order consisted of 6 large wrapped pieces, with thin roast beef, cilantro, and sweet (hoisin?) sauce. I've had versions of this in Boston that I like better, since in Boston the various places that make this use a thicker scallion pancake, which I really like. So while I enjoyed the 101 Noodle House experience, it wasn't as special for me.
4th stop: Beijing Pie House: I was in the mood for noodles, so we ended up with Big Plate Noodles, since one of my DCs had had their zha ziang mian recently and wanted to try something new. The noodles themselves were great – homemade, chewy texture. The sauce on the Big Plate Noodles was a tomato-meat sauce, which tasted almost Italian. It also contained bell pepper and onion….I actually found it comforting, but I don't think my friends cared for it as much. We also had the chive and egg pie….these pies are big (like hockey pucks) and this variety contained tiny white shrimp in addition to glass noodles, scrambled egg, and green chive. I don't love pancakes like these to begin with, so this wasn't my favorite dish of the day…but I think they make a very good version at BPH.
5th Stop: Dean Sin World, which might have been my favorite part of the entire trip, mainly because of the vibe and friendliness of the staff. We ordered wonton soup with shrimp wontons….they weren't as exciting as they looked in the photo on the wall (which had a shimmering shrimp), but the soup was mild and comforting, with bits of seaweed, and the wontons themselves (which also contained pork) were tender and plump. We also ordered the crab xiao long bao, which were excellent. The xlb arrived on the table with some of the wrappers punctured, so sadly we lost some of the soup….but the dumplings that weren't broken revealed a delicious broth (rich with crab taste), and a great pork/crab filling. These were some of the best xlb I've ever had, and the price was definitely right at $8.50. One of my dining companions ordered some more food from this place to go (to bring to his wife), so I got to try a little of this later….most exciting to me was the fried rice cake, which were like pan-fried mochi filled with bean paste. Yum. As we were leaving, the proprietor gave us a steamed vegetable bun to try (although I didn't personally end up trying any of this). There were a number of baked and steamed items sitting in the restaurant that looked good, and I would definitely like to try more here (and come back for the XLB).
By the end of our crawl, we were all very full and happy. The great thing about San Gabriel Valley is that I could probably do hundreds tours like this with different places/cuisines and never get bored. I'll definitely try to visit again sometime soon!
More about the rest of my trip in other threads! Will provide the links in reply to this post once I write them!
Photos of noodle dish and xian bing from Beijing Pie House, and the xlb from Dean Sin World