I'm having my birthday at Tung Lai Shun. I want it to go smoothly, like it did last year at 888. But I've never eaten there so I've got some questions.
A fellow chowhound wrote "Check with them about the large set meals and make it clear you want Huimin-tsai, not their versions of cantonese food or yue-tsai (ok, should write it cai but that's confusing)".
Does this mean tell them Huimin-tsai and they'll bring my guests food until their stuffed? Or should I also order other dishes to "round" out the meal? Such stuff as the duck tongue dish sounds intriguing, but should I pass over it and order other dishes?
Thanks in advance.
Info I've found minus Carl Chu's book info
Islamic Chinese food, at least as practiced in the San Gabriel Valley, is mostly northern Chinese food with a few Muslim inflections: lots of lamb; grilled meats; elaborate flatbreads. (The best of them, Tung Lai Shun, was a popular restaurant in Beijing for more than a century before it moved to San Gabriel.) You will occasionally run across a more ``authentic'' dish, usually in the form of fried lamb dried out beyond recognition, but I assume Beijing-Muslim is as artificial a style as Tex-Mex...and as wonderful.
I've managed to get out to Tung Lai Shun, the islamic chinese place in that big San Gabriel mall on Valley that keeps getting recommended, a few times, and I've loved it. The tea-duck was OK, but the dumplings were great, and the beef-with-leeks was fantastic. And the sesame-scallion bread...
I like this one better, it's on Garvey near New, called China Islamic at 7727 E Garvey Ave. in Rosemead. It's not as well-appointed as Tung Lai Shun but I think the food is as good if not better. At both places, try (besides the breads) the green bean skin noodles, all the lamb dishes (with scallions, jiangpao, as well as the stew/soups) and the cold dishes are very good, cold chicken with sesame sauce (Ban-ban ji or the variant they have) and the jellyfish I remember as being good. It's been a while.
The pre-arranged banquets are a hell of alot of fun too, if you can get 10 people together. Beautifully presented and a good deal for the delecacies that are served.
Take the 10 East from downtown.
Exit Del Mar and follow the sign that says San Gabriel.
The plaza (mall) will be on your left-make a left into a large parking lot. If you hit Valley youve gone to far-but make a left there and I think you can enter the lot a block or so down.
Drive to the opposite end of parking lot and park. The restaurant, Tung Lai Shun, is in the parking lot, not in the mall.
until it moved here a couple of years ago,
the restaurant was for 100 years one of the
most popular places in Beijing, and while its
cosmopolitan and quite wonderful versions
of Mongolian lamb, braised lamb with garlic,
chunky lamb dumplings and lamb warm pot with
cabbage may resemble a Beijing guy's fantasy
of the food more than it does the stuff itself.
You will probably be happier at TungLaiShun or at China Islamic. I had a birthday dinner at TUngLaiShun. Got a banquet menu and it was fine. Although I prefer the food at China Islamic, Tung Lai Shun is prettier and made for a more festive party. The party of 12 ate well with plenty of food left over and it was around $20 a head or so. Check with them about the large set meals and make it clear you want Huimin-tsai, not their versions of cantonese food or yue-tsai (ok, should write it cai but that's confusing).
spicy beef tendon, Sesame-scallion bread
You gotta have the lamb soup to dip the sesame bread in too. When the bread has absorbed some of the savory broth, but the crust is still crispy, oh man I'm blacking out...
Tung Lai Shun
(Restaurants - Chinese)
140 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel 91776-3760 626-288-6588
Description: SAN GABRIEL. Beijing-style cuisine is the forte at this busy Monterey Park eatery, which is popular with locals for its casual, family-friendly atmosphere and excellent cuisine. Tung Lai Shun veterans know to go for the traditional hot pot, which includes beef or chicken, spinach, tofu, mushrooms, and, of course, a few healthy dabs of rice wine and cilantro. While the Muslim-influenced menu lacks the pork dishes favored by its southern cousins, dishes like lamb with green onions and smoked tea duck are more than suitable alternatives. Reservations are not required.
Hours: Daily 11am-10:30pm
Payment Methods: Cash, Visa, Master Card, American Express
Tung Lai Shun
The first thing you notice about Tung Lai Shun is the enormous rounds of freshly baked sesame bread that seem to be on every table, wedges of which you drag through sauce, or stuff with terrific chopstickfuls of beef fried with green onions. While youre waiting for the bread to come it can take 20 minutes you nibble on cool, slippery slices of garlicked ox-tendon terrine, or thin, cold slices of delicately spiced beef, or chunks of cold braised lamb in an unctuous garlic jelly. Later on, string beans, crisp and melting, come fried with hoisin and crumbles of pork. The duck is ruddy to the bone and as smoky as Texas barbecue. Green-onion pies are 45-rpm discs of crisp, griddled dough, at their best when dipped in a tincture of chile and vinegar: easily the best green-onion pancakes in town. 140 W. Valley Blvd., No. 118C, San Gabriel; (626) 288-6588. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner for two, food only, $14$20. No alcohol. Parking in mall lot. MC, V.
get the sesame bread with scallions to share; it's a delicious warm round bread that comes cut into large slices, covered in sesame seeds and stuffed with scallions (the full order is huge; it's enough to get half an order for 3-4 people).