Category Archives: Los Angeles

My Favorite Chinatowns

It’s been months since I wrote a blog post, since the pandemic has really made my normal blog staples, reviewing different restaurants, virtually impossible. I thought about writing a blog post on what restaurants are open to outdoor dining, but I am wary about tacitly endorsing dining, even outdoors, in the midst of a new surge and plateau of cases in much of the US.

So instead, I figured I would write about my personal favorite Chinatowns in North America that I’ve been to, why I like them, and which of my favorite restaurants are still open for takeout. The order is loosely based on my preference but don’t fret, even if I left yours out, I still love all Chinatowns.

San Gabriel Valley (LA), CA

Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood
Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood in the SGV

I admit, I am a little biased given that I have traveled to the San Gabriel Valley (aka the “SGV” or “626”) since I was a kid, as it was often the area where we could get better dim sum and Chinese groceries that were harder or more expensive to find in San Diego. That said, the SGV is one of the largest “Chinatowns” in North America encompassing hundreds of square miles and dozens of different cities just east of Los Angeles and can probably be divided into 2: the west San Gabriel Valley centered in the cities of Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel, and the east San Gabriel Valley around the communities of Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, and Walnut.

Unlike historic Chinatowns in San Francisco or New York City with their dense streets and small alleys, the San Gabriel Valley is filled with sprawling suburbs centered on commercial corridors jam packed with Chinese strip malls along Valley Blvd, Garvey Ave, Colima Rd, and other streets. Partially because of such vastness, over the last 50 years the SGV has been an area where successive waves of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China have been able to settle and set up new businesses. This allows a continual wave of new competition and trends from China to emerge, which also keeps old standbys on their toes to better their offerings or potentially be replaced fairly soon.

It’s also a fairly young place, with a pretty dynamic and ever evolving Chinese American culture that help popularize emerging Asian American trends in the United States like boba/bubble tea 20-30 years ago. (yes, bubble tea has been in the US for that long!) This Fung Bros “The 626” video typifies how this culture was like 10 years ago.

So where are some of the places to order takeout in the best Chinatown in North America? See below:

  • The Bay Cafe – One of the SGV’s better known and regarded Hong Kong style cafes serves a good Hong Kong milk tea and a cornucopia of other great Hong Kong staples. Order on DoorDash or Uber Eats
  • Bistro Na’s – Michelin starred Bistro Na’s in Temple City serves self proclaimed “imperial court food” that is nonetheless vary delicious, like the Crispy Shrimp and Na’s Spicy Chicken. You can order online via their website, DoorDash, or Grubhub
  • Elite Restaurant – One of the SGV’s best places for dim sum is now open for takeout again on DoorDash
  • HaiDiLao Hot Pot – Takeout hot pot you say? Yes, it exists (and I can report that it’s really doable if you got a pot and burner/hot plate at home) and you can order from this popular, and expensive, Chinese chain on virtually all the delivery platforms.
  • Mian – Chengdu Taste’s sibling restaurant with a tasty assortment of noodles is available for takeout on Uber Eats
  • Sea Harbour – Constantly evolving and standard setting Cantonese and dim sum specialist Sea Harbour is open for takeout. Given them a call at 626-288-3939
  • Savoy Kitchen – This perennial chicken rice favorite is available to order togo. Just give them a call at 626-308-9535
  • Yin Ji Chang Fen – The San Gabriel outpost of this Guangzhou style rice noodle roll chain accepts orders on DoorDash and Uber Eats

Richmond (Vancouver), BC

Lamb Fried Dumplings at Yue Restaurant
Lamb Fried Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

While great Chinese food can be found nearly all over Vancouver, the best in the Lower Mainland is concentrated in the southern suburb of Vancouver. While the San Gabriel Valley’s strength is in its wide and continually evolving breadth of regional cuisines, Richmond’s strength lies in its particular depth of one regional cuisine: Cantonese.

It’s not to say you can’t find great places serving other regional Chinese cuisines in Richmond, but the particular depth of Cantonese cuisine here lies in its unique history. As the 1997 handover of Hong Kong approached, many wealthy Hong Kongers feared what might change in a PRC controlled Hong Kong and promptly found ways to immigrant. One of the easiest options was to get investment visas in Canada, and thus tens of thousands of Hong Kongers and their children moved and settled to Richmond. They brought along and could entice good chefs from Hong Kong which helped increase the quality of Cantonese food in the region, so much so that many restaurants in the 2000s to mid 2010s were close or at the level of their counterparts in Hong Kong.

More recently, arrivals from mainland China have helped expanded the number of good regional options available, but not to the level of SGV yet, and it remains to be seen on how Hong Kong’s latest political turbulence will mean for even more food and immigration to Canada. That said, some of my favorites are:

  • HK BBQ Master – This was always basically a big takeout restaurant, so you can still get their excellent Cantonese style roast meats in person
  • Mama’s Dumpling and Coffee – Renown for their xiaolongbao, you can get these delicious orders for takeout
  • Silver Tower – Old school Hong Kong Style Cafe serves the best comfort food that you can order on DoorDash
  • Sun Sui Wah – A couple of my friends recently dined here (BC’s COVID rates are significantly better than the US, though I’d still be pretty hesitant) and the food seems just as great as pre-pandemic, which you can order on Skip the Dishes.
  • Yue Restaurant – One of my favorite dim sum spots in Richmond is open for takeout via DoorDash

Flushing (New York City), NY

Liang Pi at Xi'an Famous Foods
Liang Pi at Xi’an Famous Foods (which started in Flushing)

The sights and sounds of Canal and Mott Streets in Manhattan Chinatown may get much of the spotlight in New York City, but I say that the best New York Chinatown is a hop uptown and a 7 line subway ride away to Flushing in Queens.

In contrast to the SGV and Richmond’s sprawling strip malls, Flushing is a decidedly urban Chinatown, densely packed along Main Street and its side streets and allies. You can find a variety of Chinese regional cuisines here too, especially in the few densely packed mall food courts like the New World Mall (though not sure how open they might or will be with the COVID-19 pandemic). However, many of the main stars in Flushing are Taiwanese, Fujianese, and Shanghainese and some of my favorite memories in New York City are of walking down Main St with various friends and cousins sipping on boba and eating street food.

Here are a few great places currently open for takeout:

  • Hunan Cafe – Order some authentic Hunanese food for takeout via Seamless or Uber Eats
  • Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao – You can order some of the best soup dumplings in the city online through their website
  • Nurlan Uygher Restaurant – One of NYC’s first Uygher restaurants is open for takeout by looking at their menu and calling 347-542-3324
  • Xing Fu Tang – I couldn’t write about Flushing without a bubble tea recommendation right? Well get some Brown Sugar Boba Milk from this new kid on the block that replaced the old Red House on Seamless, Uber Eats, or DoorDash
  • Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea – I love Yi Fang Fruit Tea for their endless array of delectable fruit teas, which you can order on Seamless and DoorDash

The Richmond (San Francisco), CA

Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao at Dragon Beaux
Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao at Dragon Beaux

There are numerous Chinatowns in the San Francisco Bay Area, but in my opinion the Richmond District in the western part of the city is the best Chinatown in the region.

Why? Unlike San Francisco’s historic Chinatown, the Richmond is a little less touristy but packs in the bustle as much as you’d find on Stockton St. Clement St and Geary St have a large selection of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, and other businesses, including my favorite dim sum place, Dragon Beaux.

Here are some places to try ordering from in the Richmond:

  • Dragon Beaux – The aforementioned Dragon Beaux is available for takeout on Uber Eats or Grubhub, but you could also give them a call and order their frozen dim sum to reheat yourself to perfection
  • HoDaLa – From beef noodle soup to popcorn chicken, this Taiwanese favorite can be ordered for takeout or delivery via its website.
  • Jiangnan Cuisine – Cuisine from the area just north of Shanghai in Jiangsu province can be found on DoorDash, Grubhub, or Postmates
  • Kowloon Tong Dessert Cafe – This no frills cha chaan teng is ready to serve you some delicious Hong Kong milk tea or basic Hong Kong style western food and deserts on nearly all delivery apps
  • Tasty Pot – Taiwanese hot pot chain Tasty Pot is available for your individualized hot pot needs via takeout or delivery on DoorDash or Uber Eats

Manhattan Chinatown (New York City), NY

Food at Noodle Village
Food at Noodle Village

The only historic Chinatown on my list is New York City. Why Manhattan’s historic Chinatown you ask, instead of other ones like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, or even my hometown of Oakland? The simple reason is that unlike the others, it’s a perfect combination of history, mix of shops, and an area where both old Chinese families from Guangdong, recent arrivals from Fujian, and tourists alike can mix and mingle with ease. San Francisco’s Chinatown, sadly, feels very weirdly divided between tourist and trinket shop dominated Grant St and local market and restaurant focused Stockton St.

So if you’re in or near Manhattan, here are some places open for takeout!

  • Carol’s Bun – Located in the East Broadway part of Chinatown, this no-frills Fujianese places is perfect for some affordable takeout
  • Cha Chan Tang – One of the original cha chaan tengs in the city serves up comfort Hong Kong style western food like macaroni soup and curry chicken that you can get on DoorDash or Seamless
  • Kong Sihk Tong – Feast upon all sorts of Hong Kong style foods by getting some takeout via phone at 646-850-6140
  • Noodle Village – My favorite comfort Cantonese spot in Manhattan Chinatown is available for takeout or delivery on virtually all the delivery apps
  • Wo Hop – Want some old school Chinese American food? Like so old that the restaurant has been around for 80+ years? Look no further than Chinatown staple Wo Hop to grab some Chinese American takeout

Houston Chinatown, TX

Dinner at Fung's Kitchen
Dinner at Fung’s Kitchen

I think many folks tend to think of big historic and even suburban Chinatowns as being exclusively a West Coast or East Coast thing, but one of the largest Chinatowns in the country is, in fact, in Houston! Centered on Bellaire Blvd. east of Beltway 8, Houston Chinatown is similar to what you would find along Valley Blvd in the SGV or heavily Chinese cities in the Silicon Valley around Sunnyvale and Cupertino. There’s a mix of Hong Kong, mainland Chinese, and Vietnamese Chinese people in Houston that also makes Houston’s Chinatown a little unique. Houston’s Little Saigon is also just to the west of Beltway 8.

I’ve only been to Houston Chinatown once, but here’s some places that are still open for takeout:

  • Fung’s Kitchen – The only one of the places on this list I’ve actually dined in, you can get your craving of dim sum filled here through ordering takeout or on DoorDash or Uber Eats (I hear they are taking COVID precautions pretty seriously too!)
  • House of Bowls – One of Houston’s cha chaan tengs seems well beloved with a variety of Hong Kong style dishes available for takeout
  • Mala Sichuan Bistro – The authentic flavors of Sichuan can be had by ordering takeout on their website as well as Uber Eats
  • Mein – Classic Cantonese food, including the namesake noodles and noodle soups, can be found for takeout at this well regarded spot
  • One Dragon – For Shanghainese xiao long bao and their crispy bottom cousins, sheng jian bao, order takeout here

Honorary Mentions:

I didn’t include pan-Asian areas just so it was clearer/cleaner. However, there are a few pan-Asian districts (places where there’s more of a mix of different pan-Asian shops, restaurants, and markets) that I really love.

  • International District (Seattle), WA – The most recent non-Bay Area Asian district I’ve been to, the International District, is a historic Japanese and Chinese area that has a great diversity of different Asian cuisines just southeast of downtown Seattle.
  • Irvine (outside of LA), CA – I went to college in Irvine and loved being able to eat all sorts of Taiwanese food here as many Taiwanese families settled in Irvine in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Kearny Mesa (San Diego), CA – Yes, I’m biased in that I grew up in San Diego, but Kearny Mesa, especially on Convoy St, was the area I grew up eating dim sum, Korean BBQ, yakitori, and other variety of Asian food. Mira Mesa, historically a large neighborhood of Filipino and Vietnamese folks, is also a great pan Asian area to visit in San Diego as well.
  • Mesa (Phoenix), AZ – While Mesa leans more toward Vietnamese and Vietnamese Chinese folks, it’s a great place to eat and shop all types of Asian cuisines. I always made it a point to stop in Mesa on my ways to/from Albuquerque to/from my visits seeing family in Southern California
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Where to get Asian food during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A few weeks ago when the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were starting to show up in the United States in force, I wrote a blog post on how you can still support your local Asian restaurants, especially given that many were already facing drastic declines in sales since January due to racist fears over how the coronavirus is spread.

Of course given how many restaurants, including Asian ones, have closed with stay at home orders being implemented across the country, it’s not necessarily easy to know which ones are still open and which are closed. To further add to the confusion, some are on some apps but not on others.

Well, I have decided to have a running list of Asian restaurants open in certain metros across the US and Canada based on my research so you too can eat well and support your local Asian businesses during this time. (Much of this research relies on the work that Eater writers in several metros have compiled, so giving due where credit is deserved). The list will be alphabetical by metro area and will only include up to 10-15 restaurants per region to make it still somewhat manageable to navigate.

Of course, given the day by day nature of changes in the current environment it might be good to call the restaurant or double check the app you are using to confirm the place is open. (And when you do order from an app, be sure to text your driver requesting no contact delivery and tipping them well)

UNITED STATES

ALBUQUERUQUE

Ramyun at Asian Pear
Ramyun at Asian Pear
  • 2000 Vietnam (Vietnamese) – One of my favorite pho place in Albuquerque is open for takeout or delivery via Grubhub and Doordash
  • Asian Pear (Korean) – Arguably my favorite Asian restaurant in Albuquerque is open for takeout (call ahead) or delivery via DoorDash
  • Basil Leaf (Vietnamese) – This favorite of the first family of Albuquerque (at least when I was helping Mayor Keller’s State Senate run in 2012!) is open for takeout. There pho is good but try something different like their Banh Xeo (a sort of Vietnamese stuffed omelet)
  • Bubblicitiea (Filipino) – Yes, there’s a Filipino place in Albuquerque AND it serves bubble tea. Around Uptown? Call ahead to 505-289-9719 for your Filipino food fixin.
  • Chopstix (Chinese) – From reports that I have seen, this solid Chinese restaurant is available for takeout and delivery via DoorDash
  • IT Dimsum (Chinese) – I’ve never been as this place opened since I was last in Albuquerque, but if you want some traditional Cantonese food and Hong Kong style dim sum, you can order via Grubhub

BAY AREA

KMG at Hawking Bird
KMG at Hawking Bird

Given that I live in the Bay Area, this is a combination of both research gained on Eater SF articles for SF, East Bay, and the Peninsula, along with my firsthand knowledge being a delivery driver (mostly in Oakland/Berkeley). This list is not exhaustive, but a start!

  • Burma Superstar (Burmese) – Burma Superstar’s locations in Alameda and Oakland (as well as the now unaffiliated original in San Francisco) along with Burma Love are available for takeout and delivery for your tea leaf salad cravings
  • Co Nam (Vietnamese) – Co Nam’s street style Vietnamese food locations in San Francisco (Polk Street) and Oakland (Mosswood/Temescal) are open for takeout and delivery via Caviar
  • Dragon Beaux (Chinese) – Hugely popular dim sum and hot pot restaurant in San Francisco is open 11AM-3PM and 5-8PM every day for takeout & delivery on Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. They also sell their dim sum frozen in bulk if you like as well!
  • Farmhouse Thai (Thai/Lao) – Farmhouse Thai’s locations in San Francisco (Mission) and Oakland (Jack London as well as sister restaurant Daughter Thai in Montclair) are open for takeout and free delivery via Caviar. Specials include a Lao table meal for 2-3 for $59 and lunch special for $22
  • Gen Korean BBQ (Korean) – Locations in Concord, Fremont, and San Jose are doing takeout and delivery including a $10 2 meat, 3 sides, and rice deal.
  • Hawking Bird (Thai) – This is James Syhabout’s only restaurant currently open (Commis isn’t exactly a place with feasible takeout). Grab some khao mun gai 11:30AM-8PM Tuesday-Sunday via takeout, Caviar, or Doordash.
  • Nari (Thai) -While you can’t get Michelin starred Thai at Kin Khao during this pandemic, sister restaurant Nari in Japantown is open for takeout 5-7PM Tuesday-Saturday. Order via their website.
  • Ohgane (Korean) – Only Ohgane’s Oakland location is open for takeout or delivery (via DoorDash or Caviar), but their full dinner menu is available as well as a $15 lunch special on weekdays
  • Shiba Ramen (Japanese) – I know firsthand that Shiba Ramen is particularly struggling. You can order their delicious Clear Dark Ramen online for takeout in their Oakland location or delivery via Caviar 11:30AM-7:30PM Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday.
  • Shooting Star Cafe (Chinese) – One of my favorite Hong Kong style cafes is open for takeout and delivery (via DoorDash and Caviar) everyday until midnight whether you are craving a baked pork chop rice and Hong Kong milk tea or an egg waffle puff
  • Taro – In Palo Alto you can slurp udon by grabbing takeout at this Stanford Shopping Center restaurant or via Caviar, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats

LOS ANGELES

Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine
Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine

The LA/OC list is not exhaustive, of course, given the breadth of the metro area. For more details you can check out these Eater articles I used for research. Also, I recommend checking the twitter accounts of David Chan, Jim Thurman, and Kristie Hang, who are awesome English language food writers/bloggers that keep pretty up to date tabs on what’s open in LA (esp. the San Gabriel Valley)

  • Bay Cafe (Hong Kong) – Delicious Hong Kong cafe style food can be had by you either through takeout or delivery via DoorDash
  • Capital Noodle Bar (Chinese) – All branches of Capital Noodle Bar (Brea, Costa Mesa, and Irvine) are available for your noodle consumption needs via Grubhub, Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats
  • Capital Seafood (Chinese) – Both the Capital Seafood in Beverly Hills and the one in Irvine (apparently owned/operated separately) are open for takeout and Beverly Hills location you can also order via Grubhub
  • Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese) – The Century City and South Coast Plaza locations are reportedly open, but sadly the original Arcadia location is not. Soup dumplings, in my opinion, are notoriously bad food items for takeout given the rapid loss of heat but you do you!
  • Ding’s Garden (Taiwanese) – Whether you’re in Alhambra, Irvine, Pasadena, or Rowland Heights, you can get some heaping portions of Taiwanese food via takeout or Postmotes
  • Gen Korean BBQ (Korean) – Locations in Alhambra, Cerritos, Chino Hills, Northridge, Rancho Cucamonga, and Torrance are doing takeout and delivery including a $10 2 meat, 3 sides, and rice deal.
  • Jitlada (Thai) -Yes, it’s true, world renown Thai restaurant Jitlada is open for takeout or delivery via Grubhub
  • J Zhou Oriental Cuisine (Chinese) – My favorite place for dim sum in Orange County is open for takeout or delivery via Seamless and Grubhub if you’re around Irvine
  • Kai Ramen (Japanese) – Folks who live near Sherman Oaks and WeHo can get their ramen slurps on by takeout or Postmates
  • Mo-Mo Paradise (Japanese) – Shabu shabu to go? Yes, that is possible! Order takeout from Mo-Mo by ordering online or you can get delivery from Grubhub from all locations (Arcadia, Rowland Heights, and Torrance)
  • Pho Ga District (Vietnamese) – If you live near Rosemead, you can get steaming, delicious bowls of chicken pho to your door via DoorDash or pickup to go!
  • Savoy Kitchen (Singaporean) – Are you missing your chicken rice fix? Well you can head to Savoy for takeout!
  • Tsujita (Japanese) – It seems like all Tsujita family restaurants are open for takeout (you can order online on their website). Additionally, if you live fairly close to the Tsujita & Co Noodle Production location on Fairfax you can get takeout as well as delivery on Caviar, Grubhub, and Postmates
  • Uniboil (Hotpot) – From it’s flagship location in Monterey Park, you can order over the phone and get your hotpot items to go or delivery even as far as Yorba Linda! Purchase of $50 or more? You even get 2 complimentary face masks
  • Vinh Loi Tofu (Vietnamese) – Whether you’re in Cerritos or deep in the Valley by Reseda, you can get a bite of vegan Vietnamese food through takeout or Uber Eats.

NEW YORK CITY

Like the Bay Area and LA, I couldn’t possibly lay out all or even a good chunk of Asian restaurants offering take out and delivery, so for further lists of places here are some additional articles and an Instagram account (Instagram mostly surveys Chinatown).

  • Arirang Steak House (Japanese) – If you crave teppan grilled Japanese cuisine, all Arirang locations in the NYC area is open for dinner through takeout or delivery on their website
  • Buddha Bodai (Chinese) – Need your vegetarian dim sum fix? Well you’re just in luck as Buddha Bodai is open for takeout and delivery!.
  • Di An Di (Vietnamese) – This Greenpoint Vietnamese restaurant is available for takeout or delivery via Caviar
  • The Handpulled Noodles (Chinese) – In the Heights you can taste some Uyghur/Xinjiang style noodles and dishes that are available to order online via their website, Seamless, or Grubhub.
  • Hao Noodles (Chinese) – While the West Village location is closed, you can still get your bowls of Chinese noodles from the Chelsea location via Caviar, Uber Eats, Chowbus, or Ricepo
  • Her Name is Han (Korean) – This Koreatown restaurant that specializes in Korean communal comfort food like Bossam is available for delivery on a number of platforms including Caviar, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Chowbus, and Doordash
  • Kong Sihk Tong (Hong Kong) – I ate an early birthday/4th of July meal here last year and I’m pleased this great HK style cafe is still open for takeout and delivery
  • Kopitiam (Malaysian) – Get your fix of Nasi Lemak, Kaya Toast, or other Malaysian favorites via takeout or delivery through Caviar
  • Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Chinese) – Again, I don’t prefer soup dumplings for takeout/delivery, but if you must satisfy the craving and live near Flushing, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao is available for takeout or delivery via GoHive/Chowbus
  • Udom Thai (Thai) – You can get your fix of Thai food at this Prospect Park restaurant through takeout and delivery

SAN DIEGO

San Diego’s Asian restaurant scene is not as large and unwieldy as the Bay or LA, but if you want an expanded list of places open in Kearny Mesa, you can take a look here. My list will include places beyond Convoy St.

  • Emerald Restaurant (Chinese) – San Diego’s recently off and on again dim sum restaurant serves takeout from 11AM-7PM daily
  • Jasmine (Chinese) – You can chow down on dim sum or Chinese BBQ via their takeout counter or by ordering on Grubhub, Doordash, Postmates, or Uber Eats
  • Manna BBQ (Korean) – Yes, you can get your fix of Korean BBQ (cooked or uncooked) by ordering takeout or delivery from either their Kearny Mesa or Mira Mesa locations
  • Mekong Cuisine Lao & Thai (Lao & Thai) – I believe San Diego’s only (or one of the first) Lao places is available for takeout or delivery via Grubhub or Postmates
  • The Original Sab-E-Lee (Thai) – Both the Linda Vista and Rancho Peñasquitos location of this delectable Thai restaurant is available for takeout (and I believe delivery via Doordash but don’t quote me on that)
  • Pho Ca Dao (Vietnamese) – My favorite pho place in San Diego has all 7 of their locations (Chula Vista, City Heights, Mira Mesa, Mission Valley, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and Santee) open for takeout or delivery via DoorDash.
  • RakiRaki Ramen & Tsukemen – Both their Convoy and Liberty Station locations are open for takeout and delivery
  • Sushi Ota (Japanese) – San Diego’s venerable sushi place (where my grandfather has been known to frequent in the past) is serving their sushi via takeout (I doubt they are on delivery apps, but you can try!)
  • Yakyudori Yakitori & Ramen (Japanese) – Get a taste of these very awesome yakitori skewers via takeout or delivery on Grubhub

TORONTO

GTA, like other large metros, is too large to capture in just 10-15 places, but you can dig deeper on these sources I found.

  • Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu (Korean) – For your soon tofu needs, you can order from their Bloor St, North York, Missisauga, or Richmond Hill locations via Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes
  • Cumin Restaurant (Indian) – This East York South Asian eatery is available for takeout or delivery
  • Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (Japanese) – Like their US counterparts, Canadian branches of Santouka Ramen are available for takeout or delivery via Uber Eats or DoorDash at their Dundas St., Bloor St., or Eglinton & Yonge locations
  • Hong Shing (Chinese) – For your pan-Chinese and Canadian Chinese dining needs, Hong Shing is open 11AM-2AM for your takeout and delivery needs
  • Kaboom Kitchen (Korean) – Korean fried chicken is divine and you can have them at your door via Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash
  • Lai Wah Heen (Chinese) – Craving some fancy dim sum? Well you’re in luck as you can order from Lai Wah Heen via Foodora, UberEats, DoorDash, and F.O.D.
  • Matha Roti (Indian) – This Harbord Village roti specialist is not available for delivery, but you can order for takeout
  • Max’s Chicken (Filipino) – Cravings for Filipino style fried chicken (and other dishes) in Vaughan or Scarborough can be satisfied by takeout or delivery via UberEats
  • Torang Restaurant (Iranian) – Newmarket area residents can get their taste of Iranian food via takeout or delivery
  • Wuhan Noodle (Chinese) – Markham noodle house Wuhan Noodle, the site of racist online attacks earlier this year, is available for takeout or ordering on DoorDash

VANCOUVER

Steamed crab meat, scallop, prawn, and spinach dumpling
Dim Sum at Kirin

Given its large Chinese population, Vancouver was one of the areas first hit hard in North America from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many places are closed, but I’ve tried to do the best I can to find places open to curate this small, but mighty, list (with Dished Vancouver being a helpful resource):

  • Bubble Queen (Chinese) – Your bubble tea and Hong Kong egg waffle puff cravings can be satisfied by this Fairview/South Cambie joint available for takeout or on DoorDash
  • CC’s Chinese Restaurant (Chinese) – In North Van and hungry for Canadian Chinese or Taiwanese food? Well CC’s has you covered for takeout or delivery on SkipTheDishes or Uber Eats
  • Chef Hung’s Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Taiwanese) – Only the Kerrisdale location of this venerable Taiwanese chain is open for takeout or delivery 11AM-8PM daily
  • Disco Cheetah (Korean) – West End/Davie Village Korean fusion fast casual is open 11AM-11PM for takeout or delivery via Uber Eats
  • Do Chay (Vietnamese) – Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant Do Chay is open for takeout and delivery
  • Fresh Legend (Taiwanese) – Renfrew Taiwanese dessert place Fresh Legend has their freshly made taro balls available for takeout
  • Kirin Restaurant (Chinese) – Hungry for one of the most reliable dim sum places in Vancouver? Well you can order takeout from both the Richmond and New Westminster locations and they should be on Uber Eats soon, if not already.
  • Kulinarya (Filipino) – This Coquitlam and Commercial Dr. Filipino restaurant is available for your pansit and silog cravings for pickup or delivery via DoorDash
  • Max’s Chicken (Filipino) – Cravings for Filipino style fried chicken (and other dishes) can be satisfied by takeout or delivery via Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash
  • Shiok (Singaporean) – East Van Singaporean place Shiok is available for takeout or delivery via Foodora or Uber Eats
  • Sun Sui Wah (Chinese) – The venerable Cantonese restaurant is takeout only for its Richmond location, but you can order delivery from its Main St. location on SkipTheDishes.
  • Vij’s (Indian) – Yes, this renown Indian restaurant restaurant is available for takeout and delivery and the owner himself is one of the leaders in supporting a national Canada Takeout Day to encourage it!

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Garlic Scapes at Tiger Fork
Garlic Scapes at Tiger Fork

The DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) area might have smaller Asian communities than SF, LA, and NYC, but there are still a large number of places still open. As with other metro areas, I used Eater DC for a fair bit of research, in addition to my own research. Here is a list of places open spread out across the metro area:

  • Bun’d (Taiwanese and Korean) – Taiwanese Korean fusion place Bun’d has centralized operations in its Pentagon City location where you can order baos and ssam via online pickup, Postmates, or Caviar
  • Chiko (Korean) – Fast casual modern American Korean spot Chiko is available for takeout in both its Dupont Circle and Eastern Market locations as well as on Caviar and DoorDash
  • Da Hong Pao (Chinese) – Yes, you can get dim sum delivered to you in DC via Doordash! If you’re craving American Chinese classics like lo mein or…wings with mumbo sauce…sister restaurant Yum’s II is also open next door for takeout (yes, you read that right, I AM recommending an American Chinese place)
  • Daikaya (Japanese) – Reliable and good ramen shop Daikaya is available for pickup using its online store or delivery via Uber Eats. Its sister restaurants Bantam King (fried chicken and chicken ramen) and Hatoba are also available for delivery on Caviar in addition to takeout and Uber Eats
  • Hai Duong (Vietnamese) – Reliable Eden Center favorite Hai Duong is available for your Northern Virginia pho needs via takeout or delivery on DoorDash
  • Honey Pig (Korean) – Delightful Korean BBQ restaurant Honey Pig is available for your Northern Virginia bulgogi desires either through pickup or on DoorDash
  • Kabobi by the Helmand (Afghan) – My favorite Afghan place in Baltimore has a fast casual place in Herndon that can be delivered to you via Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Postmates
  • Makan (Malaysian) – Columbia Heights newcomer Makan serves Malaysian food for takeout via online ordering. Its sister restaurant Maketto (Cambodian-Taiwanese fusion) is also available for pickup or delivery via Caviar
  • Mama Chang (Chinese) – One of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the DMV is open for you to do contactless pickup when you order their delicious Sichuanese and Hunanese food online or deliver in Northern Virginia via Uber Eats.
  • Rasa (Indian) – You can order fast casual modern Indian food from this Navy Yard restaurant either by ordering online for pickup or through virtually all delivery platforms including Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Seamless. You can also buy toilet paper for $1 a roll and a pack of 100 disposable gloves for $5 too
  • Sushi Taro (Japanese) – Live near Dupont Circle? Well you’re in luck to order takeout from Michelin starred Sushi Taro for it’s fabulous selection of sushi, sake, and udon
  • Tiger Fork (Hong Kong) – I am pleased and relieved to find out that my current favorite Chinese restaurant in DC is open for takeout (on a more limited menu) from 3-8PM either by picking up or delivery through Caviar or Doordash
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Night + Market Sahm

Night + Market Sahm
2533 Lincoln Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90291

A couple weeks ago during the holidays I finally took the opportunity to try one of my good friend and her husband’s favorite Thai restaurants. I have always wanted to taste the food at Night + Market, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity (as I assume there isn’t too much difference between their original location and their 3rd location at Sahm).

We made a reservation for 8PM on a Sunday and I am glad we did as the line was definitely long when we arrived at 7:45PM. We didn’t end up getting seated until our reservation time, but while we waited the wait staff did offer us drinks from their alcohol menu. After sitting down we mainly ordered several of my friend’s favorites (which I was keen to try out) as well as added an item of my own:

image of nam khao tod at Night + Market Sahm

nam khao tod at Night + Market Sahm

  • nam khao tod (crispy rice salad) – I was intrigued by this crispy rice picked pork salad dish and it did not disappoint. While it might not have been as easy to eat with the sticky rice as other larbs, the pork was flavorful and the rice and ginger provided a nice crunch. It was definitely spicy, so eater beware, but very enjoyable
  • peek gai hey-ya – These party wings were fried to perfection and absolutely delicious. The sauce coated the wings and drumsticks just enough to give a sweet and sticky bite while not too much to make the breading soggy. The meat was moist while still having the crunch of the frying.

image of garlic green beans at Night + Market Sahm

garlic green beans at Night + Market Sahm

  • garlic green beans – I am a sucker for garlic and long green beans so these were wonderfully divine in my mouth. If you like your greens also a little on the crunchy side with the delectable flavors of fried garlic and a dash of savory soy sauce, these are for you.

image of pad thai, wings, and curry and Night + Market Sahm

pad thai, wings, and curry and Night + Market Sahm

  • chicken pad thai – While the pad thai was pretty good, with hint of spice and sourness the balance the sweetness, overall it wasn’t my favorite. To be fair to the dish, I’m generally not a big pad thai fan (I generally find the Thai American versions to be a bit too sweet) and would have preferred the pad see ew instead, but if you are a pad thai lover, I would definitely recommend
  • penang en neua – This beef curry was very flavorful and tender, going well with the sticky rice left over from the larb we had earlier. The roti dipped in curry was also delicious, however I found the roti to be a bit overly fried and crispy, so it wasn’t a great vehicle to really pick up the bites of beef and curry.

After all was eaten and paid, I definitely enjoyed my first foray at a Night + Market restaurant. I would definitely choose a few more different dishes next time to sample other flavors (the seasonal greens looked wonderful while I was definitely intrigued in the pastrami pad kee mao), but everything was good. The food prices themselves were pretty decent for a restaurant in Venice, which is definitely an advantage when wanting to try out as many dishes as possible. Just remember, however, to make a reservation.

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Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village, San Gabriel

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91176

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village has been on my radar for awhile given its generally good reviews and occasional mentions as a solid dim sum recommendation among Chinese food writers and bloggers in the LA area. However, given the number of newer dim sum restaurants that have opened up in the San Gabriel Valley the last couple years I spent more time reviewing them rather than seeing how this restaurant stacked up.

Seeing that there weren’t any new and notable openings that I know of, I look the opportunity of having dim sum with a friend to check the place out. We arrived Friday after Christmas a little after 11AM and managed to snag a table for two with no wait. After browsing the menu and wanting to check off half of the items, we settled on the following:

  • Beef Ball w/ Orange Peel Sauce (陳皮牛肉球) – These were fairly decent beef balls, chewy but tender with a good amount of seasoning. The orange peel sauce gave the beef balls a slight tangy flavor that was nice.

Pork & Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

Pork & Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Pork & Shrimp Dumpling (蝦子燒賣皇) – The shu mai here were pretty fabulous. They were filled with plump, juicy, well-seasoned pork with a little bit of shrimp. The shu mai had a nice snap as well and topped with a little bit of salmon roe for a slight pop of saltiness.
  • Abalone Rice w/ Lotus Leaf (鮑魚糯米雞) – While I shouldn’t have been surprised because of the price, I was a little let down that there wasn’t much abalone in this version of steamed sticky rice with chicken. However, overall the dish was a nicely made version of the dish that was well and evenly seasoned.
  • Steamed Crab Meat Dumpling (蟹肉荳苗餃) – Perhaps I was served the wrong dumplings, but the ones I got were very light on the shrimp and very heavy on the chives. Not bad, but just not what I expected.

Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Shrimp Dumpling (晶瑩蝦餃皇) – Although the shrimp filling was fresh, seasoned just enough, and had a nice snap, the wrapping was very thick and really disappointing. While it definitely is decent, my quest for shrimp dumplings in the US as good as Hong Kong continues.

Turnip Cakes and Rice Noodles at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

Turnip Cakes and Rice Noodles at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Salty Pork Turnip Cake (上海咸肉蘿蔔糕) – These turnip cakes could have used a little more pork (or other meaty/umami flavor) and fried slightly more. They weren’t bad, but could have been better.
  • Rice Noodle w/ Beef (榨茶牛肉腸) – The ground beef and scallion filling was pretty flavorful and the rice noodles were fairly well steamed. I would say these were pretty good for a rice noodle roll.
  • Steamed Rice Noodle w/ Scallop (帶子白玉腸) – On the other hand, these rice noodle rolls were a little disappointed. The primary filling was tofu and the little bits of scallop seemed barely there. I would not recommend.

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Osmanthus with Red Bean Cake at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Osmanthus with Red Bean Cake (桂花條頭榚) – This dessert was literally my favorite item of the whole milk. The mochi-like outer layer combined with the red been paste inner layer made for a truly divine soft and sweet dessert to end our meal.

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Deep Fried Carrot Cake at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Deep Fried Carrot Cake (經典蘿蔔酥) – These flakey daikon puffs had a nice filling that included some shrimp and mushrooms. While I am not normally a person that like savory dim sum items in puff pastry, these were pretty good.

Overall, Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village serves some solid, if not spectacular, dim sum. It does merit in consideration on being one of the better San Gabriel Valley dim sum places (and thus, fairly good nationally), but I would agree it’s not quite on the mark as other well loved places like Sea Harbour or the more newly open Longo Seafood. I would, however, say that I did miss an opportunity to try some of their more Shanghainese dishes on the menu. Those could have been more successful and may have made the meal even better.

All that said, I would say it’s worth a try because it is undoubtedly one of the best dim sum places for value in all of the SGV. Small dishes start at $1.98 and Medium dishes at $2.98. Those are prices that you’d be hard pressed to find at drabbier, more overcooked, dim sum places that still used carts, much less fancier menu order places. The total bill for all those dishes, before tip, came out to $32, which is quite the steal. So even if it may not be the best, certainly Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village is the best bargain for any dim sum lover looking to dine on a budget.

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Sheng Hui Dim Sum, West Covina

Sheng Hui Dim Sum
2889 E. Valley Blvd Ste J
West Covina, CA 91752

West Covina is probably most known as the setting for the acclaimed (and hilarious) TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or ,to many San Gabriel Valley locals, as the town with the mall. While it is a fairly diverse city, one thing it isn’t known for is dim sum. Dim sum lovers in LA can rattle off a number of beloved dim sum seafood palaces in Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rosemead, Rowland Heights, San Gabriel, and even Temple City but West Covina, sandwiched in between the Chinese enclaves in the West San Gabriel Valley (i.e. Monterey Park) and the East San Gabriel Valley (i.e. Walnut), is conspicuously left out of the mix.

But now West Covina may have a legitimate dim sum contender amongst the fiercely competitive scene in the San Gabriel Valley. Sheng Hui Dim Sum opened in December and this West Covina dim sum joint already has garnered favorable reviews in foodie forums and by “celebrity diner” David Chan. Though to be fair, the part of West Covina it’s in is on a part of Valley Boulevard that’s practically Walnut or nearby Rowland Heights. In fact, the closest freeway exit is Nogales Road off state route 60, the same exit you would take to shop at the Rowland Heights 99 Ranch Market.

Nonetheless, I took my Chinese New Year trip down to SoCal as an opportunity to taste how Sheng Hui stacks up to the more famous places in the more established communities of the 626. I came around 1PM on Presidents’ Day and there was a small line. Sheng Hui is in a very small space and, thus, ordering can be a bit confusing. There is seating, but only about four 2-top and one 4-top tables and you’ll have to wait until they are clear. Otherwise you can order to go, as most people do. If you do wait for a seat you can either fill out the order tick sheet beforehand and wait or wait to sit down and then fill it out. I opted to do the former to save myself time once I sat. I ordered the following, though by the time I sat down around 1:30PM a couple items I wanted were sold out.

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings at Sheng Hui

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings at Sheng Hui

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling 鮮味蝦餃皇 – These were pretty good with wrappers that were dextrous and not too thick. The shrimp filling was decent as well with chunks of shrimp mixed with bamboo shoots for texture and a dash of salt and pepper. I’d say a solid 8 out of 10 for a shrimp dumpling.

Roe Shrimp Shui Mai at Sheng Hui

Roe Shrimp Shui Mai at Sheng Hui

  • Roe Shrimp Shui Mai 魚子蝦燒賣 – Honestly these were some of the best shui mai I have had outside of Hong Kong (and heck, better than some I’ve had in Hong Kong). The pork and shrimp were moist and tender with perfect amounts of seasoning. What’s most significant though is that they put fresh roe on top on the shui mai after they’ve steamed to perfection. Honestly that is what makes the difference. Most dim sum places cook it with the roe, practically destroying the flavor of the roe, but over here you can taste both the succulent meat filling and the delicate flavors of the fish roe on top, all for $3.18.
  • Sticky Rice Chicken Wrapped 荷香糯米雞– They were actually sold out of what I wanted, the steamed spareribs rice, but this was a solid consolation. There were two jumbo sized packets of chicken in sticky rice. I like how the flavor of the sticky rice wasn’t too overpowered from the juices of the meat and sauces. However the meat was only so so and the dish was decent but not anything wow-ing.
  • Choy Sum Fried with Garlic 蒜香炒菜心 – This was a hearty plate of choy sum that was well worth the $5.99 paid for it. The choy sum was fresh and the garlic gave the dish a simple, yet flavorful, aroma. I wish there was slightly less oil but that’s just quibbling.

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Coconut Little White Rabbit at Sheng Hui

  • Coconut Little White Rabbit 椰絲小白兔 – Dessert was basically these cute little marshmallow shaped rabbits with dusting of coconut shavings. While they seem rather incongruous with dim sum, they tasted pretty good! If only there were some chocolate and graham crackers to go with it for some s’mores.

The verdict? Sheng Hui is pretty good with some of the best classic dim sum dishes in the San Gabriel Valley (and therefore the entire nation). I love that the dishes are steamed very fresh and there’s high turnover which means little to no items are oversteamed. I do like that they also have some creative items too in addition to the classics. But above all, I love that they do the classics right. I hope these small mom and pop business puts West Covina on the map as another San Gabriel Valley dim sum destination.

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Boba/Milk Tea Trends

(Lunar) New Year, new me, I suppose. On Friday, the first day of the lunar new year for Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian communities, I decided to take my first sip of the trend that swept through China and landed on our American shores in the past year or two: salted cheese cream.

Yes, I know what you might think. Salted cheese foam/cream on tea, even bubble tea? What is going on? That just sounds downright nasty. And honestly, I get it. For about a year I was skeptical and to bring myself to combine cheese with milk tea or even regular green tea sounded as distant a possibility as Adam Rippon going back into the straight and narrow closet. However, for the sake of this blog and for my desire to try most Asian related food items, it was time to give it a go just once.

So on Friday I drove to the Gardena location of Happy Lemon, a Chinese milk tea chain that has rapidly expanded in North America and helped driven the popularity of salted cheese foam drinks in American communities with many Chinese residents. Locations of the chain can be found in Chinese American enclaves like Flushing, Monterey Park, Cupertino, and Berkeley. (Of course there are many other locations that serve salted cheese tea, including in places with less concentrations of Chinese folk)

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Salted Cheese Tea Drinks at Happy Lemon

When I stepped to the counter I asked the friendly cashier what would be the best drink for my first time. She suggested the salted cheese green tea, which I ordered. I was also intrigued by the milk tea with tiramisu cream cheese so I ordered that as well. Within minutes I got my drinks and promptly did a little taste testing:

  • Salted Cheese Green Tea – This “classic” salted cheese drink (which is generally one of the simplest versions too) combines a moderate layer of salted cheese foam on top with sweetened ice green tea below. In general you should tilt the drink at an angle of at least 45 degrees to allow some of the tea and the cheese foam to mix and enter your mouth. The cheese foam was actually not bad. In it’s defense, it’s kind of a misnomer because it’s basically whipped/foamy cream cheese with a little salt in it. It blended reasonably well with the green tea, allowing the saltiness and the umami flavor of the foam to accent the sweetness of the tea. Not bad, but not really my favorite.
  • Milk Tea with Oreo and Tiramisu Salted Cheese – Next I tried a drink with tiramisu salted cheese. I liked the tiramisu salted cheese better mainly because I also like the tiramisu flavor with gives a bit of sweetness and slight coffee taste to the salted cheese foam. With the milk tea, it was nice if a tad sweet. The Oreo topping did add a nice amount of crunch but added to the sweetness overload. Though given that I was in a sweet dessert/Starbucks-like drink kind of mode, it was definitely perfect for the moment.

All in all, despite the English name, the salted cheese tea drinks really aren’t bad. Are they good and word trying I guess really depends if you like creamy, slightly salted foam to go with your drinks. They certainly pair well with certain drinks (I hear the pairing with black tea is actually pretty good), but it’s not something I would necessarily crave. I would definitely try it out and taste for yourself. If you don’t like it, you never have to taste it again and there are plenty of non-salted drinks at these places that you’ll have options even if your friends are obsessed with it.

 

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Longo Seafood, Rosemead

Longo Seafood
7540 Garvey Ave, Suite A
Rosemead, CA 91770

As David Chan wrote in his latest Menuism article, Los Angeles (and mainly the San Gabriel Valley) is on the uptick on good, innovative dim sum again. After plateauing for a good decade where Sea Harbour, Elite, King Hua, and Lunasia dominated the top tier, the last year or so have seen an uptick again on innovative and solidly executed dim sum. And now, a few months after Xiang Yuan Gourmet hit the scene, we now have Longo Seafood in Rosemead trying to make its mark.

I went last Friday during my most recent trip to SoCal for the holidays hoping to see how Longo Seafood stacks up and to taste for myself on whether a new wave of innovation is, in fact, coming to the Cantonese seafood palaces of the San Gabriel Valley. Arriving around 11, I was seated quite quickly as a party of one. Like other top places in California, you order off a menu. The restaurant has a ton of interesting and innovative items so it took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to order. In the end I got the following:

Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood

Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood

  • Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry 傳統雞印包 – These little buns instantaneously look me to heaven. The outside is a superbly baked “pineapple” bun while the inside is filled with luscious kaya jam. Not quite as good as jam found in Singapore, but delicious all the same and I devoured every last one. This was a very unique and wonderfully delicious dish.

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BBQ Supreme and Golden Red Rice Rolls at Longo Seafood

  • BBQ Supreme Rice Rolls 燒味手拉腸 – The bbq in these rice rolls were nice, succulent morsels of roast suckling pig. The rice rolls were lightly and freshly pulled, making for a nice balance between the fatty pork, the delicate, yet dextrous, rice rolls, and the slightly sweet soy sauce. A little expensive, but would definitely ordering again.
  • Golden Red Rice Rolls 金絲紅米腸 – The “golden” part of these golden rice rolls are lightly fried dried scallop. The slight savoriness of the dried scallop balances out the light sweetness of the red rice rolls for a nice, fairly simple dish. Unfortunately I had 2 rice noodle dishes so I couldn’t really finish these all.
  • Longo Shrimp Dumpling 鴻德蝦餃皇 – These shrimp dumplings had a nice, not too big, filling of diced shrimp with just enough salt and pepper to enhance the shrimp’s natural flavor. While the dumpling skins were decent, these were just a tad too thick so it was a little more difficult in tearing.

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Mushroom Bun at Longo Seafood

  • Mushroom Bun 鮮奶油蘑菇包 – In another case of “I should have read the Chinese description first”, I found these to be disappointing. It wasn’t because the restaurant didn’t properly label in Chinese, but because I had hoped these mushroom buns were filled with, well, mushrooms instead of just looking like one. Unfortunately, instead of being a savory treat they were filled with cream. So as a cream bun in the shape of a mushroom, it was nice if a little less sweet than I’d like, but as a person who wanted a savory mushroom filling it wasn’t that great.

All in all I do think Longo Seafood is another spot raising the standard and innovation for dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley. Do I think it’s quite up to the level of Dragon Beaux in San Francisco in terms of execution yet? No. However given the sheer number of high quality, innovative items, it could be soon before Longo Seafood and other LA spots takes the crown again for best dim sum in the US.

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Xiang Yuan Gourmet, Temple City

Xiang Yuan Gourmet
9556 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City, CA 91780

A month ago when I was in Southern California I wanted to try a new dim sum place. Fortunately, Chinese food writer and “celebrity diner” David Chan wrote this story on LA Weekly just before my trip so of course I had to try Xiang Yuan Gourmet.

So after doing some work and watching the solar eclipse, I drove from my hotel in Pasadena to Temple City. It was about 1:30PM on a Monday and it was fairly easy to get a table for one. Perhaps only one quarter of the tables were taken. After sitting down I looked at the menu and decided that the following items would give me a good feel of the quality of the menu:

  • Crystal Shrimp Har Gow (蝦餃皇) – The shrimp dumpling filling was fairly tasty with a little salt and pepper and slight crunch from a little water chestnuts. However the dumpling skin was a little gummy, perhaps because of too much water. In general, it was fairly good if perhaps not as fantastic as a place like Sea Harbour.

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Mushroom Bun at Xiang Yuan Gourmet

  • Mushroom Bun (野生磨茹包) – These, however, were fantastic. Not only did they look pretty, but the tasty of these mushroom buns were heavenly. The bun was slightly chewy without being too dry or dense and the mushroom filling was very tasty that was full of chopped shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and carrots. I couldn’t eat these fast enough!

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Beef Rice Paper Roll at Xiang Yuan Gourmet

  • Beef Rice Paper Roll (冬菜牛肉腸) – The rice noodle rolls were solid and I loved the separated sweet soy sauce to drizzle only as much as you like and not having the rice noodles too soggy when you eat them. The rice noodles themselves were pretty good, not being too sticky and the filling was tender with some preserved vegetables meshing well with the tender beef. There were some yu choy on the side as well for taste and garnish.

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Crispy Bamboo Shoot Roll at Xiang Yuan Gourmet

  • Crispy Bamboo Shoot Paste Roll (甘笱流沙包) – Then these came out and I was very awed by dim sum formed to look like a carrot. There aren’t any carrots at all on this dish but instead it’s bamboo shoot paste formed into a carrot like shell and deep fried. Inside was a filling of salty runny egg custard. The melding was intriguing and tasty, though the salty egg yolk was not expected. In retrospect, that could have been easily rectified if I had read the Chinese name. All those hundreds spent on Chinese school apparently went to waste…
  • Salted Egg Yolk Bun (流沙包) – Which meant that I double ordered salty egg yolk items. These were solid but after tasting the ones in the bamboo shoot paste roll ones, they were incomparable. I also ordered these trying to see if they would be the ones shaped like hedgehogs, but unfortunately they were not. Apparently, those are the taro buns.

All in all, fairly good new dim sum restaurant with creative items that are becoming more common in Hong Kong but still very rare in the US. I would definitely go again to try out more items with this promising start. If you’re in the San Gabriel alley soon and want to try a new dim sum place, check this out. Some of these items just might become the new standards at other restaurants.

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Pine and Crane, Los Angeles

Pine & Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

I acknowledge that at first I was very skeptical of Pine & Crane. Can a Taiwanese restaurant not located in the San Gabriel Valley or Irvine be good (and located in hipster-y Silver Lake no less)? Does it really live to the hype of 1,000+ Yelp reviews with a 4.5 star average after 3 years in business? But despite my skepticism, I still needed to go to actually see if yuppie-fied Taiwanese in Silver Lake actually works and is worth it. After all, if you can find decently priced, good Taiwanese around central LA, why would I (or any of my friends) want to suffer the traffic on the 10 to go to the SGV?

So during my last visit to LA a month ago, a friend and I went to finally try it out. Given that her family came from Taiwan, I’d say she’s an even better expert.

We met up around 7PM on a Sunday evening. While finding parking in Silver Lake was difficult, like always, the wait was fairly easy for a table. I do actually like the fast casual approach of sorts they have at Pine and Crane, allowing you to order what you want at the counter and then get seated and served. So after a relatively decent 15 minute wait in line, we decided to get the following, which we thought would give us a good breadth of the quality without being too saturated with food:

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Beef Roll at Pine & Crane

  • Beef Roll – The dough for the warp was nicely fried to a light crisp and filled with flavorful beef and cucumbers, lots and lots of cucumbers. While the flavor was good, unfortunately the cucumber to beef ratio was a bit off which marred the otherwise pretty great appetizer.
  • Tofu Skin Salad (Cold Item) – We wanted to try one of the $3.50 rotating cold appetizer items they keep at a display fridge by the counter so after a lengthy deliberation we settled on the tofu skin salad. The tofu skin was nice, but the marinade/dressing lacked a bit of flavor so it was a bit bland.
  • Morning Glory (空心菜) – In contrast, the kong xin cai was excellent. It was perfectly stir fried with a little bit of garlic and oil making a simple, but flavorful dish that helped balance all the heavier meat flavors of the meal. (note the list of vegetables are seasonal and rotates)

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Beef noodle soup at Pine & Crane

  • Beef Noodle Soup – The beef was nicely seasoned and tender and the noodles were cooked decently. However, my friend and I both agree that the broth was a little bland. It did have a relatively strong beef flavor, but a little bit of spicy or maybe a dash of chili oil would have gone a long way.

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Minced Pork on Rice at Pine and Crane

  • Minced Pork on Rice – At the end was the best dish of all, in my opinion. 滷肉飯 is a classic Taiwanese dish and Pine & Crane pretty much nailed it. The pork was tender, flavorful, and richly infused with the perfectly cooked rice. The egg had great soy sauce flavor and the pickled vegetables helped to cut the richness of the rest of the dish.

While you might get hung up on some of the nitpickiness of the individual dish descriptions, overall my friend and I thought it was a solid execution of Taiwanese food. It may not be as flavorful as some Taiwanese spots in the SGV or Irvine, but it definitely is a solid Taiwanese restaurant with reasonable prices. I would definitely go there again, especially when I’m spending time around Silver Lake, Echo Park, or even parts of Hollywood.

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Skewers, LAX

Skewers by Morimoto
380 World Way
Los Angeles, CA 90045

When most people I know think of LAX, the immediate reaction is to groan. A litany of complaints usually surface including, but not limited to: constant traffic on the 405 to/from the airport, poor mass transit to the airport, lack of efficient transportation between terminals, and dingy terminals once you are at the airport. While the first three are still immensely true, the latter complaint is slowly going away as LAX is going through renovations of its terminals.

That welcome surprise came to me during my recent visit to LAX during a layover from Albuquerque to San Francisco. I was pretty impressed by the newer facilities at American Airlines’ terminal 4. However, none of the food options really appealed to me (in part because there were no Asian options). As I was hungry for a late lunch I decided to walk to Delta’s terminal 5 instead, as LAX’s terminals 4, 5, and 6 have a convenient-ish underground walkway to transport people back and forth without needing to exit security.

Upon entering Delta’s terminal 5 I saw an even more impressive, more newly renovated terminal with higher ceilings and, more importantly, an Asian food stall, Skewers by Morimoto. Now, I’ve always wanted to dine at some celebrity chef establishment in LA but I did not realize my first would be one at an airport. Of course, I knew this dining experience wouldn’t be remotely like one I would have if I was dining at his eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia, but I happy stood in line and ordered the following:

Skewers LAX

Ramen and Chicken Kushiyaki at Skewers by Morimoto

  • Pork Ramen – The pork ramen had decently cooked noodles with thinly sliced pork that was chewy but tender. I did wish I had more pork and that the broth was a little richer. All in all though, it’s still better than most airport food.
  • Chicken Kushiyaki – I just got one of the skewers, as you can see, and while there was a perfect amount of sauce, the chicken was more on the drier side. The glazed sauce enveloping the chicken helped to deflect from the dryness of the chicken.

At $16+tax ($12.50 for the ramen and $3.50 for the individual skewer), it certainly wasn’t cheap but in line for the rates of airport food, especially if you aren’t ordering from a chain like McDonald’s or Panda Express. The portion of the ramen was a little bit small, but it was perfect for a light lunch.

Either way, I am immensely grateful that LAX passengers have a much better array of dining options to choose from than the typical chains, including Skewers. Is it comparable to what I would find at a ramen joint on Sawtelle or at Morimoto’s eponymous restaurants around the world? No. At the same time, you can’t beat having a decent ramen option if you’re waiting a few hours for your plane.