Chinese

As someone who fancies authentic Chinese cuisine form the SGV, I don’t know how I ended up here. Maybe it was the intrigue, or the feeling of homesickness. Ultimately, I just wanted something completely different. I really don’t remember the last time I ate Chinese food or even a bowl of noodles in Vegas, if ever even. It’s always burger this or pizza that, and don’t even get me stated on the number of steakhouses. I took a chance on Noodles at the Bellagio, and I was pleasantly surprised. The prices were definitely not SGV cheap — the “Vegas Tax” essay evident. In the end, I was happy for my changing up the system.

After the Raku agedashi experience, I find myself ordering more and more. As an appetizer, and to be somewhat earthy, we decided to order the agedashi tofu. Theirs were fired in little nugget forms. The texture was quite nice. The warm pockets of hot tofu were silky smooth. Dipping it in the light soy sauce blend was all I needed. Nothing beats the agedashi at Raku, but this little appetizer did just fine.

Comfort food for me is either something really fatty and cheesy, like mac and cheese or a nice loaded quesadilla. Otherwise, comfort food comes in soup form. It has to have meat inside of course. The wanton soup at Noodles was surprisingly delicious. The broth was the star. I wasn’t sure if it had MSG in it or not, but the deliciousness of the broth indicates that it indeed did. The broth was warm, umamic (yes, there’s that word again), and quite savory. It wasn’t necessarily salty, but it had a nice quality to it. The wontons were nothing short of spectacular. Fatty and meaty, the shui mai like dumplings gave this soup bowl some substance. Even the noodles had a nice bite to them. This bowl of wantons and noodles was surprisingly the real deal.

We were on a protein frenzy, so we ordered the BBQ pork and duck. This to me was a mistake. The pork was overly sweet and jerky like. Too much crust and not enough actual tender meat made it difficult to enjoy. The duck, though nicely tender was a bit of a miss. It didn’t have that fatty/salty characteristic I’m familiar with duck. It was mild and a bit boring.


We ordered a bowl of congee to go with our meat. The congee itself was good on it own. The bland taste and blank canvas made it go well with everything. This was indeed a comforting bowl. For dessert, we ordered Thai tea. Milky, and somewhat strong, it was enjoyable — nothing worth mentioning further though.

All this Asian food and I started to wonder why we ate here. I mean, I could have this back home in the SGV, and it would be legit — it would be the good stuff. Why did I just spend almost double the amount for something that wouldn’t even hold a candle to the good stuff? Maybe I was feeling a little home sick. Or maybe I just needed to give it a try to see if I can really find SGV in the heart of Vegas. For a second though, I did forget I was even seconds away from the casino floor. That’s gotta count for something. Basically, I went to Vegas to step away from the SGV, and went to Bellagio’s Noodle to step away from Vegas.

Noodles on Urbanspoon

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Like most good restaurants, Din Tai Fung has humble beginnings. In 1958, Bingyi Yang and his wife, workers of a former oil company decided to start their own oil business. After much hardships and trying to make their business grow, they expanded in the 1980s by selling steamed dumplings. Word got out of their delicious dumplings and gained popularity. They soon stopped selling oil and became a full fledged restaurant. Today, Din Tai Fung is an international legend. On March of 2000, they opened up their first Din Tai Fung in California. From then, they opened multiple restaurants around the world, including Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Japan, among others. To me, Din Tai Fung in Arcadia was a place to go for the best Xiao Long Bao — juicy pork dumplings. There always is a wait, unless you get there really early. My wait this time was only about 15 minutes. Score!

First and foremost, we started off with the juicy pork dumplings (XLB). The reason why DTF XLB is superior to others’ is because of the quality and taste. The soup inside is quite perfect. It has the perfect amount of saltiness and pork flavor is unmatched. Not only is the soup good, but the skin does a great job holding everything in. It doesn’t rip or break, and to me, this is the most important factor why the DTF XLB is the best. The worst is when steamed dumplings have a wet bottom due to the steaming process. I love how the ones at DTF are dry all around, yet filled with an amazing soup inside. They are perfect in every way. All other XLB does, and will get compared to the ones at DTF.

We also had to try the shui mai. Being one of my dim sum favorites, I ordered this just to see if it far superior to other shui mai. Also, the presentation with the shrimp on top was spectacular. The flavor was good, and the skin was better than most. After one though, I was already sick of it. I kept finding myself going back to the XLB.

I am an avid fan of beef noodle soup. I wanted to find something that was just as good as the XLB. Though the noodles in the beef noodle soup were good, the broth wasn’t exceptional. It was more oily than it should and the depth of flavor was just not there. My favorite place to get beef noodle soup is still Ding’s Garden in Rowland Heights.

With all this meat, we decided to get a vegetable dish. The green beans were really good, considering they were vegetables. Yuck! All kidding aside, they were snappy, crisp, and tasted really fresh. It wasn’t too oily, and the pure taste of the green beans really shined through.

After our meal, I ordered a taro bun and red bean bun to-go. I did find these quite nice. The mellow flavor of the bun and subtle sweetness of the bean was great. This would have been perfect with a honey green tea from Ten Ren. Of the two though, I think I liked the red bean the best. As a Korean, the red bean just spoke to me more.

Eating at DTF is always a good time. The XLB is a must. Honestly, I do feel at times DTF is a one trick pony. Not to say that their other food items suck, but that the XLB is that superior. Everything is made from scratch and the attention to detail is of most importance. With a rich history and a passion for good food and superior service makes DTF stand out from the rest.

Din Tai Fung ??? Branch 1 on Urbanspoon

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You are hungry, and you don’t have much money, I know. Same here. A trip to Subway seems too blah, and to tell you the truth, that stuff is too healthy. Eating that submarine sandwich, hold the mayo and cheese, one can feel their heart pumping more efficiently. No. You want something fried, deep fried. You want that gold and light crispy battered protein. If its fried, it has to be salty too. It’s a perfect recipe for high blood pressure. Don’t worry though — it’s delicious. Mama’s Lu in Monterey Park is just the place for this stuff. Serving up good Chinese food, fried is the way to go here.

Spicy salt is the best invention ever. Salty and spicy, the salt pepper chicken wings is every man’s dream. Chicken wings, salty, fried is all we really need in our diet. Their batter is crispy and the flavor is just perfect. Though a little chicken fatty, cutting the fat with a little hot sauce does the trick.

Their spicy salt pork chops are just as delicious. Though it was a bit on the salty side, the batter and crisp of the fried exterior is perfect. The meaty pork goodness on the inside was a bit skimp, but that just made room for more fried batter crunch. It is a tough decision to choose between the pork chops and the chicken wings, so ordering both was the correct protocol.

The beef wraps are a Chinese food staple. I guess I should say, the green onion pancake is. With tasty meed inside, this was even better. Filled with cilantro as well, each bite had a lot of flavor. The beef in its sauce was rich, as well as the fried dough wrapping. The cilantro gave it a nice flavor to balance it all out and helped cut the richness.

It isn’t every day I get to eat Xiao Long Bao. I don’t eat is as much as I should. Dumplings wise, I eat more of the pot stickers and Korean Mandoo kind — pan fried mostly. The Xiao Long bao (pork dumplings) was quite juicy — the steaming process helped keep all the juices in. I never been to the legendary Din Tai Fung in Arcadia due to obvious reasons (I hate waiting). I am sure they make dang good XLB. Mama’s Lu was decent, but I guess one thing they can work on is the dough.

Mama’s Lu is one of my favorites in the SGV. Fried everything is the motto, and a little Xiao Long Bao to keep things fresh. There is a wait most nights, and it is cash only — like all great Chinese restaurants. The atmosphere is cleaner and friendlier than most. A lot, if not most of the items are quite inexpensive, which is another plus. I would love to bring my friends and family and just have a complete feast on the cheap. Until DTF’s lines die down, Mama’s Lu will hold me over until then.

Mama's Lu Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

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Where have you been to where the food comes out quickly, and is tastier for that? Never. It is safe to say that the speedier the service, the crappier the food. Dim Sum Express is exactly what it is, and is exactly what you expect. Quick food, which is more convenient than fast, brought to you by a fairly small food stand with a pick up window. The food is alright, nothing great.

Shui mai is what everyone gets for dim sum. Theirs was nothing special, and to tell you the truth, I expected better. Their bbq pork bun was along the same caliber as well. Maybe it was the “hole-in-the-wall syndrome” where I thought it would be great because of that, but it was mediocre. Their combo chow mein was good and plenty but not memorable. Even the fried pork chops were a miss. Though tasty and spicy, the crispy factor of these deep fried slabs was not there. Maybe I ordered everything wrong here, but for whatever it was, my lunch was just not what I expected.

I can go to an actual dim sum restaurant and get the same stuff for a similar price. The only difference is, it would be more pleasurable. What we have here is exactly what I mentioned in the beginning. We are paying for the “express”, and not the food. The convenience of just walking up to the window, ordering, and eating is just too much of a sacrifice. I wouldn’t mind waiting a little longer for something much superior to this.

Dim Sum Express on Urbanspoon

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When Chinatown comes into a conversation, and the topic of lunch or dinner pops up, you can’t help but thing of Yang Chow. And when you think of Yang Chow, you can’t help but think of Slippery Shrimp. Chinatown can be a scary place to some, but smack dab in the middle of Chinatown on Broadway, is Yang Chow. Inside, it seems like a typical Chinese restaurant, and it is. The furniture and layout is very old school as it should. It’s a classic. The walls are scattered with pictures of local government icons and famous people. The restaurant opened in 1977 and has been a popular Chinese hotspot since.

Of course I ordered the Slippery Shrimp — It’s what they are known for. The shrimp was kind of smaller than you think, but the flavor was  massive. The batter was light and crispy. It was a bit on the sweet side, but the hot sauce that they had there balanced out the flavors nicely. Eating it with the white rice was simple and delicious — It was all I really needed.  Slippery shrimp and rice was like comfort food for me.

We ordered the Chicken Lo Mein as compliment to our shrimp, though I would have been happy with just white rice. The noodles were thick and the chicken was plenty. Again, I put some hot sauce chili oil over the noodles to give it some spice. Most times, noodle dishes can get greasy and oily. It was a great noodle dish.

Yang Chow is a Chinatown icon. The place is a popular spot for locals and visitors. It all started with five brothers who wanted to start a restaurant. Yang Chow was the name of their home town. How fortunate of us to have them bring their home town into Los Angeles.

Yang Chow on Urbanspoon

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