Jiang Nan Spring (Los Angeles, December 2022)

We have pretty good Sichuan food in the Twin Cities metro these days. It’s certainly not as good as that available in the best places in the San Gabriel Valley outside Los Angleles; but it’s good enough that eating Sichuan food has not been at the top of our Chinese food agenda for a while now when visiting Southern California. Not when there are genres available there that are far superior to versions found in Minnesota (dim sum, for example); not to speak of genres and cuisines that are not available here at all (or for that matter in most other parts of the United States). On this list is the cuisine of Shanghai and environs. Over the years I’ve reported on a few such meals: eaten at Mei Long Village, Chang’s Garden, and Shanghai #1 Seafood Village. To that list now add Jiang Nan Spring, where we ate one of our best meals out on this trip.

Located in Alhambra, Jiang Nan Spring has received a fair bit of renown in recent years. From a glowing review in the Los Angeles Times to recognition by the California Michelin Guide in 2020 and 2021—a fact that the restaurant really wants you to know before you even go in. The restaurant is large (though not massive), bright and attractive. And it was quite busy at lunch on a Monday (well, it was the day after Christmas). I had had the forethought to make a reservation (indeed, one of the reasons we came here is that they take reservations, at least for larger parties). The crowds were there for good reason.

The chef was previously at Chang’s Garden and if you’ve been to the one, you’ll recognize a number of dishes on the other’s menu. This menu has dishes from other parts of China on it as well—I believe the chef himself is from Taiwan—but the smart money is on ordering the dishes of Shanghai and broader environs. If, like us, you are not an expert on Chinese cuisine of any kind, you might choose to put yourselves—as we did—in the hands of your server.

She and I had a little discussion and then she made some recommendations of Shanghai dishes. Well, we didn’t need her to recommend the xiao long bao, which the younger members of the party were insistent we get (I don’t mean to suggest that the adults didn’t want them). These were very good here and it was a good thing we got two orders. What else showed up on our table? A lot:

  • Smoked and Fresh Pork Warm Soup
  • Shanghai Steamed Chicken
  • Shanghai Baby Ribs
  • Shanghai Fried Shrimp
  • Shanghai Thick Chowmein (the credit for this order actually goes to our younger son, who insisted we try it. We were very glad we did)
  • Shanghai Leek Rice Cake
  • Shrimp with Dried Bean Curd
  • Sauteed String Bean with Ground Pork (this so that the boys would eat at least one vegetable over the course of the meal)
  • Chinese Squash with Salty Egg Yolk.

That’s a lot of food, but we weren’t a small group. We were a party of eight: five adults and three children. The children between them ate enough for two adults, so really a party of seven adults. The food was all rather good. My favourite dishes were the soup, the ribs, the thick chowmein and the squash. But I would be happy to eat any of those dishes again. If I had to axe one item from the order it might be the Shrimp with Dried Bean Curd. On a normal day I’d have got their Dong Po Pork in its place, or perhaps the pork meatballs, but for whatever reason none of us were really in the mood for a big cloying pork dish for lunch on the day after Christmas.

Steamed rice, a pitcher of beer and some sodas rounded out our order.

For a look at the restaurant and what we ate, click on a picture below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service, to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.

They were very busy but service was very good. In addition to the guidance with our order, our server was generally on top of things throughout. (And after we were done a very perfectionist member of the staff kindly took many pictures of us with our friends outside the restaurant.)

With tax and tip, the total came to exactly $320. I would estimate this was enough food for at least 10 hungry adults. And so, an effective per head cost of $32. Which seems like a very good deal for what it was. We’d do it again.

Alright, only three more reports to go from this trip. Two more Japanese meals in there and one Korean. One of those will post this weekend and I might finish the other two off next week. Let’s see.



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