Rui Ji Sichuan (Los Angeles, December 2018)


On our recent trips to Los Angeles our Sichuan eating has happened entirely at either Chengdu Taste or Szechuan Impression in the San Gabriel Valley (in the Alhambra motherships of both restaurants). This limited focus is not a mistake on our part: these are probably the two best Sichuan restaurants in the US. As our last meal at Szechuan Impression was in 2016 we’d planned to go back there on this trip. However, late-breaking extended family plans on the day we’d set aside for that meal saw us heading down to the South Bay instead. Casting around for possibilities in the general area we were going to be in I lighted upon a reference to Rui Ji Sichuan in Lomita. The cousins we were dining with were only too happy to give it a go and so we arrived for lunch in a large’ish group: four adults, one teenager and four kids below the age of 10. I am happy to report that all were very pleased with their meal. Continue reading

Big Wong (Delhi , December 2018)


It’s hard to know what to say about Big Wong, a chain with seven or eight locations in the greater Delhi metro, past its logo—I mean, just look at it. There are Chinese restaurants in the US with the name Big Wong as well and if any of them had a logo that looked like this you can imagine how it would be (correctly) read. In India, however, there is little outrage about this sort of a thing—even if my nephews, who picked this as the location for a Chinese meal in Gurgaon in December, were a bit embarrassed about it. On the one hand, the deployment of imagery like this in an Indian Chinese chain—whose owners are not Indian Chinese—does not signify the same things that it would in a contemporary American Chinese chain, precisely because the discourses and demographics of race in India are not the same as those in the US; on the other, and it pains me to say this, it shows just how casual racism in India continues to be. The people responsible for the Big Wong logo would probably be very shocked to hear that there’s anything problematic about it. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2018 (Bloomington, MN)


A little later than usual, here is the 2018 edition of my annual roundup of meals eaten at Grand Szechuan in the past year. Those who follow my restaurant reports closely—if any such exist—know that I’ve said in the past that Grand Szechuan is, in sum, my family’s favourite restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area. I mean this across all genres. Yes, there are better ingredients being used and more elaborate techniques being deployed at some high-end restaurants in the area but when it comes to flavour and satisfaction and value, Grand Szechuan is it for us and it’s the one restaurant that we go back to month after month. For this reason as well I do not review every single meal we eat there. It would get too monotonous and there wouldn’t be enough variance from meal to meal to justify it. Hence these annual reports that give a snapshot from our year’s worth of meals. Continue reading

Dumplings etc. (Hong Kong, December 2018)


A quick roundup of small meals/bites that even I don’t have the energy to blow up into individual posts of their own. First, breakfast on arrival at Crystal Jade’s branch in the Hong Kong airport. This is where we had our first and last meals of our trip in 2016 and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to eat there again right after landing. A bit of disappointment here as I was looking forward to a bowl of their excellent congee—what could be more restorative after a 15 hours flight?—but discovered they’d recently taken congee off their menu at the airport. It’s just a small selection of noodle dishes and dumplings now. Well, the dumplings themselves were not disappointing at all. I got an order of the pan-friend dumplings and an order of their XLB. A pretty good first meal in Hong Kong.  Continue reading

TeaWood (Hong Kong, December 2018)


I’d said I had only two food reports left to come from my Hong Kong trip but I lied. I’d planned to post a single compendium of my smaller meals and quick bites but there were just too many pictures to resize. And so I’ve split them into two posts. This one will give you a brief look at TeaWood, a Taiwanese restaurant; the next will cover my random dumpling eating etc.

Like pretty much every successful restaurant in Hong Kong, TeaWood is a chain. The majority of their branches are in Kowloon. As it happens, I had spent the entire morning in Kowloon that day but the branch I ate at is in Central, very close to my hotel. I’d had a very large breakfast—or rather three of them, beginning at Law Fu Kee, going on to the dumpling restaurant next to them and then finishing with an egg tart across the street. This is why I did not eat lunch in Kowloon. But after walking for almost 8 miles I was ready for a bite when I got back to Central; and as that branch of TeaWood is right next to where I got off the Mid-Levels escalator at Wellington St. I felt it was futile to resist.  Continue reading

Lung King Heen, Executive Set Lunch (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Other than Crystal Jade at the airport, Lung King Heen was the only restaurant I ate at on this trip to Hong Kong that I’d eaten at before. That was during our short family sojourn in the city in early 2016. We’d gone there with every intention of eating their Executive Set Lunch but on arrival got seduced by their a la carte menu. That was a very expensive lunch but also a very delicious one. I did nonetheless harbour a bit of a sense of unfinished business re their Executive Lunch; and so when I had a meeting on this trip at the IFC, I couldn’t resist walking over to the Four Seasons and inquiring about the possibility of a lunch seating later in the week. Once again, I managed to get a table with only a few days notice; once again it was in a corner of their dining room, far away from their fabled view of Victoria Harbour. But I was not complaining.  Continue reading

Kwan Kee Claypot Rice (Hong Kong, December 2018)


For my first dinner in Hong Kong I had lined up at Kau Kee for brisket/tendon curry noodle soup. My next three dinners were far away from traditional Cantonese: Thai on the second night (review coming soon), mod-Vietnamese on the third night, and fusion’ish on the fourth night (review coming soon). On the fifth night, however, my friends and I went out for a very hardcore Cantonese meal of claypot rice at a place so known for claypot rice that it has it in its name: Kwan Kee Claypot Rice (at least I assume that’s the restaurant’s full name—it shows up that way on English language sites; of course, I do not read Chinese).  Continue reading

Congee at Law Fu Kee (Hong Kong, December 2018)


In the write-up of my quick dinner at Kau Kee I mentioned the genre of foodie recommendations for places like Hong Kong that is often seemingly predicated on running down any place that is too well-known or too often recommended to visitors. This is especially true of casual, down-market restaurants and stalls. Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with this per se: many places that show up on lists show up on lists because they show up on lists, and it can be useful to receive—if difficult to parse—counter-narratives. But when these counter-narratives are presented by people who are not residents of those places but themselves visitors, something else sometimes/often comes into play: the fantasy that one is not a tourist but a traveler—altogether more cosmopolitan, almost local.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Maxim’s Palace (Hong Kong, December 2018)


On my previous visit to Hong Kong, I ate the best dim sum I have ever eaten. That was at the Michelin-starred Lei Garden in the IFC mall. On this occasion my friends in Hong Kong—well, one of them was out of town that weekend—insisted I go instead to an older-school place, and we hit on Maxim’s Palace in City Hall in the Central area. Maxim’s Palace is one of the few remaining cavernous banquet halls in Hong Kong, still serving dim sum on carts. Over the last decade or so, I’ve become un-enamoured of dim sum on carts—all the best places in the San Gabriel Valley switched to a la carte ordering over that period, following the lead of the better Hong Kong places. But my friend insisted and since I was curious to see what cart dim sum at a high-end place in Hong Kong would be like I did not resist.  Continue reading

Lao Sze Chuan (Minneapolis)


Sometime in the last year, Lao Sze Chuan, a Chicago-based mini-empire of Szechuan restaurants, opened a branch in Minneapolis. As I don’t really follow the Twin Cities food media very closely, I missed this. A chance reference to it on Facebook alerted me to its existence recently, and shortly thereafter we descended upon them with a group of friends to see if this was a worthy addition to the Twin Cities’ unexpectedly strong Sichuan scene. Short answer: it is. More annoying answer: it’s nothing very special, however. And while the original bills itself as “the best Chinese restaurant in America”, this one is not the best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities; nor is it, for that matter, the best Sichuan restaurant within a 1/4 mile radius. That award would go to Tea House, which is walking distance from Lao Sze Chuan. The best Sichuan restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area, of course, continues to be Grand SzechuanContinue reading

Tea House II (Minneapolis)


Our first visit to Tea House in Minneapolis was almost three years ago. In my review of that meal I noted that while it was fine on the whole, nothing about it made it worth driving 20 more minutes each way over going to Grand Szechuan. However, after our recent return to Szechuan in Roseville, I figured we should give Tea House another try too—especially as occasional commenter, Jim Grinsfelder always speaks highly of them. Well, we went back a few weekends ago with most of our regular eating-out crew. And I am very happy to say that we liked this meal more than our first. Read on to see what we ate.  Continue reading

Szechuan II (Roseville, MN)


At the end of last week’s review of an excellent dinner at Demera I noted that this week’s review would be of a disappointing Sichuan meal. This is that meal, eaten at Szechuan (in Roseville). I should say right off the bat, however, that it was not by any means a bad meal; it was, however, disappointing on account of some changes in the menu and how it was presented on their website when we decided to go eat there. This menu presentation raised our expectations in a specific way and those were far from met. Anyone unencumbered by those expectations—which would be almost anyone else eating there—would have far less to complain about. What am I talking about? Read on to find out and then keep reading to see what we actually ate and what we thought of it.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour, Again (Los Angeles, December 2017)


Thanks to a less than indifferent meal at Yangtze in October I’ve had recent cause to once again deplore the dim sum scene in the Twin Cities. Fortunately, thanks to our recent trip to Los Angeles I’ve also been able to erase the memory of that meal courtesy a dim sum outing to one of the San Gabriel Valley’s finest: Sea Harbour. Along with Elite—or just above it, depending on who you ask—Sea Harbour remains at the top of the San Gabriel Valley dim sum scene. There have been some new challengers who’ve opened relatively recently—Longo Seafood is the latest in the San Gabriel Valley—but nothing I’ve read led me to want to go anywhere else for our one dim sum meal on our trip. And Sea Harbour rewarded my confidence: it was a very good meal.  Continue reading

101 Noodle Express (Los Angeles, December 2017)


It is a tradition for us—as it is for many others—to eat lunch on Christmas at a Chinese restaurant. When we’re in Minnesota on Christmas this always means lunch at Grand Szechuan. In Los Angeles, however, we have a wide range of excellent options to choose from. I’d originally thought to go to Sea Harbour for dim sum this Christmas—especially after being thwarted the previous weekend by various of the missus’ elderly aunts and uncles (we ended up at Oo-Kook instead); but then I recalled again the massive crowds we’d seen while driving past it to Chang’s Garden on Christmas a few years ago. And so we punted our Sea Harbour meal to a regular weekday and ended up instead at 101 Noodle Express in Alhambra. Thankfully, there was only a short wait. Continue reading