Scouting out restaurants is a hobby of mine, in fact it was my after school pastime when I transferred to "Gay-Hambra" High School a couple of years ago. My junk drawer exudes the stuff, glossy, take out menu edges packed with one a many S.G.V giggle-engaging, translated menus. I never really had the funds to eat in any of the places but they would serve as my reading materials as I took the bus back home, I've always had a good tasting imagination.
I don't do it as often as I would like no more but I still make it a point to wonder aimlessly for food every once in a while. Such is the case a few weeks ago, I had arrived early for a hot pot dinner nearby so my friend and I decided to peruse the transient restaurants of the San Gabriel Square for old times sake. That was when I first spotted Shu Feng Yuan, it just called to me. With its Dim-Sum-like, set up menu displayed outside and low resolution picture of the house chef with the vintage, Chinese chef Martin Yan. I have thought about it everyday since then, until today--
Shu Feng Yuan: Dibs
No better way to spend a lazy, hungover weekend morning than dragging your ass out of bed for a new San Gabriel gem. Under the impression of being a dim sum place meant getting up a little earlier even. We got there at a quarter 'till 11:00 AM and they were still vacuuming the place. Albeit, the table mate was starving and had to be at work by noon sharp, a little hopeful convincing made us wait. I hoped my Glutster intuition of mine was right...
Love Me Some Tasty Taiwanese Letters:
Taiwanese Letters? Eff yeah! How could I say no?
Them Tasty Taiwanese Letters Yo!: Short-Braised with Chicken Stock
Arriving shortly, glistening and evergreen. The greens were subtly rich and tender, chicken stock was suspected by the table mate and I, maybe reduced in a short braise allowing it to adhere beautifully to the stems and leaves equally? Whatever it was, these Taiwanese letters were damn tasty.
Me So Hot N Sour!
The interestingly named Hot and Sour Bean Jelly Noodles or something like that was our first item of mutual fascination. Slipperier than glass noodles with a more gelatinous snap, these kiddies were swimming in a deep vinegar and Szechuan chili oil concoction. At first bite, the eerie spiciness hit my tongue like the first time I ate Indian betel nuts, lightly numbing my mouth with a controlled singe. Not nearly as intense as the other Sichuan joints in town, therefore allowing of more noodle hedonism to be done through out the meal.
Tea Smoked Duck: Fine Spun Smoke
One of the more pricier options on the menu, the wafting aroma slapped me across the face even before the waiter set the stacked plate on the table. Instant memories of one a many 5 AM drowsy mornings were brought back to mind, I used to rely on the gunpowder-like, profound smokiness of Lapsang Souchong to pry open my eyes back when I went to Culinary Arts classes. The type of smokiness imparted on the fatty fowl by this smoked tea is unlike any other smoked/cured I had before. That usual fuming flavor of bacon/ham/lox but without the that associated, sharp salty or sugary tang.
Spicy Seaweed Fried Fish: Like The Flamin' Hot Cheetoh You Never Had
Last but not spicily least, a tempura like fried fish with a batter of suspected rice flour and assorted seaweeds sat on a fiery nest of green and red chopped dried chillies. Crisp-edged capsules with the added benefit of seaweeds added an unrivaled taste of umami and umph, as dangerously addictive as a freshly opened bag of flamin' hots, the puff variety if you were still in the junk food game when they came out. The chillies made a Maraca-like rattling noise when dropped to the plate from a distance that my table mate found delightful.
My tongue is just now regaining feeling yet again, time to bust out the leftovers and hit the Szechuan peppercorn pookie yet again--
Shu Feng Yuan
(in San Gabriel Square, 2nd floor, almost on top of Nubi Frozen Yogurt)
140 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776