If you live in Los Angeles and you’re still ordering your Chinese food from Panda Express, you are seriously missing out. The San Gabriel Valley is the Chinese food capital of Southern California. But with approximately 600 to 800 Chinese restaurants in the area — 200 on Valley Boulevard alone — you may wonder how to tackle this intimidating food scene.
Have no fear, because we’ve got a handy little shortcut to researching your next meal out.
Here are eight rock solid recommendations for where to get the best (legit) Chinese food in the city of angels. Enjoy!
1. Happy Table
Want a dish that will knock your socks off? Head on over to Happy Table and order their special grilled lamb chops with cumin. Their impressive rack of lamb comes with four dipping sauces: garlic, spicy, garlicky, and sesame. The lamb’s skin is extremely crispy and the meat, seasoned with cumin and spices, falls right off the bone and melts in your mouth, with a spicy kick that will tantalize your taste buds.
Happy Table is open late (until 12:30 am) and has lots of affordable lunch specials. If the large order of lamb isn’t enough for you, make sure to try their garlic eggplant. -> More information
2. Szechuan Impression
Sichuan cuisine has been all the rage the last few years — there’s just something about that unique “mala,” aka numbing spice flavor, that keeps people coming back for more. Szechuan Impression is one of the more modern Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. Though the restaurant is on the smaller side, it does have indoor and outdoor patio seating.
Standout dishes include the cold, translucent mung bean noodles called Impressive Bean Jelly, Smoked Pork Ear, and Impressive Cold Noodles, made with garlic, bean sprouts, and spicy sauce. The most unique item on Szechuan Impression’s menu is their Tea Smoked Ribs, which consists of a rack of baby-back ribs with meat so well-smoked, it falls off the bone. -> More information
3. E & J Yummy Kitchen
E & J Yummy Kitchen is a tiny mom-and-pop shop with only a few tables. E & J serves traditional Hong Kong-style comfort food, such as wonton noodle soup, congee, and lo mien. But if there’s one dish you must order at E & J, it’s their famous, unique rice rolls unlike those of any other restaurant. Unlike the rice rolls typically served at dim sum, E & J’s version has a crumpled- up texture, with your choice of meat twisted into the little pieces. There’s even the option of adding an egg to your rice rolls.
Advice? Always add egg! Worthwhile mentions: the $3.99 wonton noodle soup, milk tea with red bean, and sanpan congee made with dried fish, chicken, and meatballs. -> More information
4. Hui Tou Xiang
Hui Tou Xiang, which literally translates “to return to its fragrance” in Mandarin, is truly a dumpling powerhouse. Your meal begins with their housemade Chinese-style kimchi. The restaurant’s namesake dish is the hui tou, Chinese-style meat “blintzes” that you won’t see at other dumpling houses. The dish, made with your choice of beef or pork, is Hui Tou Xiang’s unique variation on pot stickers.
In addition to their unique dumplings, they also offer various noodle dishes. The beef soup noodles and dry tomato noodles are tasty, but if there’s one must-order dish, it’s the pork hui tou, hands down. -> More information
5. Harlam’s Kitchen
Grab some cash and head over to a run-down food court on the corner of San Gabriel Blvd and Garvey Ave where you’ll find Harlam’s Kitchen. This food stall specializes in Hong Kong-style breakfast foods like noodle soup, wonton and dumplings, and noodles. Harlam’s Kitchen is no-frills. Pay for your food, then search for an empty table.
Don’t expect any ambience, or even any silverware, as the food here is served on paper plates with plastic utensils. All the dishes range in price from $3-7, making it very wallet-friendly. The dumplings and wontons are made fresh on the spot, as are the steamed rice sheets that wrap the Chinese donuts. The beef brisket is tender and the congee always hits the spot. -> More information
6. Chengdu Taste
For the last few years, Chengdu Taste has been the hottest restaurant around, both literally and figuratively. They’ve been so successful, they’ve opened up multiple locations as far as Las Vegas and Hawaii. Unfortunately, their quality (although still good) is not quite on par with their earlier days.
As with all Sichuan food, expect most of their dishes to be mouth-numbingly spicy. The toothpick lamb with cumin is a must-order, as is the the cold noodles with garlic sauce. Other favorites: chili oil wonton, mapo tofu, lion fish (secret dish), and the water-boiled fish filet. -> More information
7. Happy Harbor
Happy Harbor is known for its Hong Kong-style cuisine. The affordable breakfast and lunch specials bring in the crowds, so be prepared to wait if you come in during peak hours. Breakfast specials run from 8 to 11 a.m., while the afternoon lunch specials run from 3 to 6 p.m. Breakfast or afternoon lunch sets come with complimentary milk tea, lemon tea, lemon-honey drink, or Chinese tea with free refills. $6.99 or $7.39 deals come with a hot drink, and there’s even an option to add another item for $1.89!
Happy Harbor also has great congee/porridge, as well as a Chinese BBQ section where you can dine in or buy BBQ to go, such as suckling pig, BBQ pork, chicken, and more. -> More information
8. Atlantic Seafood and Dim Sum
Atlantic Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant is located in the hustling, bustling Atlantic Times Square plaza. Though known for their dimsum, their dinner menu is equally impressive. Atlantic Seafood changes over to their dinner menu once the morning and afternoon dim sum is over. They offer great dinner and late-night deals that go on until closing time at 1 a.m. If you order three dishes, you get your choice of a lobster or Peking duck sliced right in front of you for $9.99 — dinner and a show!
Dinner includes a complimentary Chinese dessert like hot sweet red bean soup. The standout dish is the steamed egg with clams or dried scallop. The egg is so soft, it tastes like flan and melts in your mouth. A must-order! Other must-order dishes: steamed egg with dried scallop, BBQ pork cha siu, beef stay hot pot, ma po tofu, fish maw soup, and geoduck. -> More information