Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dumpling Hunt Part 2

After a brunch at Din Tai Fung I headed down towards Focus Plaza in nearby San Gabriel. I’d heard Focus Plaza was one of the largest Chinese malls in the SGV. I didn’t expect to have a hard time locating a place that large but somehow I managed. Things got off to a rocky start when I tried to turn West on Valley Blvd. As it turns out somebody had the crazy notion to schedule a parade on Valley that day. Who ever heard of a parade on the 4th of July? So I had to travel a little further south and then come back up to Valley past the roadblock. Then I couldn’t figure out if I had to turn back East or head West. I stopped inside the parking lot of the Hawaii Supermarket (right during its grand opening) and got myself straightened out. Even once I figured out where I was going I missed Focus Plaza the first time. It turns out the plaza is set back from Valley Blvd. and from the street view it’s overshadowed by the Hilton hotel and Swiss Plaza. But there’s a very good reason Focus Plaza is a little bit off of Valley. It’s enormous. It’s easily twice as big as the Hilton plaza and in my view more impressive. The parking lot stretched out forever and by the time I arrived (near 11:30) it was packed and I had to find a spot in back. From there I got a good look at the size of the place. Focus Plaza, I thought. As in what do you focus on?

Focus Plaza, there's a lot of it
Focus Plaza

That was a good question. The eating possibilities at Focus were numerous. I was there for dumplings and New Capital Seafood was reputed to have great dim sum. But there was already a huge line forming at the ground floor at the hostess station (the restaurant itself is all the way on the fourth floor.) I decided against it. I’m very familiar with dim sum and I wanted to find something a little more off beat.

Boy did I ever find it.

Tucked away in a little corner, this restaurant caught my eye with its posters featuring meats and rice noodles in a fiery red broth. The place was called Dandan’s Guilin Rice Noodles and it was clear this was a locals hangout. For one the menu featured such things as Snail Meat Rice Noodle and Super Spicy Pig’s Tripe and Pig’s Ear.

Dandan's Guilin Rice Noodles in the Focus Plaza
Dandan Guilin Ext

Inside Chinese cable was playing (some kind of hip hop dance competition) and English was definitely a second language to the staff (maybe even a third.) The menu is written in English but the order pad was entirely in Chinese. Fortunately everything was numbered.

Inside Dandan'd Guilin
Dandan Guilin Int

I decided to keep to my dumpling theme and ordered the Green Chive Pork Dumpling and the Leek Wonton which may have been the same filling only in different preparations. The Leek Wonton was filled with garlic chive and leek or green onion, put in a light wonton wrapper and served in broth. It was good but not much different from your typical wonton. The Green Chive Pork dumplings were better. They had thick, hearty wrappers. They’d been boiled and they burst with water and juice when you bit into them. They came with a vinegar dipping sauce which I recommend mixing with the chili paste that’s at every table. The paste is a blend of chili and fermented bean and has a slight sweetness to it that makes it a perfect condiment for the dumplings.

The Green Chive Pork Dumplings and the Leek Wonton
Dandan Guilin Dumplings

Dandan’s Guilin has much more to offer. Sadly I was already getting full and had to move. But I will be back. Any place that serves Preserved Pig’s Intestine with Vegetables is definitely worth coming back for.

Dandan's Guilin Rice Noodles
140 W Valley Blvd
Ste 203
San Gabriel, CA 91778
(626) 307-1989

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