China has a vast amount of regions and styles of cooking, and a good number of them can be sampled in L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley. A year or so ago, I realized that my knowledge of Chinese food mainly consisted of "Szechwan, spicy, good!" and "dim sun, fun, like har gow the best." And in fact, if you never ventured east of Chinatown, you could go your whole life not knowing much more than that. So I decided to right this shameful wrong, felicitously aided by the appearance of the extremely helpful Finding Chinese Food in Los Angeles by Carl Chu. Now out of print, it's been replaced with the updated Chinese Food Finder: Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
With the help of the book, a group of us has ventured out to the San Gabriel Valley on a semi-regular basis, trying real Szechwan at Chung King (really spicy, really good), Islamic at China Islamic (very filling), designer dim sum at Sea Harbour (delicately lovely), Shanghai at Green Village and Hunan at Shiang Garden. Some folks on Chowhound suggested dumplings or hand-cut noodles for our next experience, but that seemed too informal for a group dinner, so I decided to go with Newport Seafood, a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant featuring Chaozhou food.
It was packed on Sunday evening, but after about a half hour of gawking at platters piled high with crabs and lobsters being delivered to every table, we were finally seated. I tried to order the specialties of the region, but instead of Vietnamese style seafood soup, we ended up with a very typical Chinese hot and sour soup, with shrimp and scallops. Although it was a standard dish, I certainly wouldn't complain if it was available somewhere near Silverlake. We also had beef loc lac, the savory "shaking beef" dish available at every Vietnamese restaurant; sauteed bright green pea sprouts; Newport special crab; a whole steamed seabass; and wide rice noodles with chicken. The crab had an excellent spicy garlicky sauce, and was certainly the messiest thing we've eaten in a long time.
The verdict: Everything was good, although other than the crab and the beef, nothing was really that distinctive. But the seafood was good quality, and the lobster looked amazing, so it would be worth another trip to try it. The bill came out to $20 each for the five of us, including tip, with just tea to drink -- not bad for very satisfying six course dinner.
835 W. Las Tunas Dr.
The garlic sauce, more like fried garlic bits to my recollection, is also very good with the asparagus.
I beg you to try the lobster next time you return. If you're lucky, it will have the extra decadent bonus of lobster eggs inside. A group of 12 of us once ordered an $85 lobster, and it was the first time ever in which there was more lobster than people could handle (most of my friends were too squeamish to try the eggs, but they missed out on a delicacy). Oh the garlic...the garlic!