Mama's has takeout windows in front, but it doesn't seem like they're really used.
After several weeks without hitting the San Gabriel Valley to eat, we were feeling seriously Chinese food-deprived. It was drizzly and grey, a real handmade noodle kind of day. With a little help from Chowhound's Ipsedixit, we decided on MaMa's Kitchen in San Gabriel. MaMa's is pretty hardcore, but not that difficult to navigate. In this case, the Yelpers are mostly right: it's got a B health rating, the tables are a bit sticky, and there's no real menu, just some wall posters to point at and order from. Plus, the plates and cups are strictly plastic, so you might want to get your food to go. But it's perfectly feasible to eat in the restaurant, and get the dumplings fresh out of the steamer as they should be. MaMa's is known for handmade noodles, which most people probably get in beef soup. It's also known for MaMa, the smiling, non-English speaking owner who is apparently known for persuading her Chinese customers to order extra dishes, which seems like it would hardly be a problem, because then you would have leftovers. I don't feel like beef soup every time I go for Chinese food, so we got the chicken chow mein and what looked like xiao long bao on the wall poster. Chicken chow mein (above) might sound boring, but this dish was pretty much everything you would want in a noodle dish: great lengths of slightly chewy fettucine-like noodles with some tender chicken pieces and a few lashings of bok choy. A dash of black vinegar elevated the whole thing to an elegant example of the chow mein genre. Soup dumplings were also exemplary, with a slightly different flavor -- peanuts, I think -- added to the pork filling. There's also stinky tofu, which blankets the tiny dining room with its stench when someone orders it, and an array of cold appetizers. Watching a dad try to cajole his young daughter into trying tiny fishes by feeding her with chopsticks was definitely worth the slight discomforts of eating there.
Strange little place, but darn good food.
1718 New Ave