For anyone still toting around a tattered copy of Jonathan Gold's "Counter Intelligence," do not lose hope. Gold told the Culinary Historians of Southern California that he does plan to update the book and this time will definitely include an index by neighborhood -- although he was vague about when we might actually expect it.
Gold gave the audience a tour of regional cuisines of the San Gabriel Valley via a rambling list of 25 or so of his favorite Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants from 1975 to the present. The laidback presentation was more fond reminiscence than some of the Culinary Historians' more scholarly subjects, starting with Gold's first dim sum east of Downtown at the restaurant that is now NBC. Just as I began trying to remember my own first San Gabriel Valley experience, he came up with what it was: Deli World, a cafe overlooking a supermarket that was one of the first places to serve soup dumplings. Harbor Village (also next on my list), Quanjude Duck, Tung Lai Shun...it was a test of memory to recall which ones I had also tried. Touching on Islamic, Hunan, Sichuan, Cantonese, Hong Kong cafes, Chiu Chow and Vietnamese places, he pointed to the cross-cultural influences at Boiling Crab as one of his favorite examples of melting pot L.A.Pork and shrimp balls topped with shitake caps were a new item to me.
After the talk, I biked over to meet some of the historians and Jonathan at Ocean Seafood. The dim sum was so-so, but getting to talk to Jonathan about Noodle Island, Earthen, Vietnam and some of his other favorite spots is always a good time.
Here are some of the restaurants he mentioned. Feel free to add your memories or ones I missed from his talk in the comments.
- Golden "something," where NBC is now
- Deli World, above the Chinese market -- eel with chives, soup dumplings - closed
- the noodle place that changed its name to Heavy Noodling because of the headline on Gold's review - closed
- Lake Spring, where Gold took Marcella Hazan for pork pump and she insisted on drinking Jack Daniels. Still open, but not what it once was.
- Harbor Village, the best dimsum of its time, as well as Japanese sun-dried abalone. Now Empress Harbor, right?
- Charming Garden -- one of the first places with real Hunan cuisine like strange-flavored noodles, stir-fried bacon, not "Hunan" as in the San Franciso restaurant -- many changes of ownership since
- Golden Deli -- still there and going strong
- Tung Lai Shun -- one of the first Chinese Islamic specialists - closed
- Noodle World -- appealing to young people with noodles of many countries
- Nice Time Deli
- The Other Taste
- Quanjude -- the famous duck restaurant was owned by the People's Republic - closed.
- Chicken Garden, Rowland Heights. Gold says he used to "think San Gabriel was as far as the moon," but now he finds himself going even farther to Rowland Heights
- Chung King
- Din Tai Fung
- Mr. Baguette
- Pho Minh
- Boiling Crab
- Northern Chinese restaurant, Rosemead