Thursday, July 07, 2005

San Gabriel, CA - Lu's Garden

Eeny, meenie, miinee, mo. This small (referring to both the availability of parking outside, and the interior space) Taiwanese restaurant is a choose-your-own-meal type place. Immediately after walking in the door, you'll find yourself in front of a glass-encased display of about twenty entrees of so, of which you can select 2-4 items before finding a place to sit down. Within minutes, if not seconds, your selections are delivered to you along with your choice of steamed rice or congee (free refills for both). The food is meant to be eaten with congee, but rice is available and the patrons seem to go half and half between the two.

We took one order of steamed rice and one of congee. The congee was simply rice and sweet potato simmered in water until the sweet potato was tender and the rice broke down into a gruel. It's meant to be eaten along with the entrees as a palate-cleanser, so don't expect it to be a soup that stands on its own.

We selected two three-item combinations for $4.50 each. We identified four favorite meat dishes easily, and then rounded out the group with two cold vegetables. The picture below shows (from top right, clockwise) minced greens that have been salted and then stir-fried, salted bamboo shoots, and pickled jellyfish. I had never had the greens before, and their salty crunch reminded me of cole slaw... without the fattening mayonaise. The bamboo shoots were also new to my palate; these were shredded in long 5-8" lengths that proved to be a bit fibrous at their thicker parts, although they were tasty enough. The jellyfish was refreshing, lightly seasoned with salt and sesame oil, layered with a pleasant tangy sweetness provided by pickled shredded carrot.

From the top, clockwise, we have beef stomach tripe sliced thinly and sauteed in a lightly spicy chili oil sauce, pork intestines braised in a sweet soy sauce mildly spiced with Chinese five-spice and perhaps other spices as well, and pig's feet slow-braised for hours to create a sticky sweet and savory soy-based gelatinous dish. Delicious! His favorite was the chili beef stomach; I simply enjoyed everything almost equally. Overall, the dishes here are on the flavorful side. Everything is just a bit salty, a tad bit too sweet or a touch too spicy because the dishes are meant to accompany the congee which is bland.

This place is a good bargain with good food!

Lu's Garden Restaurant
534 E. Valley Blvd., #12
San Gabriel, CA 91776


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