Lu’s Garden: Hitting Late Night Hunan-Style in the SGV

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Chinese Food Los Angeles

Lu’s Garden is best known for congee, but their accompaniments stand out even more.

Angelenos continually bemoan the fact that late night dining options are so limited, but for the past 21 years, San Gabriel has housed one of the city’s best moonlit haunts, a Taiwan-style cafeteria and congee cafe called Lu’s Garden that works just as well when the sun is out.

Lu refers to Lu Shi Sam, the 83-year-old owner, who opened the original Garden in Taipei back in 1974. He relocated to San Gabriel in 1989, and proprietor Sophia Fan carries on the tradition now that Lu is retired. Still, after all these years, the recipes remain constant.

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Order at a counter loaded with platters and bowls of vegetables, fish and meat to serve as sides for an otherwise mild meal.

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Enjoy a casual meal in a comfortable, but basic dining room.

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As for your base, it’s either steamed rice or congee loaded with chunks of sweet potato, $1.25 per person. Go for congee, which is warm and comforting and offers relief from the sides, which can get spicy.

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Lu’s Garden features over a dozen interesting vegetables, including spicy diced string beans tossed with mushrooms, black beans and red chilies.

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Oily slabs of eggplant are cooked down to pudding-like consistency, with candied skins and thin-shaved garlic.

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Crunchy oil-soaked radishes were another highlight, accented with red chilies, seeds and all.

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During my February 26 return trip, blistered green beans ($5.95) featured plenty of flavor thanks to the minced garlic and mushrooms, but salt pockets proved to be overwhelmingly intense.

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Lu’s offered a good version of spicy pork belly ($6.95), a dish that appears at seemingly every Hunan restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley. These pork strips were chewy, meaty, and spicy from a chile oil bath. Sheets of crunchy scallion completed the dish.

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Minced mustard greens ($3.95) were mild by comparison, tossed with oil and red chilies, flavored primarily by the greens’ pot likker, which formed a shallow pool at the base of the plate.

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Sole ($3.95) was the only truly bland option, a simply prepared fillet with slightly leathery exterior.

After two recent visits, it’s clear that Lu’s Garden is a good casual option in the San Gabriel. At times, the food can be too oily, but where there’s oil, you’ll find flavor. I just have one question. Why does the receipt call the restaurant House of Fragrant?


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

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omg. I want the spicy diced string beans!!!!!!

MyLastBite, The spicy dishes are better at Lu’s. The spicy diced string beans are especially good, but keep the congee close to douse the heat.

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