Luscious Dumplings Inc.: The Name Nearly Says It All [MOVED]

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Luscious Dumplings is one of many San Gabriel Valley strip mall standouts.

Alan Lam lived in San Gabriel for 15 years before deciding to open a Chinese restaurant in town with wife Grace. According to son Eric Lam, who runs front of the house at Luscious Dumplings, “My father was a big fan of dumplings. He found a recipe that was very good.” The recipe came from his mother, a native of northern China. “My mom was a cook for elderly people. She had a lot of help from other friends.”

To prepare for the opening, the family debated menu ideas at home, which involved a lot of cooking, and a lot of eating. Eric’s brother came up with the name. “He looked it up in the dictionary.” The restaurant opened in 2001. According to Eric, “We had no experience, so the first couple years were a struggle.” Now the restaurant features a steady stream of customers. Thankfully, the tables turn over quickly. When asked what separates Luscious Dumplings from other restaurants in the area, Eric said, “Commitment. We get up early in the morning, make everything fresh each day. We buy the meat fresh every morning,” as opposed to many other San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants, which use the same frozen meat for a week.

Chinese Restaurant Los Angeles

Luscious Dumplings is a blonde box that features just eight tables. Décor is minimal, highlighted by four black, white and red watercolors and TV that usually displays soundless sports. When Luscious Dumplings first opened, the TV was a static-y black-and-white box. As a sign of the restaurant’s success, the Lams upgraded to a crystal-clear flat screen.

Chinese Food Los Angeles

Every meal is kick-started with a complimentary dish of peanuts, celery and firm tofu, tossed in chili oil. It’s a surprisingly great combination, crisp, with some bite from the chili oil.

Chinese Food Los Angeles

Their dumpling and soup combo is one of L.A.’s best bargains for $6. I received a choice of five dumplings and noodle soup. I asked Eric for a soup recommendation. He suggested sensational “flavors stewed beef” featuring tender chunks of brisket-like beef, firm noodles and bok choy. The longer the beef remained in the broth, the liquid gained deeper flavor and a browner color. By the time I reached the bottom of the bowl, spoonfuls of beef nectar loaded with shredded meat tasted incredible.

Dumplings Los Angeles

Pan-fried pork dumplings were scintillating, as always. Skins are thin and caramelize in the pan, locking in luscious ovals of ground pork and pork juice. I’ve eaten thousands of fried dumplings throughout the country, and have never found better specimens.

Dumplings Los Angeles

My friend Jonathan doesn’t order soup at restaurants, so he skipped the combo and went a la carte. He selected chive, pork, egg and shrimp dumplings (10 for $6). While they didn’t feature the pork dumplings’ caramelized skins, fillings were just as fresh and the flavors nearly as vivid.

Chinese Food Los Angeles

Jonathan also ordered a plate of bok choy ($4) with a dish of oyster sauce. Snap-fresh greens were terrific on their own, so I could have done without the pungent black sauce.

On the table were little pitchers of soy sauce and vinegar, plus a container of chili oil, laced with chili flakes, not that my soup or dumplings needed any flavor boost.

Other compelling fried options include dumplings filled with Napa cabbage, pork and sole and a sort of pan-fried Chinese empanada filled with chives, pork, egg and glass noodles. On the noodle soup front, I’ve enjoyed stewed pork and salted pork versions, plus a shredded pork version with shredded Szechuan pickle. There are even two noodle bowls with the soup served on the side, one topped with a Bolognese-like mushroom meat sauce, and another with gelatinous beef tendon in hot and sour sauce. The Lams are so skilled, they’re even able to coax big flavor from cow tendon.

I’m glad the Lams trusted in their vision during those rough first two years. Lesser owners may have compromised on quality to survive. Thankfully the Lams persevered. Los Angeles is a better city thanks to their restaurant with the well-deserved name.


Joshua Lurie

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

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