Restaurant: Newport Seafood
Location: 518 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776-1073. (626) 289-5998
Date: December 19, 2013 and January 24 & September 11, 2016 and May 22, 2022 (and many other times between)
Cuisine: Cambodian Chinese
Rating: I used to like it, but now I’m jaded and think it’s perhaps the most overrated place in the SGV
Many people consider Newport Seafood one of the best Chinese restaurants in SoCal. Essentially, it’s Southern Chinese, with some Cambodian and Vietnamese influences (the owners are Cambodian). I’ve been a couple of times, but this post is a composite of a December ’13 and a January ’16 meal (click those links for the specific by night pictures and wines) and another September ’16 meal. The wines below are all from the ’13 meal as the latter time there wasn’t anything particularly exciting except for a pile of leftovers I brought from an epic dinner the night before. People somehow think that giant New World Syrah goes with Chinese food — not! Except for a dish or two, total wine pairing fail. This cuisine would be best served by Burgs (both colors), dry Riesling, Gruner, and the like.
This is a big place, and moderately “fancy” as San Gabriel Chinese joints go. Even on a Thursday night, it was mobbed, and people were waiting for a good long while. The weekend is crazy busy.
No Newport visit is complete without shots of the ladies with the giant crustaceans.
Boiled peanuts. Helpful in avoiding peanut allergies.
Cold spicy cucumbers. A nice version of this Szechuan classic.
Chinese savory cruller. I’ve always liked these puffy donut-like (without the sugar) breads.
Sea Cucumber Salad. Actually pretty good if you don’t mind the gummy texture.
Vietnamese shrimp salad. Those strong vinegar/sugar flavors and the peanuts are very Vietnamese. The standard lettuce, a little less so. Really, a lousy salad — pretty much ruined by the generic lettuce.
Cold duck. I thought we ordered “crispy duck” — this wasn’t — but it wasn’t bad either.
Green chicken. This was pretty good for straight up boiled/steamed whole chicken. Unusual chili paste too, which I now recognize as fairly typical Cambodian.
Basically a pork larb with some curry and heat and Thai basil. Pretty good. A touch of funk too (fish sauce or shrimp paste).
Many of the waiting guests amused themselves with the “wildlife,” like this toddler (conveniently in the picture for scale). We’ll get back to this big ugly crustacean, as he was part of our dinner.
As were these red fish (red cod? rock fish?).
Tricia got the honor of grabbing the crab!
2006 Sine Qua Non Autrement Dit. 90 points. Very nice blueberry/strawberry nose. not hot on the nose. really nice full palate and mouthfeel with a nice mix of red and blue fruits, and integrated earthiness. did not noticably detect any heat or wood on this. certainly a bigger and different type of rose, but this bottle was nicely restrained and seemed in good balance tonight.
Newport Special Crab. Our entire giant crab was steamed in a mild and pleasant sauce the emphasized the sweet and delicate flavor of the VERY fresh crab. In fact, he was alive and kicking in Tricia’s hands about 15 minutes prior. This was perfectly cooked and moist.
2005 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc. Parker 96. The 2005 Hermitage blanc is an amazing effort that defines the classic style of white Hermitage. It offers hints of marzipan, roasted hazelnuts, quince, licorice, honeysuckle, citrus oil, and wet stones. It is a superbly concentrated and powerful wine. It should drink well for 30+ years.
Westlake Soup. It was mild and pleasant with a lot of various stuff in it. A splash of vinegar jazzed it up.
Crab and asparagus soup. Very mild and pleasant. Not that much crab but a lot of white asparagus.
2000 Aubert Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard. Parker 91. The 2000 Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard is a rich, full-bodied, textured, powerful, smoky effort that tastes like a Meursault premier cru on steroids. It possesses ample layers, excellent underlying acidity for balance, and plenty of leesy, hazelnut, and tropical fruit notes.
Newport Special Lobster. In a delicious green onion, garlic, and slightly spicy sauce. The sauce was amazing. The lobster was perhaps a tiny bit overcooked, but was great. It’s mostly about the sauce.
Giant steamed prawns. These were too much plain crustacean for my taste. Lots of work to pry out the meat, and it was just steamed shrimp. I think of them as giant steamed sea bugs.
Salt and pepper crab. Interesting. Like a fossilized salty crab. The meat itself was tasty, but I preferred the sauced version below.
Curry crab. Crab drowned in a super yummy Singapore curry sauce. Awesome!
2011 Wagner-Stempel Riesling Trocken. Parker 89. Fresh apple and lime garlanded with narcissus, apple blossom and basil characterize the aromatic and palate performance of Wagner-Stempel’s 2011 Riesling trocken, whose combination of caressingly silken texture with bright, infectiously juicy citricity displays the family resemblance to its Scheurebe counterpart. At 12.5% alcohol, this manages to convey a sense of buoyancy through its delightful, apple pip- and herb-tinged finish. Look for it to prove deliciously versatile over the next 2-3 years. There is now, incidentally, just a single large bottling of generic Riesling at this address and it is 100% estate-bottled.
Shrimp with walnut. This was one of the best versions of this classic slightly fried and slightly sweet dish I’ve had in a while.
2007 Hermann Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese Niederhauser Hermannshohle. Parker 96. Gardenia, peony, and resinous herbs in the nose of Donnhoff’s 2007 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese give way to a palpably extract-rich palate of vibratory intensity, suffused with stony, saline, and tactile suggestions of mineral matter, yet at the same time rich orchard fruits. If the Krotenpfuhl was painted with water colors, the medium here is definitely oil, exhibiting both dynamic and intricate brush work as well as dense layering. This masterpiece – picked simultaneously with the corresponding Grosses Gewachs – was only beginning to show its depth in the spring and needed almost six months in bottle to really shine forth. Take as long as fate permits you to savor this; I can’t imagine it disappointing a quarter century or more from now.
Steamed Whole Fish. With soy, ginger, etc. Delicate and lovely, although not a ton of meat. Too “clean” for my taste.
1984 Gros Frère et Sœur Clos Vougeot Musigni. 95 points. This is a great wine (good location in the vineyard and top winemakers) from a very off year — and it’s 29 year-old pinot noir. But somehow (and I’ve had 3 bottles) it’s still in great shape. Really quite lovely with a complex tar and cherry thing going on. I happen to find it fabulous.
Sole Fish with Salt and Pepper? In any case, some VERY fried fish nuggets. It tasted a tad oily.
Sweet and sour fish filets. I liked these better than the dry salt and pepper version. Soft, fried, and vaguely sweet.
Fish Filet with Basil. These were super tender and succulent and a bit fried. Incredible savory (MSG) flavor. LOTS of msg. Definitely one of their best fried fish dishes.
2008 DuMOL Pinot Noir Aidan. Parker 93. The 2008 Pinot Noirs are led by The 2008 Pinot Noir Aidan, which is made from the modern Dijon clones of 115 and 777. Yields in 2008 were a minuscule 1.75 tons of fruit per acre, hence production is down considerably. Aromas of forest floor, plum sauce, black currants, blueberries and a complex rose petal-like character emerge from this dark ruby-colored 2008. With medium to full body and good acidity, this beauty can be drunk over the next 10-12 years.
Sizzling Beef. Had lots of flavor. But these days I find this kind of dish boring.
Vietnamese Beef Stew. Yummy stuff. Very soft fatty meat, tons of flavor, and odd asian textures. Great over rice. Very interesting slightly curry and fish sauce flavor. Meat had a lot of tendon. I liked it a lot as it was intresting.
2001 St. Francis Anthem. 90 points. Nice blend with some earthy tones.
Beef Loc Lac (French Style). Kind of like Chinese Salsbury steak. Lots of flavor, but mostly one tasted the sauce.
Sauteed Peasprout. A nice garlicky vegetable. Kind of like a broom for the intestines.
Another mysterious green, or maybe just different looking peasprouts.
Green beans with pork. Classic dish. These were slippery fellows and hard to scoop up. Delicious with nice crunchy beans but oh so salty (lots of MSG).
1997 Turley Wine Cellars Petite Syrah Hayne Vineyard. Parker 96-98. I do not believe I have ever tasted a more concentrated, essence-like wine than Turley’s 1997 Petite Syrah Hayne Vineyard. Made from 55-year old vines that yielded only 9.8 tons of fruit for five acres, this opaque black-colored wine is the biggest, richest, most concentrated, tannic wine I have ever tasted. It will need at least a decade to shed some of its ferocious tannin, and will undoubtedly last for 40-50 years. Even more remarkable is its purity and overall equilibrium. Despite its Godzilla-like size, this is an astonishingly concentrated, gorgeously made wine. I have never, ever, seen a wine like this!
Kung Pao Pork Chop. It wasn’t very spicy, and it was seriously double fried, but it was darn tasty.
Sweet and sour pork chop. Tasty, but certainly not tender!
Fried Pork Chop with Salt and Pepper. Very salty and fried, but delicious.
Crispy duck. Sixth months later, we get the duck. This was a fairly contentious dish, some thought it dry. I kinda liked it once you soaked a meaty piece in the sauce.
2002 Sean Thackrey Orion Syrah. Parker 96-100. A riveting example of Syrah is the 2002 Orion. It boasts a black/purple color with more mint and blackberry notes intermixed with exotic floral characteristics. With great intensity, full body, multiple dimensions, and superb purity as well as length, this blockbuster is incredibly well-balanced/harmonious. It should drink reasonably well young, yet keep for 12-15 years.
Parker sure (over) loves these new world syrahs.
Fried Noodle with Chicken. I happen to love these thin fried noodles drenched in the white Chinese sauce.
Fried noodle with seafood. More or less the same great taste.
Vegetable fried rice. Not as exciting as the meat version, but certainly good.
Pork fried rice. A nice tasty rice.
A rare photo of me.
Shrimp with Garlic Sauce? This was mildly spicy with a lot of flavor.
We brought in these cakes for a birthday.
Mascarpone with Strawberry and Oat Milk Matcha Almond.
Overall, honestly it’s tough to review Newport Seafood. When I first came here in 2013, I was only a year or so into my frequent SGV journeys and I loved it — more or less in the way that I have always loved all Chinese food. Hell, I even used to like PF Changs and Panda Express. But now, several hundred real Chinese meals later, I feel that Newport is just oddly overrated. It’s like the expensive gateway drug to the SGV. Sure it’s enjoyable. They have good dishes. Even some great dishes (nothing wrong with the lobster at all other than the price). But little is interesting, it’s way overpriced, and they lean very heavily on the “flavor” (MSG). I’m not a monster fan of this Chinese Cambodian hybrid style either. It’s 90% Chinese, but fairly close to Chaozhou style. Still, I like either Tai Sui (Cambodian) or Seafood Palace (Chaozhou) MUCH better. And I also like straight Cantonese a lot more (of which there are many better examples) and particularly Sichuan or any kind of regional Chinese.
So no, I’m just not really impressed with Newport at this point.
Or check out Newport’s Beverly Hills location.
For more LA Chinese dining reviews click here,
or more crazy Hedonist dinners here!
Some more wines from September 11, 2016: