Restaurant: Chuan Ren Bai Wei
Location: 6420 Rosemead Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91775. (626) 286-5508
Date: December 28, 2014 & June 16, 2015
Cuisine: Beijing / Szechuan Chinese
Just six months ago I ate in this same space, but it was a different Chinese restaurant at the time, Beijing Duck House. Now, due to the rising popularity of Szechuan cuisine it has been rebooted. It still looks the same. It still serves Peking Duck. But there’s a lot more pepper on the menu.
2012 Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Comtesse Monts Damnés. IWC 93. Bright yellow. Spicy aromas of tangerine, lemongrass and cardamom, with a subtle floral twist. Tightly wound, offering citrus and spice flavors, with excellent clarity and finesse. The tenacious finish is long, saline and pure. This is one of the finest Sancerres of the vintage.
Boiled peanuts. On the table at most real Chinese restaurants.
Cold appetizers. Shredded potato. Cured spicy meats and cabbage. Beef tendon.
Water. The mason jar is one little tidbit of trend that has crept into this otherwise fairly old school SGV place.
2005 Gérard Raphet Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques. Burghound 91-93. A gorgeous and seductive mix of red pinot, raspberry, cool minerality and a touch of earth complements to perfection the full, rich, deep, serious and intense flavors that manage to pull off being powerful and concentrated yet supple and delicious without compromising in the slightest the balance, which is not easy to do. A really lovely 1er that offers grand cru quality.
They have a real duck carver.
Peking duck. This was one of the better peking duck’s we’ve had. Maybe not quite so good as Tasty Duck, but the meat was fabulous. The skin could have been a tad crispier, but the hoison sauce was top notch.
On our second visit the duck came in this cute duck plate.
Awesome hoisin sauce.
Pancakes and condiments.
Leftover skin is for some reason placed on a separate plate.
2011 Louis Jadot Meursault Les Narvaux. 90 points. Nice strong vanilla notes.
The second of the “3 ways” for Peking duck is the duck soup.
Duck soup. A mild but pleasant broth with bits of meat and tofu.
Duck lettuce cups. The third of the ways. Not really that exciting.
House pancake. A nice fluffy bit of fresh bread with a little sweetness.
2004 Newton Chardonnay Unfiltered. 90 points. Well integrated with pear and apple notes and overtones of oak and vanilla, but not cloyingly so… Great body, mouthfeel and smooth finish.
Bean noodles. This is mixed up and the mung bean noodles are coated in a peanuty/spicy/tangy sauce. The sauce was awesome, with a bit of a mustard component. The tofu had a spongy texture, but the dish was overall quite nice.
Pork fried rice.
It’s evil cousin, chicken fried rice.
Spicy and sour glass noodles. I love this dish, with it’s heat, both hot and numbing, and strange vinegar tang. Not for the mild mannered or uninitiated.
You can see the noodles here. And the pepper!
2013 Errazuriz Chardonnay Wild Ferment Aconcagua Costa. 90 points. On the nose, a bit of young Burgundy-like tar on the nose in addition to some lively tropical fruit. Rich fruit on the palate, along with the aforementioned tar in the background. Nice acidic foil that is approachable now but should contribute to aging this a bit. Very approachable and enjoyable now, but I suspect better and more integrated in 2+ years.
Sweet corn. Pretty much what it looks like.
Cumin lamb. A really nice version of this dish. A lot of good lamb flavor.
Sizzling beef. Isn’t the animal-shaped dish cute?
2007 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Felsentürmchen Spätlese. 91 points. Ripe apples, nectarine and slight tinned peach aromas dominating. A slight struck flint quality and also some creamy notes. In the mouth the flavours of ripe, but slightly tart, red apple is to the fore – on this tasting the acidity is a little spiky for the residual sugar but it really is very good. Fresh and lovely, I think this wine has a long life ahead of it.
Whole fish in peppers. The last part of the name is true. There wasn’t so much fish, even if the pan was huge.
But there sure were a lot of peppers, peanuts, lotus root, garlic and the like. The sauce was actually pretty darn good (and hot).
Fish with two chilies. Under that mound of tangy chili sauce (in green and red) is another fish. It was pretty darn good.
1998 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Steinriesler. 93 points. Light on its feet, pure, focused with bright citrus and pear fruit, a stony mineral undercurrent, and gentle floral and high toned herbal accents. Seamless and very polished on the palate.
Kung Pao Chicken. This slightly unusual take on the classic was hot AND sweet. Very interesting, and delicious!
Spicy chicken. This classic triple fried dry woked chicken was amazing. It was hot in both ways, and full of intense fried flavor. Very salty.
Have a few peppers!
Sweet and sour spareribs. Bony, very fried, and quite tasty.
2005 Faiveley Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots. Burghound 88-91. Strong wood influence currently dominates the dark berry and black raspberry-infused nose that precedes the somewhat woody medium weight flavors that are round and sweet with fine depth and complexity but the wood is not subtle and it causes me to question whether it will cause the finish to eventually dry out?
Spicy noodles. Kind of a pepper noodle soup with bacon.
Dan dan mein. Tasty, but way way too soup to really be proper dan dan. The sauce on the mung bean noodles was closer.
2011 Faiveley Monthélie Les Champs-Fulliot. IWC 89-91. Good bright red. Vibrant aromas of cherry and pungent minerals convey a strong limestone character. Then sappy and serious on the palate, richer and deeper but less open than the Duresses. Finishes with big, rich tannins and noteworthy persistence. Very suave and structured Monthelie with good mid-term aging potential.
Shredded potato. The more or less typical Hunan / Szechuan version of this dish.
Vegetable dry hot pot. Mostly cauliflower. Nice spicy flavor. Similar to the dish (and only dish) served at Tasty Dining.
More peppers! Perhaps you sense a theme.
2007 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. Parker 97. Evolving beautifully, the 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de La Reine des Bois has shed some of its crazy tannin and is showing a more layered, voluptuous profile. Possessing beautiful kirsch, blackberry, candied licorice, flowers and lavender, it offers knockout richness and decadence to go with brilliant purity of fruit, superb concentration, and a full-bodied, layered mouthfeel. While I don’t think it matches the ’01 or ’10, it’s an incredible bottle of wine that can be consumed anytime over the coming 10-15 years.
Lamb skewers. Nice cumin flavor.
MaPo tofu. One of my favorites in general. This was a fine rendition. Not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly still had that nice soft texture and gradual heat.
2010 DeRose Zinfandel Dryfarmed Old Vines Cedolini Vineyard.
Dumplings. Very nice straight up steamed potstickers. No sauce was in evidence, so we made due with Hoisin.
Kung Pao shrimp. Same sauce as the chicken above. Fabulous dish actually, even if not totally typical (with that spicy sweet vibe).
Fish filet boiled with green peppers. I couldn’t resist photoing this at a neighboring table. This is a Szechuan classic, with more of an emphasis on the numbing peppercorns (see them floating in the broth?).
Mixed Szechwan skewers. Little random bits in hot sauce.
Morning glory / Ong choy. Or some similar colon sweeper.
Overall, another highly enjoyable Chinese meal. The duck was on par with Tasty Duck and the other dishes were arguably better. This place was good before, and it’s even better now. Really, this was some very enjoyable food. A number of dishes were off the charts like the “spicy chicken.”
It should be noted that service was very good. On our second visit, our server Lulu did a fabulous job handling our “chaos.” She helped out with the ordering, managed the pacing well (not always the case at Chinese) and along with the other staff really were on point replacing plates, providing napkins, and the like. At one point when I was hunting for toothpicks she even went and brought some on a plate!
After all that heat we felt the need to cool off with a pair of massive shave ices:
Mango shaved ice with almond jelly, mango jelly, strawberries, and vanilla ice cream.
Strawberry shaved ice with almond jelly, vanilla ice cream, and honey boba.
Then finished off with a nice foot massage next door. Ah, the SGV.
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