Location: 9055 E Las Tunas Dr #105, Temple City, CA 91780. (626) 286-1999
Date: October 9, 2022 and January 7, 2023
Rating: Upscale Chinese, solid kitchen
Chinese Restaurants in the SGV are slowly going more upscale in a way that’s different than the Cantonese palaces of Monterey Park of yesterday. I’ve been here several times before, even celebrating a birthday, but Jeffrey wanted to go, and we figured we’d check it out post pandemic (10/9/22) and then not long after Arnie wanted to try it too, so we went back (1/7/23).
And one of the latest is Bistro Na’s located on Las Tunas near this cool:
The interior is very elegant Chinese, almost traditional but in a new way typical in China today. Ornate wood carvings, lanterns and antique music instruments abound. Technically it bills itself as “Imperial Cuisine”. Maybe there is some of that, but it’s also a bit of Chinese greatest hits. Still, it’s a different cuisine than nearly every other place in the SGV with more ornate plating.
We reserved the private room again. You basically HAVE to do this at Na if you want a great experience. The regular area is just too cramped and restrictive. Food somehow seems better in here too. But they have annoying policies with the regular room. It has a minimum, which isn’t THAT high, so it’s okay, EXCEPT for the fact that you can only reserve at either 5 or 7:30pm and you only get 2 hours. So if you want a different time, say 6:30pm, you need to PAY for both blocks!
In contrast on 1/7/23 about 10 of us were smushed into this booth out in the main dining room as that was the largest table they had. Yarom hovered as usual.
The menu. A lot of dishes at Na are bland so Jeffrey and I spent hours in advance plotting the best things to order.
Chili Tofu Skin Salad (10/9/22). Very nice texture and a little bit of heat.
Na’s Spicy Chicken (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). The classic Sichuan cold dish. Super tasty with a nice balance of salt, tang, and heat. Some numbing as well. Very tender chicken.
Celtuce Jellyfish Salad (10/9/22). A combo dish of smashed cucumbers and jellyfish. Now while it’s expensive ($42!) it was a fabulous jellyfish (and cucumber) dish with a great tangy/sweet soy.
Jellyfish Salad (1/7/23). Not bad, although not much jellyfish — and it replaces the now discountined Jellyfish with Cucumbers (above) that was amazing. Poor direction to go in.
Chef Su’s Pork Feet Jelly (1/7/23). Kind of bland, although the pork meat part was okay.
Beijing Zhajian Noodles (10/9/22). They are served all mixed up. It’s very mild but plesant. The meat and mushrooms add some heartiness. The bean sauce is subdued.
Alaskan King Crab Typhoon Style (10/9/22). Spectacular version using the crab body. Shell was cooked down to be very tender and the crispy garlic was awesome.
Alaskan King Crab Legs, Steamed. Simple but delicious.
Alaskan King Crab Egg Custard. Pleasant texture and mild flavor.
Crispy Shrimp (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). This is Na’s signature dish and for a reason. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the shells completely candied and edible. Delicious, if a touch sweet. They remind me somehow of cicadas escaping their shells.
3-4 lb Lobster “Typhoon Style” (1/7/23). Lobster itself was a little over cooked and the Typhoon was oddly soggy without the crisp and stong garlic flavor. A bit meh.
2.5lb Turbo steamed with Ginger and Soy (1/7/23). Okay but a bit bland. Nowhere near as good as the Chang’An version.
Braised Abalone and Sea Cucumber (10/9/21). Pleasant brown sauce. This dish is all about the texture. The Sea Cucumber had a nice mouth feel.
Black Pepper Lamb Chops (1/7/23). We asked for rare and got medium plus. Okay, but a bit too overcooked. These also replace the crispy lamb which was great.
Na’s Braised Pork Belly (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). Great version of this classic Shanghai dish. The pork was super succulent and the sweet brown sauce had a nice depth of star anise.
Crispy Pigeon (10/9/22). Fine, but actually one of the weaker dishes tonight as these were slightly dry.
Stir Fried Angus Beef with Garlic (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). Really interesting. The beef itself was tender and good, even if the piece size felt a little bit thick, but the real killer was the crispy candied chilies. These were incredible! Actually fairly spicy.
Braised Brisket with Quail Egg (1/7/23). Kind of sweet and savory, more or less a beef stew. Not bad though.
Stir Fried Pea Sprouts with Mushrooms (1/7/23). Excellently cooked. Could have used a touch more salt (or “flavor”) but otherwise nice.
Chili Pork with Cauliflower (10/9/22). Very tasty vegetable with nice crunch and a good porky flavor.
Stir Fried Cabbage with Dried Shrimp (10/9/22). The dried shrimp give this version of the dish a quite significant pungency. Weirdly they removed it from the menu by our return in January!
Fried Mixed Mushrooms with Rice Cracker Bites (10/9/22 and 1/7/23). OMG these were like potato-stick crack. They felt “hollow”, crispy, and coated in an almost candied shell. So good!
Shrimp Fried Rice with Bonito (10/9/22). Nice complex fried rice with a distinct bonito flake flavor.
Pan Fried Beef Buns (10/9/22). Very nicely flavored beef and chive filling. Pretty temperature hot at the start and could have used a little vinegar/dumpling sauce to balance the hot fat.
Fruit (10/9/22). I guess you only get this in the private room!
Key Lime Pie Gelato — base is a key lime egg custard, layered with house-made Graham Cracker and covered with house-made Torched Meringue — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #KeyLime #lime #custard #meringue #GrahamCracker #cookie
Overall, a complicated place (for the SGV) to review.
Service on 10/9/22 was good, better than before. They brought us wine glasses (not great ones, but they have them). We handled the wine service. There was a good amount of plate changing. Took a while to get going even though we had the pre-ordered menu. They seat all the private rooms in two seatings at 5pm and 7:30pm so all 5 of them were sitting at once (not to mention the limited time thing and the minimums). That doesn’t make it easy on the server. All in all it’s excellent service for SGV Chinese.
On 1/7/23 service was fine, but a bit different as we were smushed in outside. I was also annoyed with them because they had removed several of their best dishes from the menu and replaced them with even blander alternatives.
Food is interesting. Beautiful plating. Not the most flavor forward of the Chinese cuisines. Pretty good if you order very very carefully, but also expensive in a relative fashion. Ended up over $200 a person all in with a good tip because of the King Crab. If you go to a Top Island or the like you can get that much cheaper too. Still a novel and fun experience. Gorgeous room.
While a bit pricey for the SGV, the atmosphere is lovely and the plating much more elegant. Some dishes were excellent, some just pretty good, and some outright bland. I’m not really sure what regionality of Chinese it is. Sort of Beijing/Shanghai maybe? They say “Imperial.” It does feel very contemporary Chinese and is certainly not aimed at white folk. I have a general problem here with their “under-seasoning.” A lot of dishes just seem too sweet or too bland. On Oct 9, 2022 meal we ordered really carefully and leaned toward their more spicy (not actually spicy) dishes. This helped a great deal. On 1/7/23 the meal was considerably inferior. We weren’t in the private room and the “crowd” I was with wanted to order some of their meatier dishes that just fall a bit flat.
Hangry Rider made this excellent video summary of our 10/9/22 meal.