As Clarissa Wei recently highlighted a lot of the new developments in Chinese dining are concentrated in the eastern portion of the San Gabriel Valley, as opposed to the more established west San Gabriel Valley communities such as Monterey Park, Alhambra, and San Gabriel. For those looking for microtrends in this advancement of Chinese dining, I've noticed in the Rowland Heights-Industry-Hacienda Heights area a disproportionate number of recent openings of more upscale Chinese restaurants.
say upscale, I mean both in terms of restaurant decor and design, as
well as a higher price point that what we're used to seeing.
Immediately coming to mind are Zheng's Fusion, Southern Gourmet, Lobster Bay and
Taste Guizhou, and I'm sure there are quite a few others. I guess with a
newer and less pricey real estate stock, it's easier to spend a few
extra dollars on the decor than in the denser west San Gabriel Valley and its older real estate inventory. And in these new restaurants, many, if not most of the dinner entrees run in the $20 and more category. Hardly pricey by typical foodie standards in the Los Angeles area, but quite a departure from the value pricing that most Chinese diners in the San Gabriel Valley have typically been looking for.
It's not like there's any overall loss of interest in reasonably priced Chinese food in the west San Gabriel Valley. Indeed, one now finds the best and more expensive west San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants like Sea Harbour, King Hua, Shi Hai and Elite only half full on Saturday nights, while restaurants like Mama's Lu Dumpling House (hardly anything on the menu over $10) and 5 Star Seafood (entrees nudge over $10, but you get an allegedly 3 pound lobster for $5.97 with a minimum $30 purchase) packed to the gills with long waits during the same Saturday night timeframe. So value certainly is still king in the west San Gabriel Valley.
It's clear that these new upscale east San Gabriel Valley eateries are being driven by the nouveau riche Chinese mainlanders descending on the San Gabriel Valley. One observer commented that these nouveau riche seen in restaurants in and around Rowland Heights are very conspicuous, particularly the women, by their obviously expensive designer clothing and accessories which are just as obviously mismatched. But why in the eastern area? Super rich Chinese mainlanders have typically been identified with the communities of Arcadia and San Marino, and not especially with Hacienda Heights and points east. Yet the new upscale restaurants don't seem to have made their mark around Arcadia and San Marino, except perhaps the spacious and pricey Spring Bamboo Seafood which took over space formerly occupied by a large piano store. And yes, there is Hai Di Lao in the Santa Anita Mall, but that IS a shopping mall. Perhaps the east San Gabriel Valley has its own share of rich mainlanders who are still operating under the radar, or maybe that's just where it's easier to build out a large and upscale restaurant venue. But at the moment it's a bit of a puzzle.