Monday, January 17, 2022

Great Chinese Food Comes To Irwindale--Sands Chinese Restaurant

On one of the local restaurant message boards I once facetiously posted that there were multiple teams of chowhounds criss-crossing the San Gabriel Valley to be the first to find the latest great Chinese restaurant opening. Well, fellows and gals, we missed one, because Sands Chinese Restaurant, which opened two years ago in Irwindale, is really a gem, one which I’ve never heard anybody mention until I stumbled onto a posting that one of the operators had made on a Facebook group.

Perhaps first order is to explain the name of the restaurant, since there’s nothing Chinese about “Sands.” From what I can tell, the chef here used to work at the Sands Casino in Macao, which would explain the one of the stunning Yelp reviews that claimed Sands was the best Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, which I assumed came from a relative or friend of the owner. It would also explain the quality of the food here and some of the less common, upscale dishes that they serve here. Unfortunately, most of those dishes are advance order only so I didn’t get a chance to try any this time. Also we were hampered by the fact that one of our group is midway in the tooth implant process and we had to limit ourselves to soft dishes. Nevertheless this was enough to give an idea of the quality of the restaurant.

One other unfortunate thing about ordering only soft foods was that none of the dishes were particularly photogenic. But the food was excellent across the board.

This is the crystal noodle with egg whites.


Sweet and sour fish, nice and thinly crunchy and tasty.

Singapore curry chow fun, spicier than usual but very well done.


The special advance order menu is something we don’t see very often in Southern California Cantonese restaurants. Items on the Sands Menu include mixed meat and vegetables in egg white pancake, pipa tofu, braised stuffed duck, braised pork belly, sweet and sour fish with pine nuts, and chicken wings with glutenous rice. I actually didn’t see the prices of these, except the pipa tofu at $38. A couple other nice dishes on the regular, fairly short menu were the thousand layer tofu and the rack of lamb.

Sands Chinese Restaurant is closed on Sundays. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Paradise Dynasty Is So Much More Than Xiao Long Bao

A few months ago I heard about the opening of a branch of the famed Paradise Dynasty Chinese restaurant chain out of Singapore in Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza super regional shopping mall.  Since South Coast Plaza is  not exactly in my normal geographic territory I didn't have an opportunity to stop by until recently.  Their slogan is "Legend Of Xiao Long Bao", and while the XLB is excellent, what caught me unaware was how good the rest of their menu was.

I don't think you will ever get a consensus on the best XLB around simply because different diners look for different things.  Some diners prefer thin skins, some prefer thick, and no restaurant will do it both ways.  Similarly some people prefer lots of soup, others more moderate.  And these days, the varieties of XLB go in all directions.  With the famed Din Tai Fung also operating in South Coast Plaza, it is inevitable that people will compare the restaurants, and largely based on the XLB.   And I don't think a consensus as to which is better for basic varieties will be found.  However, for specialty varieties, Paradise Dynasty clearly is the place to go.

For sure, Paradise Dynasty's black truffle XLB is the most flavorful single examplar of XLB I have ever had. Nor have I had one with so much truffle flavor.



The prawn and Kurobuta pork dumpling in chili vinaigrette may be the best spicy won ton you’ll find anywhere, including the place at the other end of the mall.


Yes, this is sweet and sour fish, and you can get it anywhere. But not like this. Excellent batter, but that’s not unique. What distinguishes this dish is the fact that while there’s the crunchy exterior, the fish is soft and juicy. I have no idea how they pull that off. Oh, and there’s a touch of plum in the sweet and sour sauce.


Another best in class dish is the pork chop fried rice.  It looks just like the same dish at Din Tai Fung, but even if it is a copycat dish I'd rather have this one.   How do they make the pork so soft and juicy? You can order the pork chop as a separate stand alone dish.

The black sesame peanut topped glutinous rice ball is great, hot out of the oven.

Pan fried pumpkin cakes are so good.

And the chilled snow fungus in peach resin.

Paradise Dynasty is a significant addition to the local Chinese dining scene.  A lot of people may assume it's some kind of Din Tai Fung wannabe, but it is certainly much more than that with a broader array on their menu of outstanding Chinese dishes.  Special thanks to the head chef and the head dim sum chef!