My Huffington readers know that I have traveled the world seeking really good Chinese food...in Hong Kong, New York and London as well as many, many authentic restaurants in our San Gabriel Valley. Just 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. SGV is home to some 250,000 food-loving Chinese and hundreds of splendid eateries from every province of China. Some years ago my friend Ping Chen took me to enjoy several astonishing meals at her friend's Shanghai restaurant there. Both Ping and her friend Rose (Rong Hu) are from that city, the hottest and most-populous in China. Ping married my buddy, Brian Wald, and Rose opened her first restaurant in SGV in 1998. Her sophisticated Shanghai-style food was unique and delicious, more hip than Hong Kong and more alluring than Beijing, a surprising breath and variety not seen in the more familiar Cantonese cuisine. Rose then met a Dallas entrepreneur, Bob Murphy, and married him, putting her restaurant 'on ice' for a few years. But she missed the business and reopened it as the Green Village in Sherman Oaks. We gave it a rave review here on Huffington and lots of Valley readers have thanked us over the months for the recommendation. Recently p.r. whiz Arlene Winnick told me that Rose had sold that restaurant but was planning to open a new and larger place in Studio City. On Sunday I visited it there. Oh, my, it was wondrous.
It was food writer Linda Burum who once told me that 1000 A.D. in Hangzho, China, elite members of society could dine at restaurants offering hundreds of beautifully-cooked, intricate dishes...which partially explains why I think that Chinese cuisine is the most sophisticated and interesting in the world. You know that I have eaten in three-star restaurants all over the world, but I think some of the dishes I have had of late in Chinese restaurants rank with best French and Italian food I have eaten anywhere at any price. On my side of the hill, I have extolled here the virtues (and pleasures) of the new Meizhou Dong Po in Century City, an authentic Szechuan place with its Roast Duck and Pork Hock. Now, in the San Fernando Valley, in an area which had been devoid of truly good Chinese eateries, the drought is over...is it ever! Shanghai's nickname is "Heaven on Earth." Understandable. I was in heaven this weekend when I spent several hours at Rose's new restaurant, SHANGHAI ROSE (12229 Ventura Blvd., Studio City between Laurel Grove and Vantage, site of the former Chi Dynasty (818) 762-2542) with parking in front of the restaurant, on street, or an adjacent municipal lot, with a website at www./ShanghaiRoseDimSum.com. Rose told me that she had recruited a covey of top chefs from Hong Kong and even one chef from Mr. Chow. She took me on a tour of the open kitchen, introduced me to the famous head dim sum chef, and I was astonished at what I saw.....gleaming new stainless steel fixtures, Beijing-style huge woks cooled by a stream of water down the walls; I've never seen a Chinese kitchen anywhere in the world so clean and prepared to turn out amazing food. Rose then mentioned to me that she was using the very finest ingredients including USDA beef, perhaps a first for Chinese restaurants.
I joined my friends, Rob and Crystal Minkoff and two-year old son Max, at our table....and we hailed the Chinese woman pushing the large dim sum cart. (On Saturdays and Sundays, they have two dim sum carts roaming the room; during the week, you can order the numbered dim sum from a picture menu. The only other dim sum carts that I know of uptown are at Palace, the 2nd floor place at Wilshire & Barrington. I hear the Empress Pavilion is back in action with carts in Chinatown but the reports have not been good.) Crystal spoke some rapid-fire Chinese to the server and our table was quickly filled with metal steamers containing the sensational dim sum, the legendary Chinese hor d'oeuvres of my heart. Dim Sum translates as "To touch Your Heart," and Chinese say they are going to "Yum cha" (taste tea) when going to eat dim sum, which is often. These small steamer baskets and small plates are served all at once, and in most places the waitress places a stamp on your open bill indicated the cost of each plate (usually quite low. Speaking of prices, the cost of dishes here are so remarkably reasonable given the complexity and quality of the ingredients that I am startled at the low prices.)
You can also order dishes from the regular menu, and we ordered several noodle dishes to augment the dim sum selection. Here were all the traditional dim sum, done as well as any I have eaten in Hong Kong. One test for me is the quality of the Shanghai Soup Dumplings, those miraculous morsels filled with ground pork and boiling hot soup liquid. Here, the rice flour skins were supple and silky, not too thick but sturdy enough not to rupture and spill the soup. (They are prepared with a jellied broth and pork, then steamed 'til the broth is hot liquid.) Lobster dumplings, shrimp har gow, pork sui mai, beef balls, tiny pork spare ribs, spinach shrimp dumplings, an amazing baked BBQ pork pie, crispy shrimp rolls, a startling seaweed roll, pan-fried potstickers.......all delicious, quickly eaten. Little Max (see picture) took his bowl of Hot and Sour Soup and dispatched it like a hungry teen-ager. At two, he ate like a trooper....just delightful. I watched him dispatch a piece of Orange Chicken, then turn to a Boa bun. (The orange chicken, $12.50, was slightly battered, sauteed in an orange sauce with scallions, dried orange peels and dried red chili peppers, excellent, a touch spicy.) A Fried Fish Roll ($12) appeared on the table, the filet of fish with green onions and cilantro in a creamy cheese sauce wrapped in rice paper and deep fried to perfection. A Beef Chow Fun noodle dish was shared ($12), the flat rice noodles stir-fried with beef, bean sprouts, onions, scallions and soy sauce. Exemplary. Out of curiosity, I ordered the Beef Chow Mein ($12). It was unlike any chow mein I had growing up in Brooklyn; this was crispy egg noodles topped with beef and sauteed with garlic, onions and bell peppers in a spicy black bean sauce. Sublime. In honor of my dear friend, Fred Hayman, who always orders this dish in a Chinese restaurant, I ordered the Egg Foo Young with shrimp ($12.95), the Chinese omelet made with cabbage, celery, carrots, and shrimp (or chicken, pork or veggie) with a brown sauce. Once of the great omelet dishes of the world.
Crystal Minkoff, wife of the Academy-award winning film director of 'The Lion King" and a direct descendent of Confucious, told me that she was lusting for a dessert she spotted on the menu: Coconut Jello, and we ordered this, along with some Mango Pudding. Both were excellent, but I pigged out on a dessert from the cart: the Egg Custard Tart. Someone in the kitchen really knew how to prepare a flaky pastry shell, and it was heavenly.
The Egg Custard Tart, my favorite dessert. The flakiest crust I have ever tasted.
So now I have to teach my car how to drive effortlessly to Studio City from Beverly Hills. For I know that I will be spending many a day (and night) here with SHANGHAI ROSE at her new restaurant. I doubt that the food in China is any better.
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