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Lu-Din-Gee Cafe (San Gabriel CA)
||1039 East Valley Boulevard #B102,|
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2006 Issue: 13(2) page: 36 and 37
Lu-Din-Gee Cafe is some blocks east of San Gabriel Avenue in the Gold World Plaza. Run by a lovely young lady who learns cooking when Mom no longer can. She is a first-rate student back and front of the house. Her cooking seems effortless, and the knowledge acquired is top notch. The business card says 'The Best Peking Duck in Town.' It can be ordered with one hour advance notice; and we do to test her mettle. It comes beautiful, boneless, and bursting with taste. It also comes with thin pancakes, hoisin sauce, shredded scallions, and a healthy pile of sliced meat under its skin. Go whole hog and order stir-fried bean sprouts, shredded carrots, and more duck; this place is worth pigging out in. Try their Duck Bone Soup; it cooks for dozens of hours with meat on the bone, Chinese cabbage, and pre-frozen tofu. This is an interesting rendition. One chap we know calls the bird 'designer duck;' we call it 'designed to be delicious.'
Remember before ordering to ask for the extra single-page plastic-coated picture menu. It whets appetites and touts some of the dishes mentioned, and nineteen others. The ones we taste are as good as they look. There is an all-Chinese menu with one special meal each week-day; no pictures so we skip it; anyway we want duck and we want dinner.
Duck is not the only fine item served here. One can order Buddha Chicken (it needs an hourís notice, too), Shark Fin and Crab Meat Soup, Taiwanese-style Luxury Shark Fin Soup, B.B.Q. Eel over Flavored Steamy Sticky Rice, and Monkey King w/Seafood Filling. That last item needs a whole dayís advance-warning). There is lots more on the chef's special offerings; and there are everyday dishes, too.
Ready always is the Special House Deep-fried Squid with Coconut. This is made with chili and garlic and very young squid. It is yummy, as is Spicy Konnyaku Salad. The konnyaku is a yam-type plant jelly made in three colors. They are flavored with carrot or spinach juice. The entire dish is flavored with Japanese horseradish root, better known as wasabi, and with a few chili peppers and some peanut butter. Not for the faint of heart or anyone with a peanut allergy. The menu assures diners of its contents, and those in other dishes, too. Would that every restaurant was as wise. More people are developing nut and other allergies, a few even losing their lives if ingesting an allergin such as peanuts unknowingly.
The menu is extensive, has more than a hundred dishes and seven desert delights. Some are wonderfully inventive. We like the Spicy Arctic Clam and the Light Fried Dragon Balls. The latter are filled with shrimp paste and are very creative. The Cumin Lamb is a winner, the Sauteed Chicken with Basil a beauty, and the Stir-fried Fish Filet with Tofu in a spicy sauce just super. So is the XO Beef, and the Shredded Pork and Jellyfish.
The menu features many healthy konnyyaku-made items and they should be tried. Her mom touts them as extra healthy and many Buddhists agree. The Passion Fruit and Pineapple Konnyaku dessert arrives heart-shaped and satisfying. A sweet tooth sweetie will adore it. The Baked Walnut Rice Cakes with Peas are perfect, and the Garden Pea Jelly Cake and the Thousand Layers Cake is not to be missed.
Besides the divine duck dishes and other tasty treats, the lunch and dinner specials are very good; but often not told to all patrons. Do not hesitate to ask for an English recitation. There is lots besides divine duck; so seek it out.