Friday, July 22, 2005

New Concept

New Concept [700 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 282-6800] is a unique and wonderful restaurant with a great name, up there with "Enjoy Inn" and "Try It Out" (both in Auckland). The style is innovative Cantonese, which neatly solves the problem of Chinese restaurant discrimination; the menu has pictures, and because the dishes are all crazy inventions one needn't fear ordering the wrong thing. Inside the bling factor is considerable - dude at the next table had serious rocks on his watch - but the prices are surprisingly affordable and coz it's L.A. you can't be too underdressed. I have not explored the lauded New Concept dim sum in detail (best so far = incredible Japanese tofu in abalone sauce; lavender cake dessert), but enjoyed a lovely dinner there:

Suckling pig skin with goose liver and blood sauce. Enough of a house specialty to feature in the wall pictures, this appetizer can also be had with duck skin. The crispy skin and rich sauce are served on a cracker, three textures in one delicious mouthful.

Spotted deer in spicy Szechuan broth. A new conception along the lines of the Szechuan "water boiled" dishes, here made with gamy "spotted deer" which my friend Limster thought was different than regular venison. This dish was insanely well spiced, with subtle Szechuan peppercorn, a not-overpowering level of chilli, cumin & many other herbs I couldn't identify. Less oily than the traditional water-boiled beef, this was Limster's favourite dish.

Braised three treasures. A nice assortment of high-quality Cantonese ingredients with simple flavours. Spare ribs with chewy cartilage are served in the fried, pepper-and-salt "chiu yim" style. Fish cake and giant portobello-type mushroom slices round out the dish. The latter were gigantic and very tasty, an unfamiliar mushroom to my admittedly unschooled tastes.

Fried milk. An unusual dairy dish in a Cantonese restaurant, fried milk is like very soft scrambled eggs with a much subtler flavour. Immaculate chopped fresh shrimp and char siu/barbecue pork were folded in. A truly lovely concoction.

I've only scratched the surface of New Concept, a restaurant that has Chowhounds and other food enthusiasts ablaze with excitement. Any restaurant that makes such a big impression in the stellar San Gabriel eating scene has to be doing really special things. Plan on hearing more in future.

111005 additional dishes:

fat beef in broth enoki
clams in sake
sizzling three treasures eggplant, bitter melon, red pepper
cold platter char siu, jellyfish, pork with crispy skin, chicken, soy beans
lettuce cups with clams and stuff and sweet bean sauce
whelk with lotus root, carrot, beans
papaya with snow frog fat


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