My quest for Dumpling Houses that are not Din Tai Fung (though I love them) continues in Monterey Park.
This was weird. My quest for Dumplings started with looking for a Mama’s Lu (and yes, according to the sign, I got that right. It’s Mama’s Lu, not Mama Lu’s).
I did not know that Mama’s Lu was a chain. Fine. No big. I locked in a location, and drove there. As I pull up, I notice that the Parking is on the wrong side of the street. Best go around the block and try again.
…and as I’m coming around the block, what do I see? Another Mama’s Lu, totally separate from the one I first spotted.
I mean, I knew they were a chain, but this close together?
I guess that’s impressive…separation.
You want to hear a second slightly weird story about Mama’s Lu. The weekend I came, it was…yes…Chinese New Year. How…the hell…do I keep doing this…to myself??
Anyway, the place was packed, and I was eating solo, so what did they do, they put me at the big round banquet table, all by lonesome.
Hey, it got me fed, didn’t it.
Needless to say, halfway through my meal, they sat another family opposite me. Why waste the space, right? They were very nice people, and their kids were friendly as well.
Still, you didn’t come to Mama’s Lu to look at their competitive business practices. You came to scarf down some dumplings, and that you will do here my friend. Ooooh, Doctor.
So first, how does it compare to what is considered the Mothership of the Dumpling Trade here in town, the slowly growing Din Tai Fung? Pretty damn well. In fact, the only thing separating the two maybe ease of access and what particular side dishes you want with your meal. On that front, not a lot of difference.
And taste? Well, pretty fairly even there too. What I would say is, going to Mama’s Lu is more like going to your Mom’s house for Dumplings, instead of the ever impressive Taipei-Shanghaiese machine that is Din Tai Fung. The food just feels a bit more handcrafted, and handmade.
And damn straight, that was a compliment.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: If you’re coming to a place called Mama’s Lu Dumpling House, and you’re not helping yourself to a whole mess of dumplings, then…something’s wrong with you.
Still, I danced with the ever traditional Juicy Pork Dumplings, which were great. I got a thing of baked/fried dumplings that I’d recognize in a second if Mama’s Lu had an actual website.
EDITOR’S NOTE: See, restaurants…I know you think you’re doing well without a website, but this is why you need to take advantage of free media. Suppose I wanted to show my Dad in Texas what’s on the bill of faire at your restaurant, so that when we come to town, we go to your place. Well, I can’t show him what you offer, because you don’t have a website. Heck, I can’t show my friends down the street what you offer, if we’re looking for Dumplings on a Saturday night. Instead, you know what I find on the web instead of your restaurant? Your competitors on the web. So instead of visiting you, I might wind up going to visit them.
Again, not good for you.
Anyway, back to our review.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Just know going in, no matter which location you go to (no matter how close they are) it’s going to be crowded. Just like going to Din Tai Fung on the wrong night.
Be patient. It’s worth it.
If you don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, you may have to do a little pointing, but that’s okay. The staff’s adaptable, and they definitely want your money.
PARKING: Plentiful, but crowded. There is a pretty large Parking Lot out in back of the Restaurant, that it shares with a mess of other stores. It’s basically part of a strip mall complex that generates a lot of traffic, so…like Mama’s Lu Itself, it’s always crowded. But since it generates a lot of business, it’s doing a lot of turnover, so space should crop up. Be patient.
Did I mention be patient?
Mama’s Lu Dumpling House
153 E. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Tel: (626) 307-5700
Six days a week: : 10:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:00 – 9:00 pm