Neighborhood Japanese in San Gabriel.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside.
No. Seriously. It…does not…look like much…from the outside.
In truth, it looks like a basic to-go place. A small strip of a place you just duck into (see what I did there?) grab your food and go.
But Ducks has a little more going for it than that. Yes, it’s still small. No one’s going to mistake it’s ambiance for anything you’d find in Vegas or anything. But it’s got the things that I like in a SGV Eatery: causal, comfortable. (I use those words a lot) Its got all the earmarks of a place I should at least like. No pretension. No West-side stink-eye. Just a relaxed place to step into and enjoy good food.
Okay, the AC’s a bit on the fritz, but c’mon. It’s murderously hot outside, and I’m grateful for anything at this point. It’s mostly cool.
So what are we having?
Casualness and comfort aside, I’m not sure how to describe this place. I’m on the border between Temple City and San Gabriel, both places known to have some really really good Chinese places. At the same time, it’s not like I haven’t had excellent Vietnamese, Taiwanese or even Japanese in this area.
Man’s gotta eat, and eat with variety.
But I am kinda amazed this place has held on as long as it has. It’s not in an obvious part of the San Gabriel Valley, or even in an obvious part of San Gabriel. Ducks sits at the end of a nondescript Strip Mall. And serves up decent food. Not great. Just pretty good. (I mean, you won’t at all feel like a schmuck for coming here). And the place fills up quickly. When I walked it, there was me and two other patrons. By the time I left, it was what…three-quarters full. So it’s not like the locals don’t know about this place.
But I guess that’s it. Maybe with all my analysis, I’ve just been overthinking the thing. It’s not the greatest Japanese place, but it’s good. It’s not revolutionizing the world of Japanese cuisine, but that’s not what they were after to begin with. They’re just a neighborhood place. A place where the owners (husband and wife back in the kitchen, so it seems), just know the people who come through their door, and wave back when they say hi, and are used to feeding them whenever they stop by.
Yeah. That’s Ducks. That about sums it up.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, things start off gently…with a bowl of Chicken Soup.
Yeah, truth be told, it was…fine. Somewhat un-extraordinary, but you know…Japanese cuisine is not exactly known for it’s Chicken Soup.
But I was really interested in my appetizer and my main dish, both of which I’ve had elsewhere. The first thing to arrive was the Fried Gyoza.
Gotta admit, again. I was disappointed by this, but it was really my fault. I am a big, big fiend for pan-fried Dumplings or Gyoza, brown on the bottom, steamed on top. The problem I have with deep friend dumplings is their tendency to basically annihilate any filing within. And with Restaurants looking to keep up health standards, it’s always safer for them to fry the living hell out of these things.
On the whole they’re crispy and…well, crispy. They taste all right, but…let’s be honest, you’re mostly tasting cooking oil.
Finally, finally, the Katsu Teishoku arrived. Now the Katsu Teishoku is a tenderloin pork cutlet.
Now you might be surprised by looking at the picture, but this was actually pretty tasty. I don’t remember having it with the requisite Tonkastu sauce, but…even just breaded up on it’s own, just baked it, it was delicious. The juices were cooked in, leaving the thing a tasty, tender little bit of tenderloin.
Worth dropping by for…maybe. Worth going out of your way for? Ehhh…stick to Sawtelle Japantown.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Okay, this might be a little strange, and…to be fair, it may be what was working inside my head, but…this is one of those places that looked closed even though it was open. I don’t know, maybe it was the shades being pulled (the Sun was set on maximum), but I almost turned around in the parking lot until I put ‘er in park and walked up to the door and pulled on it.
PARKING: Easy. It is a Strip Mall, and at Ducks seems to be getting most of the business. I So all the parking’s free. Failing that, you can try to park along Las Tunas Dr., but I think you’ll get a spot in the lot.
1381 E. Las Tunas Dr. #1
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: (626) 287-8743
Monday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Wednesday-Friday: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, 5:00 – 9:00 pm
Saturday-Sunday: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm