A Dumpling House to finally rival my beloved Din Tai Fung. And now they’ve got a second one on the Monrovia-Arcadia border.
I have been a big fan of Luscious Dumplings ever since my first visit way back when. I’m still shocked that the dumplings they serve there routinely and effortlessly kick the tail of the outstanding, and way more popular Din Tai Fung (which I also adores).
But the tastes here are stronger, more flavorful, more mouth-watering. You come here, you come for different reasons than you do for Din Tai Fung. There you go for an elaborate, party-time meal.
Here you come for small, for intimate. For a quiet, delicious meal among friends.
Anyway, I did a review of this place at it’s San Gabriel location. What did I say before?
I’m inside Luscious Dumplings in the San Gabriel Valley. I’ve got my seat. I’ve managed to juuuuuuust beat the lunch rush inside. I’ve handed in my form and I’m waiting for my dumplings to magically arrive. I’m sitting in the restaurant, with anxious anticipation. I can smell those Dumplings coming from the kitchen just ten feet from me…
…and that’s when the Carolers arrive.
Long story. It was around Christmas time, and–
–like I said, long story.
I am a big fan of Din Tai Fung. It is the place that first introduced me to the sheer unparalleled joy of dumplings. I still love that place and what they serve me.
Man, oh man…
Luscious Dumplings may not give them a run for their money, they may have won the damn race.
It’s not the hippest, sleekest place on the block (sharing the plaza with Vietnam House – review coming soon). So let’s be honest, you’re coming here for some of the best tasting dumpling you’ve had in a while.
Man, what is about L.A.? True dining gems are always hidden away, off the beaten path.
Anyway, the rule book for Luscious Dumplings is simple. You walk in and see if there’s a table. Odds are, there won’t be, and you might find yourself waiting outside for a bit until one comes available. It’s kinda like Golden Deli in that regard, but that’s kind of the thing you have to get used in the San Gabriel Valley.
After that, your Dumplings come and…and…bliss.
The atmosphere and stylings at the San Gabriel location were not much to look at. The Monrovia location? Much much better. Still not going to be winning any awards for atmospherics, but much nicer looking inside than the original location. If I had a choice between the two, I’d come here.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Dumplings, and as many as you can eat.
In my case, I started simply, with the Pan Fried Pork Dumplings. Best I’ve ever had. They’re not Xiaolongbao, in the sense that they’re not soup dumplings. You’re not sucking out a sip of soup in every one. You still bite into them carefully to break up the heat bubble that’s been building during cooking, but after that: ambrosia.
I almost can’t describe it (a bad sign for a food writer). As much as I love me some dumplings, the dumpling shells themselves are a fairly dull affair, hiding away a magical treat of the meat at the heart of the creation. But there, the dumpling is actually a bit flavorful, a smoky infusion of the pan and the marinade. Either way, it was really delicious. Best I’ve ever had. Period. Din Tai Fung is a solid Silver Medal in this category, for me. But, but…
I also availed myself of the Steamed Soup Dumplings, the Xiaolongbao, what you probably would know as the Juicy Pork Dumplings at Din Tai Fung. Again, excellent. There are some…slight structural integrity problems peeling them from the dish they’re served it. Expect these suckers to be torn apart as you go for them but other that that, right up there with Din Tai Fung.
In a previous visit to the other location, I’ve availed myself of the Pan Fried Chive Pockets with Pork, Egg and Glass Noodle. Also good, but I was still too carried away by those Pan Fried Pork Dumplings.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: So, first things first. It’s cash only establishment, so leave your plastic at home.
Go in knowing that the restaurant is small, and that you might be waiting a bit to get in. Not long. It’s a proud Shanghainese tradition to get you in, get you fed, and get you out. Count on a similar level of service here at Luscious Dumplings.
PARKING: This Shopping Complex feels pretty damn new. I haven’t researched the age or anything, but Parking is pretty damn easy. The whole complex revolves around a mint-condition Hong Kong Supermarket, along with a number of other restaurants (which we will be getting to shortly.). Park where you will. It’s free and easy.
Luscious Dumplings (Monrovia)
919 W. Duarte Road
Monrovia, CA 91016
Tel: (626) 821-0518
Monday: 11:00 am – 2:30 pm
Wednesday-Sunday: 11:00 am – 2:30 pm; 5:00pm – 8:30 pm