Pasadena: Yujean Kang’s
Yujean Kang’s in Pasadena is an institution. I’ve been hearing about this Chinese restaurant for years. It’s been in Pasadena for 20 years and I finally made my way over to Old Town to check it out. Walking in, I immediately liked the decor. It reminded me of a classic Chinese tea house.
We had been invited for dinner so I asked Chef Yujean to prepare whatever he liked for us. My guest, Josie of the Uncouth Gourmands, did ask for chicken lettuce cups. I was surprised how sturdy the lettuce was. I must find out what the chef did!
We started our meal with some excellent crispy tofu rolls stuffed with chicken and gorgeous Four Seasons dumplings. The delicacy and artfulness of these dumplings was just stunning. I could imagine everything had to be precisely put together with tweezers to get them perfect.
Next, we had a light consomme with watercress and tender pork ribs.
Josie is allergic to shellfish so I had these lovely prawns to myself. It worked out since she got the bok choy and bok choy isn’t my fave Chinese veg. I do have to say the bok choy was good though.Normally I find it to taste too vegetal (like grass) but Yujean Kang’s had flavor.
It looks like chicken. The texture was a bit like chicken. It’s not chicken! The sturgeon was the most puzzling for me. The julienned sturgeon seemed almost velvety and contrasted nicely with the thinly sliced snowpea, tomato and walnuts. I could eat this dish with rice and be a happy camper.
Next we had the eggplant dish with whole cloves of garlic. Throughout the night, I felt Chef Yujean was taking us to different parts of China and this dish reminded me a bit of Southern China and in particular Sichuan. Though it didn’t have the extreme spice of Sichuan dishes, the eggplant was expertly cooked.
The dish I was most excited to try was the lamb loin with crispy Parm ham. The presentation reminded me of a sunflower with the tiny chrysanthemum petals ringing the platter. This lamb wasn’t gamey at all. The texture was like velvet, reminding me of the earlier sturgeon. This is a rather classic Chinese presentation and Chef Yujean nailed it. The lamb was also the most balanced for me; the perfectly soft meat, the savory ham and the nice tang of the fresh flowers.
Was this the night I gave up dessert? No, of course not. Yujean Kang’s is best known for their red bean pancakes and cheesecake. I enjoyed the cheesecake the most. It was actually really good and I was rather surprised. Chinese food and a dairy dessert? Neat! My 2-3 bite rule flew out the window with these desserts.
The next time I’m in Old Town, I will definitely consider trying Yujean Kang’s again. They’ve hooked me on that sturgeon, lamb and cheesecake.
67 North Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103