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Friday, September 10, 2010

AROUND TOWN / DINING

Yujean Kang’s place still rocks Pasadena restaurant offers Chinese food like you’ve never had before

T Afterallthese years, Yujean Kang’s place still rocks ModernChinese cookingyou haven’t eatenbefore

here are there those of us who take it as a Matter of Faith that the best Chinese food in Southern California (and very possibly in all of America) is to be found on the streets and MERRILL in the malls of the San SHINDLER Gabriel Valley. And for the most part, that’s true. It’s the rare meal that I’ve had in one of our multitudinous Formica Palaces that hasn’t left me filled with joy and wonder – and a whole lot of really tasty chow, unadulterated by Western flavors. This is the cooking of the homeland, served at prices so low, you have to wonder if the staff is populated by volunteers, who work gratis simply because they love making people happy. Doubtful; but it’s the only explanation I can come up with. It’s easy to assume that nothing compares with the nexus of Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rosemead, San Gabriel and the parallel universe of Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights. But consider, for a moment, the legendary dishes of Yujean Kang in Old Pasadena. Think of the sliced free-range veal loin with matchstick yams, assorted fresh mushrooms and shallots. Consider the red braised fresh black cod with soy, roasted garlic, ginger and scallions. Spent a pleasant evening in the company of the Chinese polenta with shrimp, mushrooms, scallions and cilantro. And tell me there’s any better Chinese food to be found along Valley Boulevard or Las Tunas Drive. You can’t — because there isn’t. After all these years, Kang’s still rocks. And it has since the restaurant first opened back in 1991. Back then, many of us would journey to Kang’s to eat food unlike the chow found anywhere else. There was an absurd amount of enjoyment to derive from Yujean’s unique Kangian Cuisine — singular creations that have lasted on the menu for two decades now — like his elegant chicken sautéed with silk squash in plum wine with crispy Parma ham — a dish that would be lovely in and of itself, but is made all the better with a simple splatter of chili oil — a culinary “trim tab” that changes the whole dish. I can’t imagine eating at Kang’s and not ordering his amazing prawns with mixed mushrooms and fava beans, flavored so elegantly with garlic, ginger, chili sauce and, of all things, fresh tomato juice. Though really, any of his prawn dishes will do, or perhaps all of them: sautéed prawns with fresh pea shoots, kung pao prawns with crispy tofu and toasted peanuts, prawns sautéed with minced chicken breast in spicy Szechuan ma-po sauce, spicy prawns with glazed walnuts and sweet peppers. And really, I have to include his celebration shrimp ball and his steamed shrimp and garlic chive dumplings. And his flat noodles sautéed with shrimp, chicken and beef. And, oh yes, one of my absolute Kangian favorites,

AROUND TOWN / STAGE AHMANSON THEATRE 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 213-628-2772. Leap of Faith, con man brings gospel revival to rain-starved Kansas, Broadway-bound. Performances at 8 Tuesdays- Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, opens Saturday until Oct. 24. $25-$92. Tickets are available at 213-628-2772, CenterTheatreGroup.org or in person at the box office. ALEX THEATRE 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. 818-243-2539. 70, Girls, 70, senior housing residents turn to shoplifting to buy their building before it is sold to developers; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20. $30-$40. CAL POLY POMONA University Theatre, 3801 W. Temple Ave., Pomona. 909-869-3800. Southern California Shakespeare Festival presents Hamlet, 8 p.m. Saturday and Sept. 18, 24, 25, and Oct. 2 and 2 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 19, 26, and Oct. 3. $12-$15. Tickets $15; seniors, students, faculty and staff $10. CANDLELIGHT PAVILION 455 Foothill Blvd., Claremont, 91711. 909-626-1254. The Will Rogers Follies until Sept. 26. $48-$75, includes dinner or brunch. candlelightpavilion.com. CHRYSALIS Vic Lopez Auditorium, “Little Vic” Theater, 6700 Whittier Ave, Whittier. 562-212-1991. Anna Karenina, until Sept. 19. For teens and up. $20. chrysalisstage.com. CITRUS COLLEGE 1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora. 626-963-9411. Quinn Lemley stars in Burlesque to Broadway; 2 p.m. Sept. 19. $26-$28. haughpac.com. COLONY THEATRE 555 N. Third St., Burbank. 818-558-7000. West Coast premiere of Free Man of Color, about one of the first freed slaves to graduate from an American university; until Sunday, 8 p.m. tonight, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. $20-$42. COVINA CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

YUJEAN KANG’S GOURMET CHINESE CUISINE 67 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 626-585-0855 Lunch and dinner, daily The Food: Call it Kangian Cuisine: Modern Chinese cooking unlike anything you’ve ever had before, built around Chef Kang’s penchant for taking familiar dishes, and turning them into edible creations with his antic imagination. Kang also is a master in the kitchen. This may be the only restaurant outside of the environs of Monterey Park to best the cooking of our suburban Chinatown. About $35 per person. MC, V Beer and wine Reservations: Important Rating: ✪✪✪ 1/2

critics went more than a little bonkers over the food. Gourmet magazine’s usually understated critic Caroline Bates called it “staggering” and “inventive.” Wine Advocate Robert Parker ranked it among the best meals he’d ever had. Oenophiles went mental over the wine list. In fact, some writers spent so much time oohing and aahing over the wine list, they almost forgot about the food. As I recall, the first fellow to call me back in 1991 about the branch of Yujean Kang’s that had opened in Pasadena did exactly the same thing. He’s one of those dentist-gourmets who keep popping up around town, with even more consistency than lawyer-gourmets. He raved about the wonderful prices charged for a remarkable collection of rare vintages. He said the food was real good, too. Nice of him to remember to eat something. Actually, there’s a subtlety to the cooking of Yujean Kang that one has to be prepared for. Kang deals in understatement, in flavors that Photos by Watchara Phomicinda Staff Photographer can creep up on you. You want to spend some time with his cooking, with each dish, careAt top, braised fresh black cod is served with soy sauce and scallion at Yujean Kang’s fully tasting every bite. Gourmet Chinese restaurant in Pasadena. Above is prawn served with Chinese polenta. There are flavors within flavors here. Let me suggest, for starters, the dim sum plate of his cold noodles in spice sesame sauce topped mix. In his case, they were made for each crispy scallop dumplings, his shrimp dumpother. with steamed prawns: heaven incarnate on a lings, and his shrimp balls. Don’t miss the A bit of history is in order. Yujean Kang plate. “tiny dumplings” with a richly smoked hot grew up in the kitchen of his parents’ restauThough many of the dishes at Yujean chili oil, or the Chinese calamari fritti with a Kang’s have been on his menu since the begin- rant in Taiwan, working his way up from dipping sauce of soy, cilantro and bean curd. busboy to waiter to apprentice chef. In his ning, they’re still fresh enough to remind us And do try to go with some good eaters. of just how very much on the cutting edge of teens, Yujean moved with his family to CaliforThat way, you can dig into the sautéed lamb nia, where his perceptions of Chinese food creativity the cuisine of Southern California with baby bok choy in chili, scallion and began to change. There’s something about can be when a visionary sticks by his vision. cilantro sauce; into the braised pork chop Yujean Kang absolutely knows who he is, and California — something in the air, the soil, redolent of aromatic five spice powder; into the water, the vibes — that tends to make more importantly what his cooking is. The even the most tradition-bound chef reconsider the chicken with glazed cashew nuts, and the only bandwagon he’s ever on is his own; he crispy beef with baby bok choy. the meaning of it all. And in the case of imitates no one, and interestingly, no one This is food that always excites, that never Yujean Kang, the result was a restaurant he imitates him. bores. Yujean is clearly having too much fun opened at the tender age of 23 in the East For once, the bothersome term “gourmet” to ever be tedious. He’s proof that there’s Bay suburb of Albany, a short jaunt north of actually fits. This is as gourmet as Chinese flavor outside of Monterey Park. And lots of Berkeley, called Yujean’s Modern Cuisine of food gets. And Kang also has one of the best it. China. wine lists in town, and he’ll gladly disprove mreats@aol.com The normally jaded Northern California the myth that Chinese food and wine don’t

104 N. Citrus Ave., Covina. 626-331-8133. ext. 626. Marvin’s Room, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 17-Oct. 17. $50. FREMONT CENTRE THEATRE 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. 866-811-4111. Suzan-Lori Parks’ Top Dog/Underdog; 2002 Pulitzer-prize winning play; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, until Sept. 18. $20-$25. GLENDALE CENTRE THEATRE 324 N. Orange St. 818-244- 8481. Camelot, 8 p.m. Thursdays- Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, until Oct. 16. $21-$23. GROVE THEATRE 276 E. Ninth St., Upland. 909-920-4343. Sort of a Love Story, a work in progress with Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna, returns at 7:29 p.m. Sept. 17 and 18, Oct. 1 and 3, and 2 p.m. Sept. 19 and Oct. 3. $20-$25. grovetheatre.com. KNIGHTSBRIDGE THEATRE 1944 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles. 323-667-0955. George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, tonight-Oct. 3. $20. knightsbridgetheatre.com. LEWIS FAMILY PLAYHOUSE 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga. 909-477-2752. The Bob Hope Road Show; 2 p.m. Sept. 19. $17-$21. lewisfamilyplayhouse.com. MARK TAPER FORUM Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. 213-628-2772. Judith Ivey in The Glass Menagerie, (remember “the gentleman caller?”; runs until Oct. 17. CenterTheatreGroup.org. SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. 626-355-4318. Greater Tuna; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays until Sept. 25. This two-man show portrays “a day in the life of Texas’ third-smallest town.” The Shadow “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Route 66 Radio Theatre, 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for both shows are $17-$20; $12 for 12 and younger. WHITTIER COMMUNITY THEATRE 7630 S. Washington Ave. 562-693-1105. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, plus 2:30 Sept. 19, tonight until Sept. 25. $15-$18. whittiercommunitytheatre.org. Linda Fields Gold, features@sgvn.com

p.m. Mondays. Crown City Dixieland Band 6:30-9 p.m. Wednesdays. Full bar and menu. No cover. www.burgercontinental.com

and roots, 2 p.m. Saturday, $20. Pirates of the Black Swan, pirate rock, 7 p.m. Saturday, $15. The John Whelan Trio, Irish folk, 8 p.m. Monday, $20. Robyn This is only a part of the Roth & Blue Bayou, Linda CAFE 322 weekend’s shows. Find a Rondstadt tribute, and 4 Way 322 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., complete list at SGVN.com Street, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Sierra Madre. 626-836-5414. Young tribute, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Mercy & the Merkettes, R&B, ARCADIA BLUES CLUB $20. SongNet artist showcase 16 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia. disco, Motown, rock and blues, 7:30 p.m. third Wednesday of 8:30-midnight tonight. Kids open 626-447-9349. Bobby the month, free. Susie Glaze & mic 6-7:30 p.m. and The Jane Bluehouse 8 p.m. Friday with the Hilonesome Band and Jeni Fuller Band, folk/jazz, 8-11 p.m. Andy Walo and 7 p.m. Saturday. & Billy, bluegrass, 8 p.m. Saturday. Opera to Broadway, Jimmy Bivens 10:30 tonight. Thursday, $20. Sligo Rags, Irish vocal performances, 7-10 p.m. Billy Vera & the Beaters 9:30 folk, 7 p.m. Sept. 18, $18. Sunday. Quizzidge 8-9:30 p.m. p.m. Saturday. Chico’s Bail www.coffeegallery.com. Wednesday. Jack Minor & the Bonds 10:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Blues CRAZY HORSE and related genres. Full bar and Fat Sleepers, rockabilly and 1360 W. Garvey Ave. South, country blues, 8-11 p.m. menu. Cover $10-$20. West Covina. 626-962-8700. Wednesday. Jeff Colella Trio www.arcadiabluesclub.com. 8-11 p.m. Thursday. Cheryl Barns Yesterday’s Dream 7:30 and BARNEY’S BEANERY & Phillip Cabbaso 8-11 p.m. Jan. dance DJs 9 tonight. Black 99 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. 17. Jazz unless indicated. Full bar Tongued Bells, Mick Rhoades and Claremont Voodoo Society, 626-405-9777. Karaoke 10 p.m. and Italian menu. No cover. rock, 6 p.m. and dance DJs 9 Saturday. Comedy 10 p.m. www.cafe322.com. p.m. Saturday. Palminteri & the Monday. Trivia Night 8 p.m. CASK ‘N CLEAVER Big Band noon-3 p.m. second Thursday. Full bar and menu. No cover. www.barneysbeanery.com. 125 N. Village Court, San Dimas. Sunday of the month, $8. 909-592-1646. Ronnie Turso, Hip-hop, urban and old school BRASS ELEPHANT show tunes, country, rock and DJs 8 p.m. Sunday. Open mic Aztec Hotel, 311 W. Foothill more with audience night 5 p.m. Wednesday. Mercy Blvd., Monrovia. 626-358-3231. participation, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 & the Merkettes, R&B, disco, Mellow Dz, acoustic rock, 6-9 and 18. Full bar and menu. $10. Motown, rock and blues, and top p.m. Fridays. Full bar and menu. www.caskncleaver.com. 40 DJs Thursday. X-Posure 7:30 No cover. p.m. and dance DJs 8 p.m. Sept. CLUB 201 17. Cover varies. THE BUCCANEER Radisson Hotel, 7320 Greenleaf www.go2crazyhorse.com. 70 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Ave., Uptown Whittier. Madre. 626-355-9045. 562-945-8511. Lucky 7 Mambo FRET HOUSE Wednesday Night Platter Party, & Friends 6:30-9:30 and salsa 309 N. Citrus Ave., Covina. bring your favorite vinyl records, DJs 9:30-1:30 tonight. Angel 626-339-7020. John York & 9 p.m. Wednesdays. Full bar. No Lebron 6:30-9:30 p.m. and salsa Squeakin’ Wheels, new folk, 8 cover. DJs 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Sept. 17. p.m. Saturday, $15. Line Forms www.myspace.com/piratedive. www.jegrp.com. Hear, guitar trio, 8 p.m. Sept. BURGER CONTINENTAL COFFEE GALLERY BACKSTAGE 20, $15. All ages. Limited refreshments. 2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena, 535 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. www.frethouse.com. 626-794-2424. The Perfect 626-792-6634. Mediterranean Gentlemen, acapella, 8 tonight, bands and belly dancers michelle.mills@sgvn.com $20. Loafer’s Glory, bluegrass Thursday-Sunday. Karaoke 6-9 626-962-8811 Ext. 2128

AROUND TOWN / NIGHTLIFE

and the battle he has between thought and action, revenge versus morality, and life versus From 1 death,” said Machamer, who previously directed melancholy Prince of Denmark, a story of murder, revenge, secret plots, spies, love gone wrong, “Twelfth Night” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” for the Southern California Shakespeare family quarrels, sword fighting, a ghost and the Festival. fate of a kingdom. The cast is made up of nine students and four “It’s been said that the play, popular for hunActors Equity Association actors who have dreds of years, is performed somewhere in the worked professionally in regional theatre, televiworld every single day of the year,” Bisesti said. One of the ways the Southern California Shake- sion and film. Cast members include Nate Akstin-Johnson, Gerardo Alarcon, Job Barnett, Linda speare Festival is keeping the show fresh and Bisesti, Chandra Brenner, Julian Charles, Laura exciting is by performing it in the round. The DeLano, Will Dinwiddie, Charls Sedgwick Hall, Studio Theatre is set up like an arena. It’s the Baron Kelly, Rob Shields, Daniella Tarnakow and first time the Southern California Shakespeare Vanessa Toyama. Festival has done it this way, said the play’s director, Josh Machamer. diana.sholley@inlandnewspapers.com “It promises to be an intimate look at Hamlet 909-483-9381

HAMLET

Pasadena Star News: Yujean Kang's place still rocks  

Merrill Shindler's review on Pasadena Star News Friday, September 10, 2010

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