With a name like Emperor Noodles, you would expect that the best dish at this restaurant to be a noodle dish. It isn’t. The noodles are decent, but the star attraction at Emperor Noodles are the sheng jian baos. These little babies even have Pulitzer Prize food critic Jonathan Gold swooning over them.
Step inside the restaurant and you’ll see red walls, evoking an old Chinese tea room – not your typical hole-in-the wall Chinese restaurant.
Being in the San Gabriel Valley, Emperor Noodles easily meets the authentic Chinese restaurant requirements my mom taught me – chopsticks on the table, Chinese written in the menu and handwritten Chinese specials offered (with no English translation).
My daughter’s favorite dish here is the Wild Yellow Fish with Preserved Vegetables (actually the menu says it’s with Persevered Vegetables, making me wonder what it means when vegetables persevere). We’ve had some of the other noodle dishes here which were fine, nothing to write home about.
Emperor Noodles also offers steamed dumplings, xiao long baos, which are passable. They’re not as delicate and juicy as Din Tai Fung, but you won’t have to wait a long time for a table here either.
For vegans, there’s a gluten-ball with mushrooms. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was surprised to find that they were very light and airy. My mom likened it to biting into a cloud.
Now for the sheng jian baos – it’s like a steamed dumpling, steamed BBQ bao and pan-fried dumpling had a menage-a-trois which resulted in this love child. Biting into them, you get the softness of a steamed bao, the juicy pork goodness of a steamed dumpling and the crunchy fried goodness of a pan-fried dumpling. Genius!
If you are a vegan/vegetarian, beware the vegetable fried rice. My mom once ordered it for takeout because they suggested it to her like it was a given that everyone ordered it. When we opened the container, we shocked to find chunks of pork mixed in the the vegetable fried rice. We were even more shocked to bite into chunks of pork fat. My brother commented that usually that was the stuff that people would toss out of a dish before they cooked it.
We first stumbled on Emperor Noodles on New Year’s Day, after watching the Rose Bowl Parade, because our original choice was closed and the dim sum restaurants were completely swamped. However, we found that Emperor Noodles solidly deserves to be a first choice destination.
As of January 2018, Emperor Noodles has closed and has been replaced by q38, offering a similar menu.
Location –800 W. Las Tunas, San Gabriel 91775
Website – none
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Pesco-Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes