Before heading out for the LA road trip with my family, I had spent hours pouring over food blogs and scouring Yelp for restaurants to try out, meticulously marking down each restaurant’s name and address, none of which contained Beijing Pie House. We had dropped off our luggage at the hotel a little before six after a long drive, and my parents had wanted to go have dinner in Monterey Park, an area with a high concentration of Chinese restaurants. While waiting in the car for them, I remembered that my list had not included Monterey Park, and hurriedly, I fished out my phone to do a quick search. I wasn’t too happy that we couldn’t eat at a restaurant I had spent hours selecting, and halfheartedly picked Beijing Pie House when my parents seated themselves in the car.
Beijing Pie House is located in one of numerous small shopping (in this case eating) centers dotted along Garvey Avenue. Neither its exteriors nor interiors were spectacular: a small mom-and-pop shop painted a garish shade of egg yellow inside, decorated with stereotypical red lanterns from the ceiling. There were but eight tables, and the waiter handed me a takeout menu as we waited for the other patrons to finish their meal on a Wednesday night. I sat on one of their mismatching chairs by the door, briefly dismissing the items as I read through it. Pies, pancakes, noodles, pickled appetizers, dumplings. My parents could decide since they wanted Chinese food. It took about fifteen minutes to get seated, during which my interest was slightly stoked by the sight of a large family finishing plate after plate of dumplings, dipping them in an dark amalgam of chili, vinegar, and possibly soy sauce.
I ordered their Homeland Meat Cake (English translations really do nothing for food names in Chinese, since this item really means Northern Chinese meat pancake) and the Beijing Style Noodle, while mom and dad decided on the Spicy Beef Tripe, Leek with Pork Dumpling, Beef Roll (someone really needs to help them redo their menu names), and Radish Pie. Not large family conversationalists, each of us kept relatively silent as we sipped our tea and watched the steady line of people trickle in, get seated, and gorge themselves on appetizers.
The busy waitress served us our dumplings first. Boiled, these white lumps looked unremarkable. Nevertheless, we began to dig in. The pork was tender and very juicy, and the garlicky flavor of the Chinese chives were particularly strong. Not too salty nor bland, these dumplings were just right. The skin is a bit thick though, but that’s characteristic of Northern Chinese food. No wonder the family before us ordered plate after plate of them.
The beef tripe was deliciously crunchy and fragrant with thin stalks of cilantro. The unique lemony aroma of Sichuan peppers permeated throughout, but the appetizer wasn’t spicy. If the tripe had been a bit colder, it would have been a perfect snack with a glass of beer.
The Beijing Style Noodle, or zhajianmian, was delightful. The noodles were thick and springy, and the soybean/hoisin paste was just the correct balance of spicy and salty. Bits of blackened pork inside the sauce added texture, and the sweet cucumbers and bean sprouts gave a refreshing crunch. For three, this bowl of noodles is perhaps too small, and if my parents hadn’t ordered anything else, I would have gladly added a second bowl.
I didn’t have high expectations for the Beef Roll, something my mother could easily recreate herself at home since it was just thinly sliced marinated beef, chopped scallions, and hoisin sauce rolled up in a savory spring onion pancake. After taking the first bite, I was glad she ordered it. The beef was extremely tender and moist, and the raw scallions were sliced very thinly so that their pungent flavor contrasted nicely with the hoisin sauce, spread sparingly on the pancake itself to provide a hint of sweetness. The wrap itself was thin and very crispy, and by then, my earlier sourness had all but disappeared.
The star of the show then appeared on our table, a stack of flaky pancakes speckled with golden brown spots that promised crispy, crunchy heaven. In between each slice are three layers of juicy steamed meat, interleaving with thin layers of dough. The pancakes were flavored just right (I believe it’s probably the fourth time I’ve said this), and each bite was piping hot. If I lived in the area, I would get an order of this every week. It was simply addicting.
The Radish Pie took about twenty minutes to come since the kitchen ran out of pre-made ones and had to prepare new batches. Each golden pie was bigger than the size of my fist, and after stuffing ourselves on the Homeland Meat Cake earlier, we had to halve each pie to avoid splitting our stomach. The peppery and salty filling left a tingle in the roof of the mouth. The radish and vermicelli mixture was delightfully moist, and upon further inspection, I found some tiny white shrimp inside. If I wasn’t so full, I would have finished all the pies.
Near the end of our dinner, my parents regretted not booking a hotel with a refrigerator inside so that we could buy bags of their homemade frozen pies and dumplings to bring back home. I was a bit sad that they didn’t open a branch store in the Bay Area, but also tremendously happy that the start of my LA food adventures was marked by such a fabulous restaurant. Beijing Pie House has all the elements of a good restaurant- delicious and addicting food, super generous portions, and very low prices. I’ve already recommended it to all my friends upon coming back. You need to go. I promise you’ll thank me.
Beijing Pie House
846 E Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91755