If you’re a fan of pan fried dumplings and soup pork dumplings (xiao long bao), I highly recommend you check out Beijing Pie House next time you’re in the San Gabriel Valley area to try out their meat pies (xian bing).

Beijing Pie House got on my radar after a review from Jonathan Gold in LA WeeklyThe Gastronomer gave it good reviews as well. And then when my good friend/ guinea pig for trying new places Kung Food Panda also gave it the thumbs up, I requested we go. Immediately. Okay, almost immediately. We had discussions about it on a Thursday and on Saturday, DH, KFP and I were there.

We arrived in the late afternoon to find the tired staff napping and on a break. But they were nice enough to let us in anyway.

Beijing Pie House is most known for their meat pies. Each one is about the size of an English muffin. The outside is pan fried and the inside is stuffed with the filling you choose.

Lamb Pie (4 for $7.99)

When these arrived, we were warned that they are very hot. I cautiously poked my chopstick into one, in an attempt to split it open, but right away it began squirting out a tremendous amount of soup, much like a xiao long bao/pork soup dumpling. Unlike a XLB though, you can’t just stuff the whole thing in your mouth. So you kind of just have to carefully sip the juice while biting into the meat pie. I definitely recommend breaking it open to let the soup cool a little. If you bite in directly you might end up burning your mouth. I was definitely impressed by how much juice was stored in each one.

The lamb one had a good flavor to it. I could taste that it was lamb meat and it wasn’t too “gamey” for DH.

My one wish was for the outside to be crispier. I think they could have pan fried it a little more as the skin was barely crispy.

Pumpkin Milkshake

When I mentioned to DH that I was about to start pumpkin baking, he got really excited. So I asked him what he was most interested in me making first. Fluffy pumpkin cookies? Our favorite pumpkin bread? Nope. None of the above. Instead, he replied with “Pumpkin Milkshake.”

I guess it made sense, considering it was more than 90 degrees this past weekend. So I made him a pumpkin milkshake. And it was quite tasty. These were the perfect afternoon drink during last Sunday’s hot temperatures.

Recently DH and I had date night at Sora San Diego, an Italian Japanese influenced restaurant that recently opened.

The restaurant is headed by Chef Noriyoshi Teruya, former Nobu chef.  However, what really got me interested in this place was the fact that uni was featured on almost every section of the menu.

I left with very mixed feelings about this place. The biggest grievance was the service. For an upscale restaurant, I thought the service was quite poor and the staff was in need of more training.

Sora has two entrances, one from the street, and the other from inside the building its located in for those who choose to park in inside the building garage. (Tip: Definitely park inside the garage as they do validate parking, making this one of the rare places in downtown where you don’t have to worry about parking.) Despite having two entrances open and a front check-in desk at each entrance, only the street entrance had a hostess staffed. So we ended up having to make our way around the entire restaurant to check in with the hostess. Once we checked in, we were stowed away into a cramped corner of the restaurant even though we had reservations and the restaurant was half empty.

Once seated, we were provided with drink menus and only drink menus. This really irked me because it seemed presumptuous on the part of the restaurant, basically expecting us to order drinks. And since it took a while for our waiter to come greet us, we had plenty of time to peruse a drink menu and a dinner menu, if they had bothered to give us one. Even after our drinks were ordered, we still didn’t get a dining menu. I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait so long for a menu. Finally, when our drink arrived and still no menu, we asked for a menu and was finally provided with one.

When we asked the waiter for some recommendations, I was surprised that he failed to mention any of the things I had read about that I thought were highlights of the restaurant, such as the parmesan wheel risotto. He also had no knowledge of sake despite it being a large section of the drink menu.

My next irritation was the long lull between courses. I was also surprised that there was no complimentary starter. Since this place was Italian influenced, I expected to see the complimentary fresh bread that is usually served at Italian restaurants. And since this is an upscale restaurant, I also thought their might be a complimentary amuse bouche which is usually offered at such places. But there was nothing.

I was in a pretty bad mood until our food arrived. Once we started eating though, my mood did clear. For all the services woes, I did enjoy the food and there were some interesting twists on dishes.

Uni Jam

I’ve always loved the subtle sweetness of uni, and the jam actually brought out that sweetness without overpowering it. It was a great combination and I loved using the uni as a spread on my toasted bread.