As I was leaving the strip mall after eating at J & J (Jin Jian) Restaurant, I noticed the sign for Mei Long Village. They're literally only two doors apart, but because I had walked up from the underground parking garage, I hadn't noticed the restaurant's sign. And remembering this post by Kirk of Mmm-yoso, I knew they also had xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings). So I made a mental note to go back for comparative purposes. And while I try to judge each restaurant on its own merits, the fact that the two restaurants are so close, with similar menus, just begs for comparison.
First impression, Mei Long Village was much larger and cleaner than J & J. The wait staff spoke better English, which comes in handy if you don't speak Chinese and have questions about food. I went with my cousin and her baby, and the waitress immediately brought out a high chair. She also gave the baby a styrofoam bowl and dish, which made great toys to keep baby occupied since she doesn't have any teeth to eat dumplings yet. I liked that the waitress was attentive. On another occasion, I had dropped a chopstick, and the waitress immediately grabbed a clean pair from a nearby table to replace mine.
We got free hot and sour soup. It wasn't spectacular hot and sour soup, but it was free! And it was properly sour enough for me.
On another visit, I got egg drop soup for free. No free soup at J & J.
The soy sauce dishes were also much bigger here.
My cousin and I knew we were going to get dumplings so we decided to get some vegetables to balance that out. The $4.95 baby bok choy and mushrooms were a bit on the overcooked side. Very soft, and I like my vegetables crunchy. But it was tasty, and in all honesty, there's only so much you can do with bok choy.
The crab XLB were 8 to an order for $6.50. The top of the dumplings weren't as nicely done as J & J, but I could see little pools of soup at the bottom of each one. These dumplings were also slightly larger than J & J's, but not by much.
Here, you can see the soup fills up more of my spoon. The dumpling skins are also thinner, so the soup and filling are more dominant than the dough. Taste-wise though, there's not as much crab. So if you're going specifically for crab XLB, then J & J is better for flavor. If you want thinner skin, more soup, and a more flavorful broth, I think Mei Long Village comes out ahead.
If you don't care about the crab, then regular pork XLB is a better option. For $1 less, you get two more. So an order of 10 pork XLB is $5.50. And again, the dumpling skin is thin enough and the broth is plentiful enough that you can literally see the soup pooling at the bottom of each dumpling.
So between the two restaurants, I'd say Mei Long Village has a slight edge over J & J, because of the thinner skins, more soup, and flavorful broth. To prove me wrong, or to see if I was right, Henry Chan of Henry Chan's Food Videos, who recommended J & J to me, went to check out Mei Long Village. His verdict? Although he agreed with my assessment, he preferred J & J. :P You can see what he has to say here.
The potstickers were $5.95 for an order of 8. They were nicely golden, just juicy enough. But I'd have to say Luscious Dumplings is still hands-down my favorite restaurant for potstickers.
I also ordered wu xi spareribs for $5.95. The meat had been braised for so long and was so tender that even the cartilage was soft. This is the lunch special price, dinner price is $9.95, I believe.
Again, the Shanghai noodles for $5.95. Although J & J's version looked more golden, I'd say they tasted the same at both places. Bland to me. But Henry really liked these noodles, and said Mei Long Village's version is better because it's less oily.
As the two restaurants are in the same strip mall, and only a couple of doors apart, you can check out both places and compare for yourself.
Because I really just go here when I crave XLB, there's lots of other Shanghai specialty dishes and pastries that I didn't order. So you can go here to read what Kirk of Mmm-yoso said about those other dishes, as well as his assessment of the XLB.
Happy eating! I've got 3 other dumpling houses coming up. And yes, I know, everyone has their favorite places. Can't go wrong with any dumplings in my estimation, but I do go to different ones for different cravings.
Mei Long Village
301 W. Valley Blvd. #112
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Sunday - Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.