Jonathan Gold's $15 Chinese broccoli dish that's worth every penny

You may, in the course of your travels, alight at New Bay Seafood, in a building that has been home to approximately a trillion Hong Kong-style restaurants since it began as Jumbo Seafood in the first San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurant-boom in the early 1980s. And if you are familiar with the vaguely Southeast Asian Chiu Chow cooking popularized at nearby Newport Seafood, the trilingual menu, written in Chinese, Vietnamese and English, will hold few surprises: cubed filet mignon sauteed in a peppery brown sauce; snow pea leaves stir-fried with garlic; crunchy salt-and-pepper squid, and spicy basil leaf clams.

If you ask about the Chiu Chow roast duck, the owner may suggest that you pair it with an order of the fried tofu to soak up the marinade (you will notice that the combination appears on every table in the restaurant). If you follow your greediest impulses and order the house special lobster, which will not be especially cheap, you will spend the next half hour bathing in the hot sliced chiles, scallions, garlic and black pepper in which the monstrous roe-bearing beast is buried. The lobster may not technically be up to the standard set at Newport and Seafood Village, but when you are snarfling the meat out of a huge cracked knuckle, you will find it difficult to care.

But in a seafood house, it is difficult to imagine that the star dish might be a simple vegetable – a vegetable so pedestrian that it is hard to get excited about it even as a feature in a $6.99 lunch. But there it is – lengths of gai lan, Chinese broccoli, stir-fried with garlic and crisp, chewy bits of dried fish in a hellishly hot wok; smoky from the heat, funky and a bit salty from the fish, the sweet essence of a green you may have been unaware had anything like a sweet essence at all. Fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents may seem weirdly expensive for a vegetable, but this gai lan is worth every cent.

New Bay Seafood,  203 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; (626) 872-6677.


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