>> Fei Xiang Gong | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 20 May 2022

Fei Xiang Gong

CHINA 🇨🇳
(JILIN)
Restaurant facade on 2nd floor of plaza

(The restaurant is on the second floor of the small plaza, which faces away from Western).

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant is fully open for indoor dining.

China's Jilin Province is a place of interesting geographies. It is sandwiched between two provinces that are often lumped together as three to make the "northeast" or Dongbei region while also stretching east to west with borders with Inner Mongolia, Russia, and North Korea. Even within the province there is a lot of variation, with capital city Changchun in the interior much different than the borderlands in the south that have seen much immigration and influence from Korea.

These borderlands are home to a cuisine that is featured at this fairly new restaurant that opened in the summer of 2019 and has struggled with a pandemic that made communal indoor dining impossible at times. Most customers are Korean at this Koreatown spot, but you will notice that the people that work here are at least trilingual, switching to Mandarin and English for customers that use those languages.

Banchan and dipping sauces/spices

If you come early during dinner service, you are likely to find one table occupied by two or more staff members sitting in front of a pile of meat, making a large stack of lamb skewers. This is the first hint of their most popular item, and you will eventually see both regular and spicy versions, as well as a host of other meats spinning on the grills at the center of each table.

These specially-designed grills and skewers rotate each piece on its own, keeping burning to a minimum and making eating here that much more enjoyable. Before this is lit and the meat is spinning, an array of crispy banchan come out, which seem specifically chosen for their contrast to the oily, fatty meats, a collection of fermented, sharp tastes. Each person will also get a small plate that has three compartments for dipping, all of which can be replenished if needed.

Spicy lamb kebabs before grilling
Spicy lamb kebabs

Lamb kebabs before grilling
Lamb kebabs

Bring at least four people to enjoy this place to its fullest and get a bunch of things, starting with an order of the lamb kebabs ($26.99, above) and spicy lamb kebabs ($26.99, above) that come in orders of ten pieces. Try to hold back your urge to put them all on the grill at once, as they cook up pretty fast and you will start to receive the other dishes you ordered at the same time.

Keeping an eye on the meats as they rotate and get browned is pretty easy thanks to the special grill, which even has a rack above for keeping pieces that are done but need to stay warm. Unlike other barbecue restaurants in the neighborhood, this is customer controlled and does not need the attention of staff.

Lamb and spicy lamb kebabs grilling

Just like North Korean cold noodles (naeng myun, $14.99 for large order, below) have spread throughout the Korean peninsula and into communities abroad, they are also popular throughout Jilin Province and pair very well with a meal here. While sharing this bowl with a group is difficult, they are more than happy to bring you smaller bowls and scissors to cut up the noodles and divvy it up to everyone.

While they are not wow-factor level like some North Korean naeng myun specialists in the neighborhood, the bowl is not disappointing in the least. Like the banchan, the coolness and textures of its crisp vegetables are a welcome contrast to the kebab-forward meal.

Cold noodle (large)

As a newcomer to the restaurant, one dish that you might become curious about because it also seems to land on every single table is the fried sweet & sour pork ($23.99, below). In North America, this dish is most famous in westernized Chinese takeout, but like most dishes that have been altered for local tastes, there is an original that in this case goes back to Dongbei.

While the more traditional version here is certainly sticky and syrupy, it lacks the cloying nature of the Chinese takeout. There is much more starch here than meat, and it is almost like biting into a mochi it is so soft and spongy. While it is easy to see why someone might crave this dish if it was part of their childhood or reminds them of home, those present at this meal were a bit disappointed with the dish.

Fried sweet & sour pork

Stir fried clams

While finding the specifically Jilin and Dongbei foods on the big menu might be a little difficult for those that are not completely familiar with the differences, there are some other highlights. Most of the dishes you will find here will probably please, but the stir fried clams ($17.99, above) are a hot and spicy banger.

You can add an array of vegetable dishes to cleanse the palate, like a simple plate of sauteed ong choy ($16.99, below). While this definitely provides more good contrasts, you may notice it is probably the dish that is finished last by the table.

Sauteed ong choy

Eggplant & garlic sauce ($19.99, below) is a good and spicy option for more vegetables, and in Chinese is called di san xian (地三鲜), or three treasures from the ground. This refers to the mix of eggplant, potato, and peppers that make up the bulk of ingredients, here stir fried with garlic.

Visiting multiple times will open up opportunities to try all manner of lamb, pork, chicken, and beef meat and offal kebabs, as well as all types of skewered seafood, fruits and vegetables, and even steamed buns. There are also separate dishes of Dongbei-style dumplings, hot stews, and much more.

Eggplant & garlic sauce

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