It’s not every day that one of the best restaurants in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada decides to pack their bags and come to the sunny, seaside ends of Redondo Beach, but Jiayuan Dumpling House has done just that.
Located in a mall along the Pacific Coast Highway just steps from the ocean, the three-week-long restaurant is adorned with new bright Chinese calligraphy and artwork on the walls, and a small handful of tables and seats still intact. And while the sparkling interior doesn’t add much, a glance at the menu reveals some of the most impressive new dumplings and other regional dishes from northeast China to come to Los Angeles.
Founded in 2013 by Emily Sang and her daughter Linda Shi, Jiayuan has received high praise in Lethbridge, a city of 100,000 with a strong arts scene and over 14,000 students. The restaurant has become one of the top rated in Lethbridge thanks to strong word of mouth and a prime downtown location. After Shi went to pursue a master’s degree in Toronto, Sang struggled to continue operating due to the tensions in the restaurant business and shut down Jiayuan in 2017. However, Sang’s plan was ultimately to come to the United States. and reopen the restaurant here.
Sang, Shi, and her father Eric Shi lived in northeast China before emigrating to the United States in 2004 in Ames, Iowa. Sang always took pride in making dumplings by hand, basing the mushier version of the style of her home province of Heilongjiang. Pork and napa cabbage, shrimp and chicken; Beef, daikon, and carrot stuffings are among the chewy but well-fried dumpling selections here in Jiayuan. The restaurant’s menu was taken from Sang’s family kitchen, with Linda helping run the restaurant for four years. Linda Shi, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduate, went on to study architecture at the University of Toronto. The Vancouver resident is currently here in Redondo Beach to help her parents start the business, and will likely be the main server until Jiayuan can find more staff.
Looking at the menu, the dishes extend to stir-fried noodles and fried rice, with the special homemade version of each carb including chicken, shrimp, beef, and assorted vegetables. Notable appetizers include the northeast-style salad, which includes greens, mushrooms, carrots, onions, toasted nuts, and onions with sesame oil and Chinese seasonings. The fried chicken stuffed eggplant is sliced very thinly, with a chopped, coin-sized piece of chicken placed in the middle before it is fried with a light batter. Dip the eggplant in the accompanying sweet and sour sauce, or maybe a little vinegar soy sauce that Sang prepares specifically for meatballs.
Northeast-style sweet and sour pork is another regional specialty, with a crispy exterior around thick slices of meat which are then topped with ginger and cilantro. Other more familiar dishes like Mongolian beef, kung-pao chicken, and fish fillets poached in a hot chili sauce complete the menu. Looking at the menu, there are maybe half of the crossed and faded dishes, promises of wonton soup and noodles that will join the other plates once Jiayuan can get more kitchen equipment to handle the extra items. The drinks are simple, with hot or ice cream, and soft drinks.
Jiayuan Dumpling House joins the likes of Ruiji, Muodu, Tasty Noodle House, and Din Tai Fung as more modern Chinese restaurants specific to the South Bay area, and might signal a greater interest in dumplings, noodles and dumplings. other dishes from Sichuan, Shanghai, and Heilongjiang.
Hours of operation are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., then dinner from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 1904 South Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, California.