Down the mission route-to-streetcar suburb-turned-autopia-strips that comprise San Gabriel, past the endless parade of the hugest big-box retail this side of Wal-Mart lies Lu Din Gee. Aram made special arrangements for us to join him there in honor of his return to good health.
The featured dish and strip mall setting are about all it shares in common with another palace of roasted Peking duck (OK, Beijing to be current) I visited across the country last year. No older men in red polyester waiter jackets are in sight. Instead it's twentysomethings with spiked hair and black-on-black outfits taking care of the customers, who are seated in the modestly sized room that's awash in goldenrod and furnished with slick lacquer pieces. The bathroom sink isn't just a basin; it's practically a mini water feature, complete with a sluice and plants.
The birds arrive at the table sliced and plated into tidy mounds surrounded by what's for me the Main Event -- glossy sheets of crisp, sweet and faintly smoky skin. The lazy Susan goes round and around so that we can all get access to the essential components: duck, wispy scallions, and thick fermented bean sauce.
And that's only part of the deal. Nothing goes to waste and Lu Din Gee. I also eat what feels like mounds of bean sprouts sauteed with soft bits of the meat extras, and I slurp down spoonfuls of the milky soup, the rich and soft flavor of which comes from the bones. Then there's the hearty formidable fried fish balls with their complex layers and many textures in each bite.
I'm glad I proposed that we cruise down Las Tunas and Main Street to grab some cones at Fosselman's. More evidence that celebrating being well doesn't necessarily require healthy food.
Lu Din Gee Restaurant
1039 E. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel 91776