It’s not every day that one of the top restaurants in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada decides to pack up and come to the sunny, beachy confines of Redondo Beach, but Jiayuan Dumpling House has done just that.
Located in a strip mall along Pacific Coast Highway mere steps from the ocean, the three-week-old restaurant comes adorned with bright new Chinese calligraphy and artwork on the walls, and a small handful of still-unscuffed tables and seats. And while the gleaming interior may not give away much, a peek at the menu reveals some of the most impressive new dumplings and other regional Northeastern Chinese food to come to Los Angeles.
Founded in 2013 by Emily Sang and daughter Linda Shi, Jiayuan has garnered high praise in Lethbridge, a city of 100,000 with a strong arts scene and over 14,000 college students. The restaurant became one of the highest rated in Lethbridge thanks to strong word of mouth and a prime location in the downtown area. After Shi went to pursue a master’s degree in Toronto, Sang found it difficult to continue operating due to the strains of the restaurant business and closed Jiayuan in 2017. However, Sang’s plan was ultimately to come to the United States and reopen the restaurant here.
Sang, Shi, and father Eric Shi lived in Northeastern China before emigrating to the United States in 2004 to Ames, Iowa. Sang always prided herself in making dumplings by hand, basing the doughier filled version from the style of her home province of Heilongjiang. Pork and napa cabbage, shrimp and chicken; beef, daikon, and carrot stuffings are among the selections of plush but nicely fried dumplings here at Jiayuan. The restaurant’s menu came about from Sang’s home cooking, with Linda helping to operate the restaurant for four years. Linda Shi, who graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, went on to study architecture at the University of Toronto. The Vancouver resident is currently here in Redondo Beach helping her parents open the business, and will likely be the primary server until Jiayuan can find more staff.
Looking at the menu, dishes extend to stir-fried noodles and fried rice, with the house special version of each carb coming with chicken, shrimp, beef, and assorted vegetables. Notable appetizers include the Northeastern-style tossed salad, which comes with greens, mushrooms, carrots, onions, roasted walnuts, and onions with sesame oil and Chinese seasoning. The fried chicken-stuffed eggplant is sliced super thin, with a coin-sized smidge of ground chicken placed in the middle before it gets fried to a crisp with a light batter. Dip the eggplant into the accompany sweet-sour sauce, or perhaps a bit of the vinegary soy sauce that Sang makes specifically for dumplings.
The Northeastern-style sweet and sour pork is another regional specialty, featuring a crunchy exterior around thick slices of meat that are then topped with ginger and cilantro. Other, more familiar, plates like Mongolian beef, kung-pao chicken, and poached fish filets in hot chile sauce help round out the menu. Looking at the menu, there are maybe half the dishes crossed and faded out, promises of wonton and noodle soup that will join the other plates once Jiayuan can get some more kitchen equipment to handle the additional items. Drinks are simple, with hot or iced team, and soft drinks.
Jiayuan Dumpling House joins the likes of Ruiji, Muodu, Tasty Noodle House, and Din Tai Fung as more modern, regionally specific Chinese restaurants in the South Bay, and could signal more interest in dumplings, noodles, and other dishes from Sichuan, Shanghai, and the Heilongjiang.
Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., then dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Takeout and dine-in seating available. 1904 South Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, CA.