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Cold Puning soybean sea bass at Array 36 in Temple City with ornate detail on a white plate.
Cold Puning soybean sea bass at Array 36 in Temple City.

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This Opulent San Gabriel Valley Restaurant Sets a New Standard of Chinese Fine Dining

Array 36 in San Gabriel goes all-in on elaborate seafood presentations, tableside roast duck, and private dining rooms

After more than a year and a half of renovations and delays, Array 36, the hottest new Chinese fine dining restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, opened last month. The name comes from a phrase that roughly translates to “a person has 36 special monumental events in their lifetime, and each one is worth celebrating.” Restaurateur and co-owner Arthur Zhang hopes that diners will choose Array 36 as a venue to celebrate life’s milestones.

“Chinese people love celebrating with private rooms, whether for a business meeting, family get-together, or a monumental event. Not many Chinese options have [upscale] private dining rooms, and in the U.S., not many people associate fine dining with Chinese cuisine,” says Zhang. “Our goal is to share Chinese fine dining, culture, and hospitality with others.”

The more than $3 million project fits the bill. Array 36 is the first Chinese fine dining restaurant of its caliber to open in the San Gabriel Valley in years. Other upscale Chinese restaurants in the SGV include Grand Harbor, which opened in 2015 and serves a $9,388 tasting menu for 10 people; Bistro Na’s, which opened in 2016 and earned a Michelin star; Meizhou Dongpo, which opened in 2017; Shanghailander Palace, which opened in 2018; and Wagyu House by The X Pot, which opened in 2021.

Array 36’s mysterious exterior has intrigued passersby since its construction. Take one step inside, and guests are transported to a different world of pomp and circumstance, greeted with a room-sized projection of a swimming whale. There’s a striking modern dining room that leads to eight private rooms. Each private room has a different theme and can seat anywhere from six to 10 people, all the way up to 30 people with a karaoke machine. The rooms, which even have their own private bathrooms, have a minimum cost between $600 and $2,000 for parties.

A blue whale projected on a screen at Array 36’s entrance.
A blue whale projected on a screen at Array 36’s entrance.
Striking stone entrance to Array 36 with indoor foliage and red-lit wall.
Striking stone entrance to Array 36 with indoor foliage and red-lit wall.
Modern designed entrance to Array 36 with projected whale.
Modern designed entrance to Array 36 with projected whale.

Zhang had a specific vision in mind and was adamant about using special materials and Chinese technology to bring a contemporary Chinese-style fine dining experience to LA. He enlisted award-winning chef Tony Tao to prepare Shanghainese and Northern Chinese cuisine, though Tao describes his food as Chinese fusion. The menu offers a taste of China’s eight regional cooking styles, from Sichuan to Cantonese to Huaiyang. “We wanted to create a menu that would appeal to all types of palates,” says Tao.

Inspired by his mother, who was a dim sum chef, Tao began cooking professionally in his teens in his hometown of Shanghai before winning competitions there and in Malaysia and Taiwan. He was later recruited to the U.S. to work as the executive chef at Shanghailander Palace and Yaamava’ Resort & Casino before coming to Array 36.

The food at Array 36 emphasizes presentation. The $88 signature roast duck is carved tableside after a stunning fire demonstration. The server pours baijiu, a high-ABV Chinese spirit, onto the duck and sets it ablaze before meticulously carving it. The roast duck is then served three ways: with the skin by itself, with the meat as is, and smoked tableside. It’s accompanied by thinly sliced cucumber, spring onion, and the restaurant’s own fermented sweet bean sauce. Instead of steamed buns, the duck comes with crepes, which is more traditional. Each duck takes four days to prepare. The staff soak the ducks in a brine for at least four hours, then pump air into the neck cavity to separate the skin from the fat. Next, the ducks plunged into boiling water for a few minutes and then air dry for up to four days, where the humidity and temperature tighten the skin and help achieve its crisp texture.

Baijiu-enflamed roast duck.
Baijiu-enflamed roast duck.
Smoking the roast duck.
Smoking the roast duck.

Labor-intensive dishes include the Sichuan-style beef short ribs that are slow-cooked for 48 hours; the Shanghainese sauteed eel, which has to be air-dried for 48 hours before cooking for four hours; and cold Shanghai-style river shrimp, typically a difficult dish to perfect. Tao’s other specialties are the pressed Japanese yuzu-infused jellyfish head and a Shanghai crab stewed with its roe and tofu in a clay pot. For that dish, cooks must de-shell one-and-a-half kilograms of crab, which only yields half a kilogram of meat.

Diners can also savor Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup — a Chinese specialty usually reserved for holidays due to the extensive preparation involved. This traditional Fujianese dish demands a meticulous three-day process, incorporating a lavish selection of 20 to 30 ingredients. Notably, it requires continuous stirring for 10 hours and individual layering for cooking. The dish’s name originates from the legend suggesting its irresistibility.

The full menu is still not set since Array 36 is in soft opening; it will add new items depending on the season. When asked how much a typical diner usually spends for dinner, Zhang estimates that one could expect to spend about $120 per person, depending on the order, with the live seafood options being the more expensive choices. Alaskan King crab, Dungeness crab, lobster, and other live seafood can be prepared in multiple ways: steamed with garlic and vermicelli, steamed egg and typhoon shelter garlic-style, stir-fried with ginger and scallions, stir-fried with salted egg yolk, or baked in a garlic clay pot.

“Fine dining in China is such an experience. We hope that we can show Angelenos a different side of Chinese cuisine that they may not be familiar with,” says Zhang.

Array 36 is open Monday through Sunday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner at 5449 Rosemead Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA, 91776.

The main dining room of Array 36.
The main dining room of Array 36.
Dimly lit dining room of an upscale Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles.
Dining area of Array 36 in Temple City.
Round dining tables with Chinese decor at Array 36.
Round dining tables with Chinese decor at Array 36.
One of the eight private dining rooms at Array 36.
One of the eight private dining rooms at Array 36.
Elegant table setting at Array 36 with tea cups and red napkins.
Osmanthus-infused, sticky rice-stuffed lotus root at Array 36.
Osmanthus-infused, sticky rice-stuffed lotus root.
Mini blueberry yam jelly in mini gourds with gold flakes at Array 36.
Mini blueberry yam jelly in mini gourds with gold flakes.
Pressed Japanese yuzu-infused jellyfish head at Array 36.
Pressed Japanese yuzu-infused jellyfish head.
 Cold Shanghai-style river shrimp at Array 36.
Cold Shanghai-style river shrimp.
Pork jowl jerky at Array 36.
Pork jowl jerky.
Buddha Jumps Over the Bridge soup.
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup.
Sichuan beef short ribs at Array 36.
Sichuan beef short ribs.
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup at Array 36.
Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup.
Braised abalone at Array 36.
Braised abalone.
Shanghai-braised pork at Array 36.
Shanghai-braised pork.
Shanghai crab stewed with its roe and tofu in a clay pot at Array 36.
Shanghai crab stewed with its roe and tofu in a clay pot.
Shanghainese sauteed eel at Array 36.
Shanghainese sauteed eel.
A chef slices a roast Chinese duck tableside.
Slicing the roast duck.
Duck served three ways with classic accompaniments.
The roast duck presentation.
All the dishes at Array 36.
All the dishes at Array 36.

Array 36

5449 Rosemead Boulevard, San Gabriel, CA 91776 (626) 508-5886 Visit Website
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