19 Town (City of Industry) - Modern Chinese Fusion

Modern Chinese fusion cuisine can mean a lot of things. The menu can be interesting and there’s even some creative cocktails to boot…and if I don’t have to drive into the city, that’s a big bonus for me.

Did the chef’s tasting menu with a friend tonight, and was slightly concerned when we arrived for our 6PM reservation that we were the second party to come in for the evening. It was empty…as the evening wore on, there was a large party in one of the private rooms, and then a few other parties spread across the dining room. There was still plenty of space around us so it was, by no means, a packed house.

For those familiar with the area, 19 Town occupies the former Frisco’s Burgers restaurant and there are a few elements leftover…the glass brickwork is a constant Car Hop feature.

EaterLA did a write up in February and I’ve seen a few folks visit during the time since. We decided on this place because of location and my curiosity to see if this is a place my parents would enjoy.

Opened with yuzu mojito and a passionfruit gin & tonic. The yuzu mojito was quite nice…very refreshing and the gin & tonic was also quite good. For those who consider themselves alcohol-sensitive, you are not gonna get drunk here. I’m not entirely sure I could tell there was liquor in the drinks, but they were tasty.

The chef’s menu welcomes you with a house pineapple soda. We both really enjoyed this…light, refreshing and with a fresh pineapple flavor akin to agua frescas but with some bubbles. Throw from rum or vodka in this and this would be a great cocktail.

Spinach ball with black sesame paste - they pack this sucker tight so eating it was a touch messy, but I do like sautéed spinach and the sesame paste was a fun and punchy umami that was pleasant

Jiāomá steak tartare - there was a bitter note to this that was kind of interesting, and while it tasted good, I was really missing some acid or something to make this tartare more craveable

Shiso calamari - was there shiso? I’m not sure, I saw it in the sauce, but the sauce reminded me of caponata than anything else. I will say the calamari were excellently cooked and having the toast points to sop up the sauce was handy. It just wasn’t very shiso-y to me. Had it been labeled differently, I’d have loved the dish way more.

Wok-tossed lobster tail - House special lobster tail expertly cooked and executed sitting on a bed of fried mushrooms with chiles and a side of mixed seasonal vegetables. The lobster and mushrooms were great. The vegetables were also good, but it doesn’t seem like they belonged there…like they put vegetables on the plate because they needed to rather than to enhance the dish. I wish the lobster came out of the tail just a little easier…we were into need a wet-nap territory.

Dry-aged fish with chile sauce - this is probably one of the best fried fish dishes I’ve had in quite some time. Perfectly executed so the skin was potato chip crispy and the meat inside was tender and moist. Loved the chile sauce and lime accompaniment, but the plate came with the same vegetable mix the lobster plate had…still not sure why it was there.

Beef tongue fried rice - really tasty and the pops of caviar were fun, though outside of texture I’m not sure why it was there. The garnishes created texture, but it confuses me on why chef chose raw cauliflower and a rather large chunk of sweet pepper. This was part of the optional 4th course and it arrived between 5-10 minutes after we had received the 3rd course…that we were still digging into. So it sat while we were trying to enjoy the lobster and fish. Probably would have been really great pipping hot.

Slow-cooked oxtail - really nice braised oxtail with rice, but also part of the 4th course that arrived way too early so it sat while we were eating the lobster and fish. Would have been nice to have it fresh and hot. We had half of it before we remembered to take a photo. It tasted good, but the coursing was way off…makes me wonder why they fired it so early.

House vanilla ice cream with chile granola - ice cream at a Chinese place is revolutionary considering how many lactose-intolerant Asians I know, but this was quite good and a nice way to end the meal.

I think I see what they are trying to do at 19 Town. They are definitely shooting for Michelin’s attention. I just don’t know how successful they’re going to be when I see execution or conceptual items of concern. Sergio was in charge of the kitchen this evening busting out and expo-ing dishes.

This is also open later than most of the nicer restaurants in the area so I also think they want to be a place where folks linger and hangout while having a more upscale menu. My friend lives down the street so she’ll likely hang out here more often, and it’s close by enough where I’d come in for a drink and a snack.

Would I take my parents here? Maybe to order off the menu, but not the tasting menu. They’re pretty old school Chinese fans who wouldn’t appreciate the dishes that skew more western/fusion.

Service was nice and outside of the 4th course issue we felt taken care of and welcome. I’d note that they did forget to ask if we had any allergy issues they should be aware of and I do wish the dishes were presented a little better when the plates arrived. It would have been nice to know more about the components in the dishes.

I do hope this can be sustainable because there are flashes of brilliance, and I’d be interested to see where it could go.

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Sergio here got skillz. I liked my two visits here a lot (and the house was packed on both occasions).

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