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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Carmel Mission Inn

Victor and I recently took a mini-vacation up the California coast to check out Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz and Carmel. We stayed at a different hotel each night, which was probably a bit much, but gave us the chance to check out some interesting places. The place we stayed at in Carmel was the Carmel Mission Inn. It was a pretty inconspicuous place located right off of Highway 1 but was peaceful and serene once you were inside.

The hotel property backs up to The Barnyard, a shopping center with some boutique stores and a good variety of restaurants. Once we checked in and dropped our stuff, we walked over to Flanagan's Irish-American Pub for dinner and drinks. I love a hotel that has stuff in walking distance. After doing the tourist thing all day, it's so nice to just park the car and relax for the night.

Xiao Long Bao at Kuan's Restaurant

Unfortunately, I only have "aftermath" pictures from our lunch at Kuan's a few weeks ago. We were all so hungry when we got there that we just dove in without giving a second thought about photographing any of the food. It was a mad frenzy of chop sticks, tea and dumplings...

To back up a little bit, about 8 or so years ago, some friends introduced me to Kuan's Restaurant. It's just little hole in the wall in a strip mall right off of the 60 in Montebello. They are famous for their juicy Xiao Long Bao (XLB): steamed, pork filled dumplings with broth somehow baked in. To eat, put the dumpling on a spoon before biting as the broth will seep out...and you don't want to lose any of that great flavor. People go nuts for Kuan's dumplings...while we were there, we saw a family pull up and purchase a frozen bag of 50. No joke. Not only are the XLB tasty, juicy and filling, they are only $6.95 for 16 dumplings!

This past trip we also ordered green onion pancake, fried bread roll, garlic string beans, pickled cucumbers, some sort of tasty noodle dish, orange chicken and sweet and sour soup. The only thing I did not like was the sweet and sour soup: it was not very hot and that gooey viscosity that sort of freaks me out. End damage for all this food including tip? $10 per person. It doesn't get any more reasonable than that.

If you are thinking about checking this place out, definitely read the reviews on Yelp first. Some folks seem to feel like this place is "in the ghetto", others feel it's over hyped....The ghetto statements actually make me laugh. No, the location is not fancy, but I have definitely been to sketchier neighborhoods in my life and can say with a good degree of confidence, this is not the ghetto. In terms of the "over hyped" statements, that's more a matter of personal taste....I am not a connoisseur of Xiao Long Bao, so I can't speak to their authenticity BUT I can say the dumplings left me satisfied and happy.