A new Chinese restaurant recently opened in Irvine’s Diamond Jamboree. Dun Huang is the ninth location of a New York-based restaurant chain that focuses on Northwestern-style Chinese food. Dunhuang is a city in northwest China’s Gansu Province, next to Inner Mongolia, but for the most part, the menu here isn’t that different from all of the Sichuan-inspired restaurants that have proliferated in recent years.
This is the second location in California. Unfortunately, aesthetically, the new Irvine branch looks like a cheap discount from the much prettier, nicely designed Rowland Heights restaurant that opened last year. And when you look at the restaurants in New York, you might even get offended by the complete lack of interior design in Irvine. Is that how the owners see us here? Or did they just run out of money during the pandemic?
Here you can find all the popular Sichuan-inspired classics including delicious cumin lamb skewers, cold dandan noodles with ground pork, and all kinds of foods deeply infused with tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn. The noodles are expertly hand pulled to order, and the soups these noodles are dipped in are very good.
While Dun Huang doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the local Chinese restaurant scene, there is always room for more of it if done well. And most of what I’ve tried here so far has been just that. The only thing I don’t like is the “Chinese hamburger,” which is made from stale flatbread and tough, dried out lamb, but I’m not an expert on cooking in the Gobi desert, and maybe that’s how it should taste. But I suspect this might actually be interesting on another day with better timing.
The jury is still not there. Competitors like Meizhou Dongpo and Sichuan Impression are clearly better, and we already have great hand-pulled noodles upstairs from Dun Huang in Haidilao, but this could be exactly the kind of full-service Chinese restaurant that Diamond Jamboree has always needed if you want cement its position as Orange County’s premier Asian food destination.
Where: 2710 Alton Parkway, Irvine
When: Daily lunch and dinner
COVID comfort: Does this restaurant feel safe? Yes. Employees and customers seem to take all recommended protocols seriously.