MJ Cafe and Teahouse is one of San Gabriel Valley’s many Taiwanese style cafes, known for its dizzying variety of tea-infused drinks and its confusing 17 page menu. The chain since expanded, opening up branches as far south as Irvine and as far west as Sawtelle.
Younique Cafe is an uninspiring pun on words but does serve pretty good Chinese cafe food. Back in the 90s, I recall it being a Cantonese-style seafood restaurant. In any case, its menu looks a lot like the typical Hong Kong Western-style cafe’s (akin to American diners), consisting of both more traditional Chinese options and Hong Kong-style Western food. There are a plethora of options to be found.
Black & White, like many San Gabriel Valley tea shops, is housed in a suburban strip mall off the corner of Nogales and Amar Roads in the leafier part of West Covina. Parking tends to be difficult throughout the day, as the strip mall is also home to a diverse medley of Southeast Asian places, ranging from Filipino to Thai to Indonesian.
Hong Kong is known for its diverse selection of desserts (甜品, tim ban), especially those that fuse together local Cantonese ingredients with Southeast Asian ones, like coconut milk and sago, the most iconic of which is mango pudding, a very light dessert, made with pureed mangoes, agar, and evaporated milk, and chilled before serving.
After getting a haircut near Times Square, a megamall in Causeway Bay, we headed out to try Cong Sao Dessert, a famous dessert shop just around the corner. After circling Hong Kong’s confusing city blocks, we managed to locate the place. Turns out the address on OpenRice was incorrect.
Just wanted to share some snapshots from a family road trip to Solvang. :)
Penang is one of a handful of Malaysian restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s located off Glendora Ave, in Hong Kong Plaza, an ostentatious strip mall anchored by a big supermarket. Word has it that Penang was first opened and run by a Burmese film actress, Soe Myat Thuzar. Upon divorcing her American husband, she sold the business. Since then, the restaurant has changed hands several times.
Litz is an old haunt, a Hong Kong style cafe that primarily serves Chinese-adapted Southeast Asian fare. And by Chinese, I mean less intense and pungent than the original, but still just as tasty. Hey, subtlety has its own charms, no?
Tim Ho Wan is often billboarded as the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant. Its chef-owner, Mak Kwai Pui, is a former head chef of a famous Hong Kong hotel. In 2010, he established the first Tim Ho Wan in Mong Kok, which has since grown into a venerable restaurant chain, with 5 branches in Hong Kong (the most well-known of which is in Sham Shui Po), not to mention other Asian cities, like Singapore and Manila.
Nha Trang is a Vietnamese restaurant embedded deep inside a narrow strip mall on Valley Blvd., a stone’s throw away from my childhood home in San Gabriel. Nha Trang gets name from a seaside city in South Vietnam, but it’s really just known for 2 kinds of noodle soup: bun bo Hue (originates in central Vietnam) and bun rieu. The place itself is small and cramped. Parking can be difficult. Nonetheless, people are always willing to wait because their noodles are good.
Mongkok Dim Sum (旺閣點心) is really just for quick pick dim sum. San Francisco has quite a lot of them, more so than LA, places whose sole business model is to serving large-scale to-go dim sum. In LA, dim sum is typically only found at Cantonese or Teochew seafood restaurants. I give Mongkok a lukewarm recommendation, only because it fulfilled its duty: getting us full.
Australia Dairy Company does not serve Australian fare, let’s get that clear. But over the years, it’s evolved into a venerated Hong Kong institution by staying true to its roots, as a classic cha chaan teng serving fusion Chinese-Western breakfast fare, everything from eggs and toast to macaroni and roast pork slices in soup, the clearest sign of Western culinary influence. As the name implies, it’s also known for its milk products, namely the steamed milk and egg white custards.
Our final day in San Francisco, we scoured the Yelp apps on our phones to find a solid breakfast/brunch spot. And I came across La Boulange, a French cafe and bakery chain with branches found throughout San Francisco and the greater Bay area. The closest one to Sunset was at Cole Valley, so we sped of, crossing our fingers that we’d find a parking spot.
On our first day back in Hong Kong, we paid a visit to Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop, a long venerated establishment in Hong Kong, known for its wonton noodles (雲吞麵, wan tan min). Alvin wasn’t so fond of this place (“overpriced” as he put it) but decided that I, as a first timer to HK, I needed to pay a visit. And so we did.
The main reason for our venture to Mongkok was to dine at Lei Garden (利苑酒家), a one Michelin-star Cantonese style restaurant, well known for its dim sum. Cantonese fare is characterized by its use of fresh unadulterated ingredients (especially seafood), and a preference for steaming or stir-frying. Like most well-known Hong Kong restaurants, Lei Garden is a chain with several restaurants throughout the city (and even outlets in Shanghai and Beijing). Reservations came in handy because this place got packed during yum cha (飲茶).
Our first full day in HK, we ventured out to Yau Ma Tei to get some congee. The congee shop in question was none other than Ocean Empire Congee Shop [link] (海皇粥店, Hoi Wong Juk Dim), smack dab in the middle of Nathan Road. After a brief 15 minute wait, we were seated. This once relatively obscure congee shop is now a veritable restaurant chain and a tourist destination for Mainlanders and other Asians alike (the menu also features Japanese translations). In fact, after being seated, I realized most of the customers were speaking Mandarin, not the local vernacular, Cantonese.