Category Archives: Chinese Food

Cocary Shabu Shabu BBQ, Monterey Park

 

If you’ve never been to a shabu-shabu or hotpot then leave all your preconceived notions at the door, Cocary Shabu Shabu is not your typical BBQ place. A mix of Chinese hotpot and Japanese shabu shabu, Cocary makes BBQ a much more arduous task. Instead of picking your meats and seafood from the menu, they make you stand up and pick the plates off some industrial size window fridges (4 in fact). And for just about $2 to $3 a plate, pick you meats, your seafood, your vegetables, your fruits, your condiments, and desserts of choice. And the rest is all up to you.

This is not where you just worry about cooking the meat to your liking, it’s picking you grilling items plus boiling items too. In the middle of the grill comes a pot full of boiling soup, and with much Iron Chef-like style, go ahead and practice that skill and harness it with the mixing of your ingredients to come up with either a boom or a bust.

Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, salmon, button mushrooms, squid, prawns on the buttered grill? Sure! Tofu, quail eggs, rice noodles, corn on the cob, fish balls, crab, and clams in the hotpot? Why not? The possibilities are endless. In fact let’s not leave Cocary without trying something out of our usual realm of comfort picks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We, and by that I meant I, tried the pork intestines. Chewy, the usual acquired taste, nevertheless I thought it was okay. It was even good when I actually cooked it perfectly. The century egg is actually a favorite of mine, but not to the rest of the group. Although this one was not completely preserved to the black color I wanted but I have missed it terribly so it was a great delight devouring this plate all by myself.

And there’s dessert. The taro flan has always been my go-to here; it’s smooth, creamy, and with light yet obvious taro flavor. I had two, hurray diet.

We were slightly unsuccessful with flavoring our broth but it was definitely an experience I’d love a repeat of. It has been a VERY long time since I’ve had hotpot or shabu shabu so every bite had to linger much longer in the mouth. Whew. I was sweating bullets, but I wouldn’t mind slinging that towel on my shoulder just to come back again.

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Filed under Chinese Food, Japanese Food, Shabu Shabu, Smorgasbord, Soup

Viva Las Vegas Day Three- Carnival Buffet at the Rio

So after a night of over-indulging of many, many, many, never-ending diuretics, we definitely needed some carbs and protein in generous variety. We failed at agreeing as to where to do Sunday Brunch Buffet so with the help of friends already waiting in line we moved on to the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio.

After waiting in line for an hour we finally made it inside and didn’t even bother to warm the seats. Here comes plate #1.

I proceeded to chew. The chow mein were hard and cold, an expected disappointment. The shu mai were also hard and cold. The turkey sausage from the breakfast line was salty and cold. The har gow was a better bite as they just came off their steamers, were still hot, and filled with plump shrimp.

Seeing as my plate looked nowhere near empty, I knew I needed more than a taste here and there. So I went for plate #2. The fried catfish was actually pretty good. The batter was light and crunchy, with a touch of Cajun seasoning as well as salt and pepper. The fish inside was still warm and flaky. I also wanted eggs with my mimosa to complete the brunch’s plated environment. This was not egg. And no, I do not consider boxed, diluted eggs ideal. The pork sausage was a little too salty even for sausage standards, but had a good snap and was surprisingly still warm on the inside. But the best part of my plate was the prime rib. With a perfectly salty crust on the outside and a tender, medium rare meat. I needed no assistance from my knife as my fork did the job just fine. I thought two slices were more than enough but I was proved wrong. But there were more to come so I had to make room for plate #3.

I was really on my way for desserts but for some reason I wanted to walk around some more. I saw a friend waiting for the roasted duck that’s still sitting on the chopping board waiting for the butcher’s knife to strike. I had to try it. Feeling the plate so empty with just one piece of duck, I had to get some more carbs with it, and pasta seemed to be the untried dish of the whole vacation. The pasta was overcooked but the bolognese was well-seasoned and packed with flavor; subtle hints of thyme, garlic, basil, with a touch of spicy-most likely cayenne. The duck was unexpectedly good. It was glistening with the good oils, crispy skin, and the fat in between melted in my mouth. The meat was cooked perfectly with a balance of salty and sweet. Delicious.

I knew I had room inside my stomach for sweets. After all, their spread looked so enticing I felt my feet flying effortless towards their display. The cheesecake was sour. And it wasn’t a lime cheesecake. The gelato had to be tried. The tiramisu was actually bland, and did not taste a tiramisu at all. It had a very indescribable after-taste. The coconut gelato was actually ahead of both, although the coconut tasted like the syrup vs the fresh one, but an artificial taste more comparable to the real one. Moving on again.

But of course, I will not leave without my own version of my bread pudding. Bread pudding, topped with vanilla ice cream this time and hot chocolate fudge drizzled all around. Their pudding is less dense as the Hilton’s but with more cinnamon and vanilla flavor. And the chocolate fudge was still warm and sweet, elevating this humble plate to a masterpiece inside my mouth. Delicious indeed. I’m sorry, I really can’t help but brag about my sugar overload.

Whew. I didn’t think I would survive outside of the buffet. The mimosas were overflowing and the food was gluttony at it’s worst. But the prime rib, duck, and bread pudding were all worth coming back and waiting in line for an hour. In fact, I would get multiple servings of each, and even with only these three I would chew without regret. Ignoring the rest of the hundreds of dishes will not be a painful undertaking.

Goodbye Vegas. Until I see you again, which will be soon. After all, over-indulgence is a magnetic pull hard to resist. And everything in Vegas is evident of excess.

 

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Filed under American Food, Beef, Breakfast, Buffet, Chinese Food, Dessert, Drinks, Duck, Dumplings, Fish, Gelato, Noodles, Pasta, Sausages, Shrimp

Viva Las Vegas Day Two- Harbor Dimsum

Viva Las Vegas indeed. My henna tattoo faded as fast as I swiped my card to pay for it. And the Fat Tuesday’s big jug is still full of some potent concoctions. No hangover and tennis was a blast. So time again to eat, we decided to explore Chinatown and go for some dimsum.

A Yelp freak that I am, I decided to seek help and searched for the best places to try these bite-size delights. Cathay House, DONE. But it took us forever to find this place, it was also nearly 3pm, and we were already hungry. We saw the first neon sign for dimsum and decided to stop and take a chance. Harbor Palace, let’s go.


There were only a few carts, a big difference from my usual go-to places back in Los Angeles, so we decided to hoard from the first one that visited us.

The egg rolls were cold by the time we sunk our teeth into it, maybe because we came a little too late for lunch. The spare ribs were chewy and oily good but slightly bland. The tofu with crab meat was blah, fine for the hungry. The har gow was over-filled with shrimp but the wrapper was too chewy. The shumai was cold and hard, not worth another round. The crab claw was the highlight of the meal. Unlike the sugar cane sticks I’ve had many tastes of, this one came with actual crab claw that you can suck a fat piece of meat out of, also with fillings of crab and shrimp with a crunchy coating on the outside. We had to get some more, in fact we had 7 plates of these. But they come with a price. $7 per plate that came with only 2pcs. Ouch!

The chicken feet was tender, sweet with a little spicy finish. It was cooked just right that it was easy to chew and suck the meat off each cartilage and bone.

We also ordered crab fried rice to add a much needed carb assistance to our plates. It was fine, I mean, I really can’t say anything good nor bad about the dish. It was edible yet a little bland, but came with generous servings of crab meat (and not imitation), egg, and vegetables.

So our adventures paid off well. The food was very satisfying and came with little surprises, including a pricey bill at the end of the meal. $30 per person is steep for dimsum, especially since I know I can get better quality and more delicious servings back home. I can’t wait to go back to Alhambra and Monterey Park. The crab claws threw us off a little. But what’s done is done, and we’re on vacation so c’est la vie. And when you’re in Vegas, you either go big or go home.

SIDENOTE: We had some delicious boba after, with some very interesting flavors as well. At the next door shopping center we found a little corner that sold both boba and an array of dried fruits and seafood showcased just like a candy bar. I had the fresh taro which I would consider the best I’ve tasted so far (and believe me I’ve had MANY). It was packed with flavor and the tapioca was chewy good. Bf had black sesame which was an interesting flavor, with crunchy bits of surprises with every sip. Another had the avocado which, contrary to popular misconception, does not taste like guacamole. It was creamy and sweet. Delicious.

ANOTHER SIDENOTE: Dinner will be missing as I was too busy downing drinks and making shots to take some pics and even finish my cabeza burrito. Safe to say, we had Mexican food. Sad to say, our friend’s burrito got stolen inside the restaurant. He left it on the table for a few seconds just to grab a to-go bag. And when he was still waiting at the counter, other customers let us know some guy in a red baseball cap came and took it. Oh well, maybe he needed the meal more than we did. Hope he enjoyed it. Red-hat guy, if you get to read this, I’d love to know how it was. I might include it in my blog.



 

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Filed under Burrito, Chicken, Chinese Food, Crab, Dimsum, Drinks, Dumplings, Mexican Food, Pork, Shrimp, Tofu

Mayflower Seafood Restaurant, Los Angeles

Spring is in the air on Spring St in Chinatown. It may be time to smell the roses but dinner must be first priority for now, after hearing multiple complaints from an empty stomach. Inspired by the recent win of boxing great Manny Pacquiao in Texas, I was told that he frequents Mayflower for one of the best Chinese food in the area.  And of course, being a Filipino, I was more than excited to go. With the rows and rows of places to choose from, hearing of the best must not be missed. And so when it was time to pick a place, Mayflower was first in mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It did not look like one of those places one would pass by and immediately want to try. The front needs a major overhaul, seriously. But a fan of hole in the wall places, this was a perfect dinner destination. The place is deceivingly bigger than its facade, with even an event hall on the side that fit 100-150people if need be.

The menu had over 400 items to pick from. But having help choosing from two regulars, the orders were flying out of the kitchen in no time.

First came the soup, lobster and fish maw soup. It needed a little bit of help from the chili oil. After a few drops and the soup was almost perfect. It came with chunks of lobster (I had a whole claw-lucky), and the fish maw was chewy but cooked perfectly. The pan-fried fish came next. It was crispy sole that came with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce. It was almost crispy enough to eat the bones; very enjoyable and clearly not enough for four people.

We had to return the house special seafood chow mein, it had a “long and black” unwanted ingredient. We suggest shaving or hair nets please. They were apologetic enough to deliver a new, clean plate (but did not take this off the bill, which I think is more than appropriate since we already started eating the noodles). Moving on, the sauce was a little bland. Understandably, it is usually thick and underseasoned, but this one really had no hand at all. The vegetables and seafood were overflowing, and were well-cooked. A very typical, unspectacular dish. Next, please.

The salt and pepper squid were overly breaded and over-cooked, chewy to the point of no return. We were excited at first glance as this dish is a staple of any Chinese restaurant, and they rarely miss the mark. Today was one of those days.


The fried pork chops were a favorite. They were lightly breaded and perfectly fried, not to oily at all with a little taste of salt that did not overpower the dish (I kept coming back for more that I felt bad for the rest of the table). Having had Newport’s and Coral Reef’s plenty of times now, I admit, I am a salt and pepper pork chop snob, but Mayflower’s was a decent plate of pork. Not as good, but holds its own very well.


At the end of the meal, they bring your dessert. A warm sweet coconut milk soup, filled with tapioca balls and bits of sweet yam. Now this was a good, much needed ending to the meal. The tapioca balls were tiny, chewy jewels that added a surprising bite, and the soup was sweet but not overly, delicious.


Inside, Pacquiao’s pictures were hanging all over the place. He wasn’t there but he was pretty much a part of the decor, therefore part of the place. No proof though, whatsoever, if he liked this place or which dish he would never leave without a taste of. But after a full stomach, it was hard to really care about that.

Outside the restaurant, spring calls once more. All four on the table needed to stand up and smell the flowers, otherwise the rest of the 395 items on the menu would be tried and tested. Giving credit to the place, it does make you want to try every bit of interesting item on the menu, even the usual fried chicken and beef and broccoli. Being so busy, it was easy to have table envy even though disappoints came one after another. The brisket over rice looked good, the house special noodle soup smelled fantastic, the house special lobster looked spicy yummy, and even the snow peas smelled garlicky addicting. Soon, spring needs to be revisited more frequently now.


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Filed under Chinese Food, Dessert, Fish, Mixed Seafood, Noodles, Pork, Pork Chops, Soup, Squid, Vegetable

Post-Valentine’s Day

I thought I should just share.

February 13- We had a couple’s massage at Barai and it was really, really good. This is not your usual “Burke-Williams” experience. They swing you around, break your bone, bend your body, pop your joints to your limit. Dinner was at AFloat Sushi in Pasadena. It was good. I mean, the sushi was unspectacular but for the price and the fun of it-it was actually worth it. I had a very nice time.

February 14- We had lunch at my favorite hole-CORAL REEF. We may not have had the best lunch conversation but the food was amazing (and cheap) as usual. His fish with black bean sauce and my pork chops were finger licking good as always. Yummy, indeed.

Reviews to follow. I need to get better pictures.

It just goes to show, you really don’t have to spend a lot to make the most out of the day. Sometimes, simple and cheap is as good (or even better) as elaborate and expensive.

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Filed under Chinese Food, Japanese Food, Occasion, Related Article, Sushi

Newport Tan Cang Seafood, San Gabriel

I watched way too many Anthony Bourdain episodes last night. This streaming from Netflix jeopardized all that hard work. Any diet is assured of failure post-Bourdain. So a “blogging lunch” was inevitable. I had to keep my sanity before I got to Newport. I was craving. I was hungry. I was salivating. I was told that lunch here was not to be missed. Cheap and good. Two words that entice me endless, bother me continuously, haunt me about a place that only the satisfaction of an experience would suffice.

I entered and was immediately drawn to the tank filled with overweight lobsters calling my name. But my goal today was to prove the validity of this cheap and good premise. The free hot and sour soup came first. FREE…that’s cheap in my book. $5.75 and $6.25 lunch specials. That’s also cheap, considering the recent recession and all; local Chinese food “combo-place” prices inside a very decently designed and appropriately decorated sit-down restaurant. Now to finally taste this GOOD I’ve been hearing about.

Kung pao chicken…it was usual; salty and not even spicy. A taste I would find at any “combo-place” around the corner. Personally, I am not much of a fan of the dish and so the bias has taken over even before I put a spoonful inside my mouth. Salt and pepper fried pork chops, now we’re getting somewheret. Crispy outside with a very tender pork inside. It was breaded ever so lightly and served with salt and pepper on the side for dipping or to pour on top of the whole plate. I can almost see the calories but with complete disregard I forged on bite by bite. But since I am a porkaholic it’s not hard to make a believer out of me. Fish and clams with basil and garlic; both the fish and clams were tender and swimming in a savory, garlicky basil sauce that marries well with either protein. Without the pork chops, I would have been satisfied with a plate of either the fish or clam.

Broccoli with oyster sauce. I know it’s a very typical Chinese dish you can get at Panda Express but I was not the only one ordering at the table. Panda Express is walking distance from my house. If time comes when I would be in dire need of this dish, I would burn calories and would rather walk there and get my fix. Pea sprouts, people said it was good. I say it was pea sprouts. Shrimp fried rice filled with enough shrimp to make it a full meal, which was surprising. I mean, don’t you get tired of ordering this dish and get two or three pieces of shrimp? Shrimp and scrambled eggs, simple, I know i could have easily made this dish at home but something about Newport’s that just made me sigh. Maybe because it was FULL of sweet, perfectly cooked shrimp. Plump and succulent. Ugh, I’m a sucker for excess.

BOBA, they give you a separate menu for this and it comes in a to-go bag. It may have come from another location but when it comes to boba I usually don’t care. I got the durian and it was interesting. Nothing against Newport but my choice of fruit was not exactly the most edible. It tasted like sweetened onions with a very indescribable aftertaste. Go figure me.

I therefore conclude that I have found this place CHEAP and GOOD. For the money you would pay for lunch, this place is indeed an excellent location to satisfy the stomachs of many foodies. Food is good as we did not ask for any to-go boxes even though the portions were considerably larger than the usual lunch plates. The place has either comfy diner booths or large tables that can accommodate a family of many, and all male employees that provide fast and friendly service. I would go back again but maybe only for lunch. I heard the place gets packed for dinner and the prices are double so it may not be worth the drive (especially with Mayflower and Coral Reef around the corner).

So if you’re looking for an Anthony Bourdain moment filled with witty retorts and charming remarks then Newport is not your muse. At least, it was not mine. On to the next No Reservations conquest.

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Filed under Boba, Chicken, Chinese Food, Clams, Fish, Pork, Pork Chops, Soup, Vegetable

Savoy Kitchen, Alhambra

Full house. There’s about 5 or so names written on that stand outside the door. No maitre de, no hostess, no welcoming smiles. Paper without even lines on it. Write your name, how many in your party, and wait. Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra may not have the biggest dining room, or the most posh of furniture, or the most elaborate menu. But, since 1982, Savoy has been serving the best Hainan Chicken Rice you will ever find in anywhere (at least for now).

The place is small, with only a bar with limited stools, a dining area and a patio to assist the crowd that may form outside, especially during lunch time. The service is fast and efficient, with food coming out of the kitchen after a few minutes of ordering. They serve free pizza bread that can get you addicted if not careful. The sweet iced tea is unlimited, so are the condiments that come if you order their chicken, and you should.

The menu is full of enticing appetizers and entrees. Their baked escargot with herb butter is glistening with indulgence. Their pizzas are made with original potato dough made fresh daily, and comes with toppings such as butter herb shrimp, smoked beef, and smoked duck. Their pastas are also as unique, with pairings like conch and prosciutto mixed with fettuccine and your choice of tomato or garlic (garlic, white wine, olive oil, and butter) sauce. They’re also famous for their curry; Malaysian style with herbs, spices, coconut milk, and a dozen different fruits and vegetables. Pick your meat of choice; chicken, beef stew, pork chop, fish, tofu, and more.

But this place is Hainan chicken rice heaven. When people tell you to get the Hainan chicken, when Yelpers tells you it’s famous and it’s HIGHLY recommended, or when you see almost everyone inside eating the Hainan chicken, THEN for crying out loud GET THE HAINAN CHICKEN. It is cheap heaven on a plate. For $6.75 (plus $2 for dark meat) you get this huge plate of addiction. The chicken has been poaching in their special broth until it is just fall off the bone tender and infused with such amazing flavor. Dip it in ginger and chili sauce and it is elevated to another level. I mean it is something so simple on a plate. It looks just as plain as chicken and rice, but do not underestimate my friends. This plate is love inside your mouth. Simple yet so complex in flavor, a wave of warmth and comfort on your palate: sweet, salty, savory (SSS-triple threat). And of course, let us not forget the rice. The same poaching liquid for the chicken is used as the cooking liquid, lending such a light, savory flavor to the fluffy rice. I just can’t get over it. Uhuh.

Unfortunately, it is CASH only so come prepared. I would like to try the curry; it comes highly recommended. But when people tell you to get Hainan Chicken Rice…what do you do??? This foodie will not be told twice…this foodie WILL get Hainan Chicken Rice.

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Filed under Chicken, Chicken and Rice, Chinese Food, Comfort Food, Malaysian Food, Pasta