Friday, May 27, 2011

Baby Bro’s Epic MP/SGV eating trip

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you know that I love taking road trips to LA just to eat for the day. My parents think I’m crazy. Obviously my craziness is contagious. Last week, Baby Bro took his first food eating trip, hitting up cheap chinese eats in Monterey Park and San Gabriel Valley. He went to visit a friend that lived in that area, and decided they might as well turn it into an epic eating trip. And I do mean epic. There were three of them, and in a span of about 9 eating hours, they ate at five restaurants, two bakeries and two dessert spots.  (I miss having the metabolism of a college student). I had fun helping him plan his trip, though I was also very envious and so tempted to drop everything and join them. (I don’t think I would have been able to keep up though.) Anyhow, Baby Bro took a lot of pictures, and wrote this guest post to share his epic eating adventure with you all. Hope you enjoy!

Hello everyone! This is Kirbie’s Baby Brother. This weekend my girlfriend and I went to visit a friend in Alhambra. While we were there, we decided to go on an epic food eating trip!

Our first stop was at Porto’s Bakery & Café:

Porto’s Bakery & Café
8233 Firestone Blvd
Downey, CA 90241

After reading Kirbie’s post on the potato balls, I knew for certain we had to visit there.  Luckily the line for us was “short” – it was all contained within the building rather than having a huge line out the door.  There are two lines, one for each side of the building.  One side is for sandwiches, and the other for the bakery/pastries, which is the line we went to.  It looped around several times through, but there were a lot of workers, and we got through in about ten minutes.  We got a chorizo pie, a chicken empanada, 25 potato balls to go, plus a few hot ones to eat on the spot.

They were better than amazing.  No adjective can do justice in describing how good they are. They come up to about 85 cents a piece of you get them in dozens, or 90 cents individually. Well worth the money.  I don’t think the 25 we got will last us…other people were getting about five to six dozen potato balls. The only people who think they’re crazy are the ones who haven’t had one before (and I was one of them before today).

Our next stop was 101 Noodle Express.  I absolutely LOVE noodles, so this stop was a must.

101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

After reading Gastronomer’s post on 101 Noodle Express, I knew I had to try the beef roll.  It did not disappoint.

As you can see, the beef roll is pretty massive.  Good thing, because they are delicious!  My friend had been here before, so she quickly asked the waiter for some cilantro chili.

The cilantro chili was a great addition to the beef roll, although it tasted excellent without as well.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of cilantro, but this concoction was pretty darn good.  I believe it’s diced cilantro, onions, and some jalapeños, but it has the perfect amount of spiciness without overpowering the flavor.  I definitely think that this is a must order if you visit.

Beef tendon noodles with hand-pulled noodles.  The noodles and soup were decent… as in I enjoyed eating them, but there’s nothing special about them.  The broth could have been more flavorful, and the noodles weren’t as chewy as Kingsburg kitchen’s (more on that later).  They do compliment the beef rolls rather well though.



The dumplings were juicy, but there’s nothing special about them.  There are plenty of better dumplings places around here, like Dean Sin World and Mama’s Lu.

Overall, the beef rolls are what really made this place worth the visit. I agree with Cathy/Gastronomer that they should change their name and make the beef roll the star of the show instead of the noodles.

Here is the menu:

Beijing Pie House
846 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755


 

The funny thing about this place, is that while it’s called “Beijing Pie House,” as it says on the menu, the English name is nowhere to be seen from the outside.  Gourmet & Bakery seems to be misleading, as their baked goods mostly consists of bakes goods, along with some hotpot and noodles.  Their famous meat pies are $6-7 for four pies. We ordered two lamb two beef pies.  I wanted to try how their beef roll compared to 101 Noodle Express, but sadly they said they were out of the beef rolls.  Instead, I got the Homeland Meat Cake.

The back two are the lamb pies, the front two are the beef pies.

I was rather disappointed in how the beef pies tasted.  They were juicy, crispy and had good flavor, but there was this odd sourish taste that didn’t agree with my taste buds.  Similarly, the rest of my party weren’t too impressed by them either.


The homeland meat cake however, was a different story.  The meat was pressed nicely, and the flavor was delicious.  The skin was thin and crispy and together it made a great combination.  Next time I think I’ll try the dumplings and noodle and wonton soups, as they seem pretty good.  You can see Cathy’s post on it here.

Boiling Point
153 West Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754-2801

We decided to stop by Boiling Point to try out their snow shaved ice in order to compare it with Pa Pa Walk’s.  There was a small wait, and once we went inside, we were greeted with a strong smell of stinky tofu.  Unfortunately, we were met with some bad news – they ran out of mango snow, and only had chocolate, taro, and green tea.  We went with the green tea snow.

The price and portion is comparable to Pa Pa Walk’s small size.  On the left side were some red beans, and on the right was a flan.  The flan was rather bland by itself, but when eaten with the snow, it worked as a nice topping.  The snow was soft and fluffy as expected, and pretty good, although we were still disappointed about the fact that there was no mango snow, and after eating this, we were all craving Pa Pa Walk.

Kee Wah Bakery
729 W Garvey Ave,
Monterey Park, CA 91755

 

We stopped by Kee Wah Bakerybut I didn’t take any pictures.  You can look at Kirbie’s pictures here and here from her past visits.  We got pineapple buns and egg tarts, but then we noticed that checking in on Yelp had a free blueberry banana cake reward, and checking in on four-square had a pack of coffee cookies for a rewards.  Sadly, the blueberry banana cake and the coffee cookies were nowhere nearly as good as the pineapple buns or egg tarts.  I think next time we’ll just stick with the usual.

 

Dean Sin World
306 N. Garfield Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754

Since we’ve all been to Mama’s Lu, we decided it would be better worth our time to go to DSW instead.  It’s a VERY small place, with only a few tables inside.  Upon being seated, we were given a small dish of their homemade kimchi.  It was pretty good, but with a little more pickling time in the chili would help bring out the flavor.

We ordered the Chinese Chive Box (on the menu it’s called “Leak Leaf Cake”), Vegetable Pork Dumplings, Steamed Pork Bun (Xiao Long Bao), and the Sesame Wine Blew Rice Ball.



The dumplings were GREAT.  They blew 101 Noodle Express out of the water.  The skin was chewy, and the flavor inside was intense.  Hands down, one of the best dumplings I’ve had in Southern California.  Since they were so good, we got 50 frozen leak pork dumplings to go for only $10.


The Chinese Chive Boxes were way too salty.  While the flavor was welcomed in the dumplings, I think it was overdone on these guys, and the overall taste suffered because of it.  I think DSW offers better items than this, and I’d save my stomach room for tastier stuff.

We were pleasantly surprised with the steamed soup pork buns here.  For less than $5, you get 10 steamed buns, which is about half the price you would get at some places.  While the skin was thicker than Din Tai Fung’s, the soup and flavor was great.  Overall, the steamed pork buns is a lot better than other Chinese restaurants, and while I’ve certainly had better at Din Tai Fung, or Shanghai Dumpling in Nor Cal, these guys will satisfy any steamed pork bun cravings at a great price.

Lastly, the Sesame Rice Wine Balls.  Our group really enjoyed the sesame balls – sweet glutinous rice balls with sesames in the middle, in a rice wine soup.  There was some disagreement about whether the rice wine was strong enough, but overall this dish was a great way to end the meal.

Kingburg Kitchen
715 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

I heard that Kingburg kitchen had great dumplings, and to order frozen ones, you have to call ahead of time because they run out.  They open at 11:30, so I called around noon, but my poor Chinese and their poor English did not go well.  Luckily my girlfriend is pretty fluent in Chinese, so we had our order for 50 pork frozen dumplings to be picked up in the evening.  When we came, we decided to get some fresh dumplings as well as their noodle soup.


They have a special for $7 you can get a noodle soup plus 5 dumpling combo.  We decided to get the pork shrimp cabbage dumplings to compare with DSW as well as hand-pulled beef noodle soup to compare with 101 Noodle House.

The dumplings were pretty darn big.  Nice and plump, filled with juicy pork inside.  The flavor was great…but there were large noticeable chunks of cabbage that wasn’t cooked thoroughly that added an unwanted bitterness/texture to the dumplings.  Hopefully my 50 frozen dumplings don’t suffer from the cabbage problem!  Despite the cabbage dilemma, the dumplings were still tasty, although next time I think next time we’ll try the fish dumplings, as I have read that they are supposed to be the best.

 

The hand-pulled noodles were great!  They were a bit long – it kind of felt like the entire bowl was just one really long noodle – but they were chewy and soaked in the broth well.  The beef broth…well wasn’t meaty enough.  Similar to 101 Noodle Express, it felt a bit artificial, and could have used a few hours of boiling in some beef bones.  Overall, I think the noodles here are better than that of 101 Noodle Express.

Dong Nguyen Restaurant
1433 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801

 

Our last restaurant stop! As you can tell, it was getting dark and we were running out of time.  The moment I stepped inside the place, my appetite instantly revived, and I was actually pretty hungry despite all the food we had been eating the whole day.  The inside of the restaurant just smelled delicious! Kind of what I would expect from a restaurant you see in Asian movies that take place during the Feudal Age.

Before ordering anything, we were presented with bowls of soup.  It was made from a chicken broth with some Chinese vegetables and herbs, and while I don’t usually like these types of Chinese vegetables, it was still good.  The soup certainly helped stimulate our appetite.

Dong Nguyen is known for their Hainan Chicken Rice, so we got two orders of that, plus I decided to try the Duck Noodle Soup after reading it on Cathy’s blog.

 

The chicken was tender, and had plenty of flavors within.  The rice soaked up the broth well, and overall just worked very well.  No wonder they’re famous for this dish.  Personally, I think the dish would be even tastier if they used free-ranged chicken, but for less than $7 who can complain?  The chicken is served with a ginger chili sauce that added even more flavor to the chicken.  It was useful for some parts of the white meat, which had less juice than the edges or the dark meat.


The duck noodle soup wasn’t as good as I had hoped.  It was a little bland, and there wasn’t much duck taste – in fact it kinda tasted like a bland pho.  They did give generous portions of duck and noodles though.  Hopefully I just came on an off day, as I saw other patrons with noodle soups and seemed to be enjoying it.

 

As we were finishing up our meal, I spotted a delicious looking plate of fried rice.  Unfortunately, the girlfriend said that we had enough leftovers, and wouldn’t let me get it.  Now when I think of Dong Nguyen, I don’t remember the great Hainan style chicken rice, but rather the fried rice that I have yet to taste.

Our last stop was Pa Pa Walk.

227 W Valley Blvd
Ste 148-B
San Gabriel, CA 91776

While I didn’t get a picture of the front of Pa Pa Walk, I did snap this (unfocused) picture of a mini cooper with eyelashes! Not every day you see something like this.

We had to wait for about 20 minutes to get a table, but it was well worth the wait.

The mango snow was as good as I remembered it.  Frozen and shredded with condensed milk, the snow literally melts in your mouth as you eat it.  After eating this for the first time, I have unable to enjoy regular shaved ice – it literally feels like eating a bowl of gravel.  Mango snow is a MUST have.  Although Pa Pa Walk is a little pricier than other snow shaved ice places, at least they have the mango snow (ahem boiling point).

It was so good that we actually got one for takeout and stuck it in the cooler as we drove back down to San Diego.  To our pleasant surprise, it survived the trip pretty well and tasted just as good after the long drive.

And so this concludes our long food journey! Thanks for reading!

 

 

12 Responses to “Baby Bro’s Epic MP/SGV eating trip”

  1. 1

    Faye — May 27, 2011 @ 9:24 am

    Wowzers – that WAS an EPIC post! NICE JOB!! I don’t know how you managed to visit all those places in one day…I’m beyond envious and in awe at the same time.

    The first beef roll looks amazing – is there anything in SD that’s similar? Actually, are there any places in SD that compares to any of the restaurants you visited in regards to the beef rolls and meat pies?

    I’ve yet to have any type of ‘snow’. Just the shaved traditional ice. The last pic of the mango snow – is that fresh mango they used?

    Really wonderful post – hope to see more of your reviews !

    • Kirbie replied: — May 28th, 2011 @ 1:49 am

      I was going to let my brother respond but he’s on a camping trip with no internet. No, there’s nothing like the beef rolls or meat pies in SD. You’re going to have to take a trip to LA! heehee. The beef roll is definitely amazing at 101. I’ve had quite a few beef rolls and always been unimpressed. This was the first one I loved. I had some leftovers he brought home. So good!
      The mango snow, I don’t know if it’s frozen mangoes or fresh. They aren’t canned mangoes though. You need to have the snow ice. Once you do, it’s really hard to go back to the original! It’s very very fine shaven and it melts really slowly because its mixed with condensed milk. It tastes so soft, more like ice cream than like chunks of ice.

  2. 2

    Lindsey@Lindselicious — May 27, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

    That was a crazy food tour! I love the beef roll from 101 noodle, if you go there again the dumpling with pumpkin is the best one. Definately going to try out some of the places you mentioned since they are new to me.

    • Kirbie replied: — May 28th, 2011 @ 1:50 am

      Pumpkin. check. I love pumpkin! I’ll have to try it out before. I’ve had pumpkin dumplings once before, at Lu Dumpling House.

  3. 3

    Sandy — May 27, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    Kirbie, you’ve trained Baby Bro well!

    I think it’s hard for people in the Bay Area or LA to understand why we in SD will take food road trips.

    • Kirbie replied: — May 27th, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

      Haha, you are right. I’ve told my mom so many times and she seems to forget every time. She is surrounded by chinese restaurants and bakeries. Sometimes I have her translate a menu and she just comments “it’s so expensive!” I told her there is no choice, that’s the prices in San diego, but she doesn’t seem to comprehend. Or she’ll say something like, why are you buying pineapple buns here, why don’t you get them in SD? And i keep telling her they aren’t very good in San Diego but she doesn’t remember. Or for the wedding cakes, we were thinking about chinese style wedding cake, but of course there are barely any chinese bakeries in San Diego. I told her Ranch is probably the best chinese cakes in Sd. And she didn’t seem to understand that concept. She kept telling me, don’t go to Ranch 99, go to an actual chinese bakery…And I kept telling her other than a few tiny ones I don’t like, there aren’t any..Then she texted me “why not get it from 85C?” (as if 85C is right next door and not over an hour away…) Then I had to remind her it’s over an hour away and how the heck would I get a tiered cake back to San Diego. sigh.

  4. 4

    Sandy — May 27, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

    That’s so hilarious about your mom! My mom also comments on how expensive it is in SD for Asian products. One time, she was shocked at how much oyster sauce was that she told me not to buy it in SD any more, and that she would bring it next time. Well, if I need it, I’ll buy it and not wait. But that’s a mom for you – always trying to save money for you.

    • Kirbie replied: — May 27th, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

      Heehee, yes that is how mom’s are. Mine always gives me all these supplies to bring back. It can be embarrassing at the airport if I have to go through thorough screening.

  5. 5

    Kung Food Panda — May 27, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

    Nice job in hitting up some of my personal favorites. Though there are definitely some good ones you need to try next time. Let me know if you need a SGV guide and I’ll meet you for lunch/dinner :)

    • Kirbie replied: — May 28th, 2011 @ 1:43 am

      We’re planning a trip next month or July. I’ll definitely let you know when we go since I know you’d be a wonderful guide.

  6. 6

    Gastronomer — June 2, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    Kirbs – You must be SO proud. Baby Bro is a mother effing champion :-)

    • Kirbie replied: — June 2nd, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

      I really expected him to come back curled up in a fetal position. but he was perfectly fine and even starting snacking on some of the food he brought back for me.

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