Friday, November 30, 2012

Tan Cang Newport Seafood Restaurant - Rowland Heights

I like turkey, but I don't really need to have it for Thanksgiving. You see, turkey isn't a thing we eat at my parents' house.

Why? As far as I know, turkeys do not exist in Indonesia. But vultures do. And unfortunately, to most Indonesians, America's favorite indigenous poultry--with their grotesque-looking head and neck--look like vultures, scavengers you see pecking on rotting flesh on the side of the road. So the thought of eating a Butterball for dinner, Thanksgiving or otherwise, at an old-school Indonesian household is as common as eating frogs or crickets in an American one.

This is why Thanksgiving with our family--assuming we get a chance to get together for what amounts to an eating holiday--is just an excuse to consume large quantities of, well, whatever we feel like...just not turkey.

This year, it was Tan Cang in Rowland Heights, the Viet/Chinese restaurant that, contrary to the name, isn't affliated to the one in Santa Ana, which you may be already familiar for its lobster. We feasted like it was any other day. There was, of course, French-style beef steak, cubes of just-seared beef, glistening in a sweet marinade that now coated it like glaze after being tossed around in a blazing wok with onions. The Viets call it bo luc lac, and we ate it the recommended way--each morsel dabbed into a slurry of salt, pepper and lime juice.

Fried calamari crunched with a light shimmer of batter; the kung pao chicken was a little too dry for my taste; but the Chinese broccoli was simply steamed, the stalks turned deep green and crisp-tender before being stir-fried with a flecks of dried-salted fish.

Then the House Special crab came, a whole Dungeness hacked up into pieces, the shells dipped in batter, each limb deep fried. It all goes into another wok, drizzled and tossed with a spicy seasoning consisting of onions, peppers, and magic that seeped into the crispy floury bits stuck onto the carapace as well as the sweet meat underneath. We cracked through its armor (easy-peasy since the shell was now weakened by the hot oil), fingered the insides to extract every speck of of its snowy flesh. We chased it with bowls upon bowls of rice, not mashed potatoes or stuffing; and for dessert we sucked up durian milkshakes instead of pumpkin pie.

Turkey? Meh.

Tan Cang
18441 Colima Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-1239

The Point - Dana Point

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Goldilocks - Cerritos

So you've been to Magic Wok right? If you haven't yet, go! If you have no idea what I'm babbling about, look to the right and read up on the multiple posts I've written on the place. I believe there should be at least five.

I need you to be aware of Magic Wok--which is, in my opinion, the best Filipino restaurant outside of the Philippines--because I'm now about to write about Goldilocks, which is like the Denny's.

Please don't take that last part as a knock against Goldilocks. It isn't. But it is quite like America's chain diner in many ways--it's lit brightly and has a similar corporate polish behind it. When you look around you get the sense the people who eat here aren't doing so because they're celebrating any sort of special occasion. Just at Denny's, they're here for sustenance.

I have a history with Goldilocks. My family and I had been going there since they were in a tiny location on Pioneer Street. We went specifically for their cakes. For a long time, if there's a birthday, it's usually a Goldilocks Black Forest beneath the candles.

But this visit was different. We stopped in to get a meal simply because we were in the area, and it turned out to be exactly the thing we needed--comfort food to sustain us and get our insides warm and cozy.

We ordered the sinigang, some pinakbet and a big pot of rice. We ladled the soup and its boiled vegetable contents into our own bowls, spooned some of that broth to moisten our rice, dribbled patis (fish sauce) onto the pork after we scraped them off the bone, and then we ate and ate, and slurped and slurped that tamarind-flavored pork elixir like it was the first hot soup we had in years.

There were more vegetable matter in this sinigang than there are in Magic Wok's. It was also the first time I saw taro in a restaurant sinigang, which is what I usually like to add in mine when I make it.

On the pinakbet, there were the usual assortment of pork, shrimp, bittermelon, pumpkin, green beans, eggplant, all shellacked in a funky gravy laced with the stinky-salty fermented shrimp paste called bagoong. I still prefer Magic Wok's rendition, but this was a very decent, very capable dish all the same.

During our meal we sat next to a poster that advertised that they had a $1.99 special on their pancit palabok (which I've described in previous posts as the Pinoy equivalent to pad Thai). We came back a few days later for it because we've never seen this meaty, saucy, and altogether satisfying mound of pork, fish and annatto-tinged wiggly noodles priced lower than $4. I think of it as Goldilocks' Grand Slam.

Goldilocks Cerritos
11489 South Street
Cerritos, CA 90703
(562) 924-5990

Foxfire - Anaheim Hills

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guppy House - Irvine

Sometimes only a hot bowl of noodle soup will do. It doesn't matter what it is, where it is, so long as it's something I can Hoover up in streams with my chopstick and it's swimming in a broth hot enough to burn a hole in my tongue. And if it comes with a side of fried pork of some sort, even better.

These requirements are what the pork chop noodle from Guppy House in Irvine fulfilled last night. The evening was frigid, the kind that called for this kind of supper--something comforting, something akin to a warm blanket you can eat.

The pork chop turned out to be greater than just a side dish. It seemed to have an unnatural homogeneity, not a trace of sinew or fat or gristle in a meat tender, thin, covered in crispy batter and flavored deep with a tangy, sweet Chinese wine marinade.

I ate it in concert with the noodles, slurping the soup as if it were an antidote my body needed. In between, I'd take a few chopsticks of a spinach side dish, which was cooked with more pork and sweetness.

After that, dessert. A brick toast covered in warm chocolate, drizzled with caramel and sweetened condensed milk--the thing that the Guppy House chain is known for along with ridiculously portioned mounds of shaved snow served in punch bowls. I didn't order the latter because, well, I would've had to get another bowl of noodle soup if I did.

Guppy House
2730 Alton Pkwy. Ste 101
Irvine, CA 92614
(949) 851-9788

Surah Korean BBQ and Sushi - Buena Park

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Monterey Palace - Monterey Park

I wish I could eat dim sum more often. But you know how it is with dim sum. I call it the Catch-22 food. In order to go to a place that's worth its soy sauce, you need to go where the line is longest. You cannot be an impatient person and also love dim sum. The two are mutually exclusive.

But this was a special occasion, so it was off with my buds to Monterey Palace, a place that one of my friends recommended--a friend whose parents practically live in SGV's dim sum houses.

He told me three things about the place that turned out to be all true:

1) Monterey Palace's parking lot is insanely small. The neighborhood along the street next to the restaurant exists basically as overflow parking.

2) When your number is finally called you'll notice that you see not one roving cart. Everything is ordered off the menu. And I don't think it's necessarily Vancouver-style either. Methinks it's because the tables are packed so close together, there's simply no room for carts.

3) Their specialty is actually the deep fried cruller wrapped in a sheet of thin rice noodle (I'd get the Chinese name for you, but again, I'm impatient, and have other stuff to do). It's taken to a new level here--the cruller is filled with a kind of steamed fish paste.

But here's what I also found out: the egg custard tarts here are divine--light and wiggly, all poured into a crumbly crust that seems to disintegrate if you breathe on it wrong...easily one of the best I've ever had.

And the price. My God. The price. $1 per head for the tea. $2.09 each for the dim sum.

Now if only I could stand standing in line.

Monterey Palace
1001 East Garvey Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 571-0888

South of Nick's - San Clemente