Langzhou Ramen Heads to MPK, Simmer Huang & Bistro Na’s Soon hit Camellia Square , Tokyo Table Grand Opens Dec 1
So many openings, so little time.
If you’re still somehow reading tweets three weeks into Trump’s win, it’s probably pretty clear I’m nowhere near the SGV right now, and the listing below are cobbled together from November outings. But whatever, someone’s gotta do it.
Monterey Park: Lanzhou Ramen is heading South. But wait, you say, there is no Lanzhou Ramen restaurant in LA. And you’re correct, because China Tasty‘s Chinese name is Lanzhou Ramen. But Chinese ramen? Who wants to eat Chinese ramen, you say. Well, considering the Japanese co-opted this Chinese invention — “ra men” is “pulled noodles” in Chinese — everyone should be obsessed with Chinese la mian. In fact, downtown hipsters better get on this ASAP. This lovely noodle restaurant, originally on Valley Blvd, next to 101 Noodle Express, should be open by the time the post goes live. Not sure why JG would bother reviewing Canto breakfast and keep insisting 101 Noodle Express has good Chinese noodles when China Tasty (and Xi’an Tasty, AND Liang’s) have such superior noodle products. The previous restaurant was Three Travellers [sic], a “bone stock” hot potting outlet of a China chain that constantly reeked of sow. It was a bit of a surprise Three Travellers even made it 3 years, but let’s not forget SGV food hype phrase of 2016 is indeed: “China Chain”. 128 N Garfield
(photo credit: Ivy W.)
Temple City: Bistro Na’s has a pre-Christmas opening date. This place is going to be a big deal, with its multi-course “Imperial” feast, straight outta China. With the opening of both Bistro Na’s and Simmer Huang (below), Camellia Square is set to be the next war arena between Chinese and Korean cuisine. Kang Ho Dang Baekjeong continues to draw big crowds wherever it opens, but seriously people: stop eating that slop. Water downed egg mix is disgusting. Think of the cooped up chickens.
Temple City: Camelia Square’s new restaurants have mostly opened up (Summer Roll, Kang Ho Dang, etc.), and the remaining one, at 2600-sqft, seems to be some kind of bone stock hot potting joint. Safe to assume Simmer Huang is Chinese-operated and owned, and it is severely delayed because this sign’s been up since…. before Summer Roll opened. Simmer Huang, just like Bistro Na‘s that’s about to open soon, is a massive Chinese empire with hundred-year old culinary foots “supposedly” rooted in the Beijing imperial court’s kitchen. With 500+ outlets within China, Australia and Canada, Simmer Huang is yet another symbol of the current invasion of Chinese food businsses in LA. Whether it succeeds it is a whole nother story though. 5728 Rosemead Blvd, suite 107
Alhambra: Tokyo Table’s opening party is Dec 1. This is by the same Japanese company that now owns Kaya. We love Kaya, we love the Japanese. We just aren’t sure what city of Alhambra is thinking putting so many “izakaya”-style restaurants on Main St. That said, there will be a food give-away, and a DJ, and sake, so Alhambra should be having a grand old time this Thursday. 100 E Main St.
Monterey Park: Akagi Ramen will take over the dead shaved snow place (RIP Fluff Ice) in Atlantic Square, which allowed Snowy Village to open this month. This means one dead shaved snow place was replaced by another shaved snow place. That’s Monterey Park. Also of note, Akagi Ramen, before the interior is even finished, has multiple signs up for BOGO deals. As Trump would say: This is “really, really, NOT a smart” move. 500 N Atlantic Blvd #153
Kembo Taiwanese Truck is back! Eaterphant Thai? More Korean Shaved Snow.
So many openings, so little time:
Monterey Park: Kembo, the Taiwanese street food truck that was nailed by a drunk driver in a minivan, is finally back. They have a full size lonchero-style truck now, not just a trailer, and it looks spiffy! Now, on a typical Thursday evening, there is the taco truck, the insanely-priced boba truck, and Kembo. Thank goodness the churros truck is gone. It wasn’t bueno. 330 N Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park: Eaterphant (The Thais tell me the silly name is because there’s an Elephant Thai in .. Chino? San Dimas? Or something) took over the dead pizza joint, killed by Blaze, across the street, two weeks ago. This Thai fast-casual restaurant joins the only other Thai restaurant in this stretch of Monterey Park: Thai House (and the associated Thai House Express). Eaterphant’s a a bit massive inside, with counter ordering of a mixed Thai menu. There’s larb, there’s tom kha gai, and there’s even braised pork hock rice. With Thai cooks manhandling the woks, service has been quick, and portions are massive. This place looks like an instant winner. 2201 S Atlantic Blvd #B.
Alhambra: West SGV now might have more Burmese restaurant than the rest of the state combined. There’s the lovely Yoma, there’s the also lovely Daw Yee, and as of first week of November, there’s NADI Myamar Cafe. This was the site of the old Indo Kitchen. The menu is concise, but it’s still better than having to chase down oh no khao swe all over residential homes Monterey Park and Rosemead ** wink wink **. Of note, they are NOT open Monday, which I had to find out firsthand when I visited last week. 5 N. 4th St
Monterey Park: Snowy Village has replaced the the failing Cold Stone as of last Friday, the 11th. This is the 4th location of the Snowy Village Korean chain. Cold Stone was the saddest thing at Atlantic Square, and it was a reminder of the failed policy of the city which forced the developers to maintain “national brands”. Well, five years in, ALL the domestic national brands are dead as the wicked witch. You can force the palate of the people, and the people are: Chinese. 500 N Atlantic #C-118A
San Gabriel: A “steam pot” concept straight outta China’s food trend play book has hit the city in the form of Fresh QBake. I can not even begin to explain the name, as steaming is not baking, and baking isn’t nearly as popular as steaming, nor does baking exude the much loved “health benefits” of food steaming in China. But hey, whatever, the Chinese name of “Sauna Pot” is properly poetic and the place is popping. Someone go tell me how it is cause I haven’t been, and had to “steal” a Yelp photo. 5449 Rosemead Blvd
Monterey Park: East Fusion opened at the old crappy seafood Cantonese place inside that dingy plaza on the NE corner of Garvey and Garfield. I’m too lazy to even remember what the heck that dump is called (Garfield Lincoln Plaza) because literally everything in there has been crap for years, if not decades — though yes, sometimes you still go to Shau Mei for shaved ice, but only if you’re broke and want to die of diarrhea the next day — especially the Cantonese joints. And of course, East Fusion serves the most generic looking Cantonese food. (This is just from observing the window signage; I will never be caught dead here until Sixtus Baggio somehow gets to ever escape from Hong Kong and also decides to invite me to lnuch here.) There’s the sign above the words just so you can avoid the food. 108 N Garfield
Wow, I forget how refreshing it can be to actually type rando op-eds (or as @G_sny would say: king trolling) on food trends you hate when you’re drunk on sake. I say sake because I’m no longer drinking bourbon because of .. Kentucky. and Tennessee. #stillwithher
Chihuo Hosts a Food Truck; Yukinoya is Dead; Arcadia Mall Gets Green Tea Soft Serve
So many openings, so little time:
USC: Chihuo’s first food truck run is TODAY, lunch at USC, dinner at UCLA. They’re creating 4-plex lunchboxes of dishes from Chuan’s, Szechuan Impression, Meizhou Dongpo. Time: 11:30 to 1:30pm at Jefferson & Orchand (USC). 5:30PM to 8:00pm at Gayley and S. Charles Young Dr at UCLA. Menu at the two schools is the same, and the early visitors at both locations get some fancy free tea.
Monterey Park: Ramen Yukinoya is gone. To be replaced by Kaiba. If this spot wasn’t already officially doomed, it is now. The stretch between Duck House and Riggin Street is a certifiable restaurant wasteland, with only 2 remaining old-timey Japanese (Nisei?) relics left. Not one single Japanese entrant could make 816 Atlantic Blvd Monterey Park work in the last 3 years, but the spot has a beer and wine license, so the Japanese keep trying. Except Kaiba is Korean owned. Is there anything worse than Japanese food butchered by Korean? Yes, yes there is — Japanese food butchered by Chinese people. See: Tasty Ocean, San Gabriel.
Arcadia: Matcha Matcha is getting a ton of traction from Insta-loving soft serve fiends. The thought is this: eat the Hainan chicken rice (please don’t call it khao man ghai when the chef is Chinese) from Side Chick
en, then hop one stall over to MM for the matcha soft serve and other matcha soft-serve creations. Finally, walk very carefully towards the bicycle and take a selfie. Unless you’re not in the self-taking age group. Then just go home. Arcadia Mall Asian food court/alley thingie.
Industry: JIS Bros writes in another of their fabulous designs. Lobster Now is a spicy faux-Sichuan Chinese crawfish/lobster joint. That said, Na Mama, Hip Hot AND Huolala are both a lot closer for Sichuanese seafood. Go for the sweet interior on the way back from shopping at Dessert Outlets? 17501 Colima Rd
Monterey Park: Wok BBQ is now Wok Crab. The food is now… spicy crawfish and knock-off Boiling Crab, garlic noodles and all. That is the fourth spicy seafood shop in 2 years. (King Crawfish, The Sichuan Chinese place, the other Chinese place) 910 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755
Monterey Park: after three years, my beloved Shen Yang is finally getting the flip. It’s being turned into a “Tokyo Yakiniku” that is owned by a person with a Cantonese surname. For a second it seemd Tokyo Yakiniku might be owned by the same team behind 101 BBQ and Karaoke in El Monte that was just reported last month, but it ain’t. The license transference is currently stuck in the application process, and Shen Yang is still slinging an amazing 2-person fresh noodle naengmyun kit for $10. 639 W Garvey Ave
Rosemead: Chengdu Taste 2 (or was it 3? I can’t remember) just got a darker, broodier, more romantic flip. Again, it’s the JIS Bros’ handiwork. Some say the menu remains the same. It probably is the same. Also, as a gentle reminder: this one takes reservations. 8526 Valley Blvd #108
Alhambra: Legendary Restaurant, the previously mentioned chef-thief, is now going balls-to-the-wall by offering massive discounts for its “grand opening”. Seriously people, have some gdamn pride.
Mid-October 2016 SGV Restaurant updates: More Sichuan knock-offs (Legendary), more skewers (Da Sheng)
So many openings and so little time:
Rosemead: Boiling Crab is open in Rosemead and immediately doing gangbusters. I still, til this day, do not understand the appeal of this place. But whatevers — eat that nasty butter shrimp and go to Rose City Pizza for craft beer right around the corner.
El Monte: 101 BBQ & Karaoke popped up last month in that weird and confusing part of Civic Center. This is a Japanese-style bbq operated by a Chinese team that happens to also own a meat processing company in S. El Monte. I see what you did there. Smart guys! 10631 Valley Mall.
Alhambra: Legendary has opened at the beat-up motel West of Fremont, you know, the place where restaurants go die. The ownership is really ballsy though: they have the gall to open in a beat up motel with no street street access West of Fremont, AND they stole couple chefs from the nearest Sichuan joint down the street. 2718 W Valley Blvd.
Rowland Heights: Chihuo has reported Shufeng opened a Sichuanese hot potting joint right across the old Shufeng (which remains open). It’s called “Old House”, and the stock base looks 1) spicy as F 2) supposedly Chengdu. 18406 Colima Rd
El Monte: This city really needs way more restaurants so the locals don’t have to go to Rosemead and San Gabriel to eat. In comes Saigon Restaurant for all your pho needs. It isn’t as cheap as Saigon Noodles & Grill 8 (wth is up with that name), but the menu seems much more focused (and literally not as crappy looking). 4022 Tyler Ave
Monterey Park: Dasheng BBQ has opened at the old 101 Dumpling/Big Fish/Bamboo Creek/this-spot-is-doomed-just-stop-it/etc. spot. Name says it all: more Chinese skewers. Yes, there are 2 skewer joints on this stretch of Garvey in Monterey Park already. No, they apparently don’t care, so they start the skewers at $0.60/ea. lols. 331 W Garvey Ave
The killer part of this spot when you google/yelp:
Arcadia: Tsurumaru Udon Honpo — a fave in Little Tokyo — has joined Side Chick, Matcha Bar, Uncle Tetsu, etc. at the Arcadia Mall. Yup, still calling the Arcadia Mall. It’s still Arcadia Mall because Mitsuwa will forever be Yaohan. #summer1986. Westfield Santa Anita.
Previously reported: Limerick’s , Summer Roll, have both opened. Limerick’s celebrated its “grand opening” on the 15th, and sports a massive beer lift (craft and industrial). Summer Roll has some crafts, but… these guy are known wage-stealers, so…
Fancy Bao House Arrives in ESGV, Monterey Park Gets 2 Dessert Stores, “Old House” Brings More Sichuan Hotpotting, etc.
So many restaurant openings in SGV, so little time:
1.Rowland Heights: Little Highness Bao: I drove by this bao specialty a few times before they opened, but haven’t visited yet. More than dumplings, I like baos. (By the way, dumplings are not baos, nor vice versa), and this place has baos up the wazoo. Daily rotation of nearly a dozen flavors/varieties, including vegan/vegetarian types, are available. All are hand made in house. I’m beyond excited. 18333 Colima
2. (Apparently) due to family obligations, the only third-wave nano-roaster/espresso house has closed in Monterey Park. Good luck with every thing David! De Cafe Barista had a 3.5 year run in a very, very tough neighborhood for coffee shops. Hexowl, which is currently getting ripped apart online, takes over this space inside the massive mixed-use complex. the626.com reported the news earlier in August, but the hexowl team says the takeover officially happened August. 500 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 121
3. Alhambra: O Young Rock Pot‘s second outlet proved to be extremely short lived. In less than six months, it quickly shuttered, prior to beer license transfer completion. Hunan Fire N Spice (Coming Out of Your Butthole) opened in August. So far, the Yelp reviews seem very pleasant, but there’s still no news of a second Cha Cha Chili reopening anywhere. 640 W Valley
4. The Freezin [sic] Point, a “rolled” Thai-style ice cream shop, has opened next to the Daikokuya in Monterey Park. SGV is so trendy, just like Asia. I won’t be visiting cause who knows what mysterious milk this place is using? 111 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 244 Monterey Park
5. Rowland Heights: Lafunz Hot Pot‘s name in Chinese is actually Old House. Old House is a Chengdu style hot potting joint that’s getting a lot of traction from the local Sichuan’ers. Sadly, it is not in West SGV, but in Rowland Heights. The interior design is by JIS Bros, which has designed many of the “hipper” Chinese restaurants in the last 3 years, including MIAN. 18406 Colima Rd Rowland Heights, CA 91748
6. Monterey Park: Previously reported reconstruction of Seafood Village, my fave Chiu Chow seafood joint in all of SGV (because it isn’t lobster driven) and isn’t a gajillion miles away via local roads, is finally boarded up. The fire that took down the restaurant was pretty horrific, and the rebuild will probably last into 2017. 684 W Garvey Ave
7. Monterey Park: In a complex mostly known for nail parlors right across the parking lot, a Hawaiian shaved ice parlor opened in August. It’s great to see an independent store opening (albeit in an extremely inconspicuous location) when that particular stretch of Atlantic Blvd is being slammed with chains (Panda Express, Blaze, etc). The Shave Shack: 2085 S Atlantic Blvd
Since I’m independent again, unlike Gawker, it should be “OK” to comment on other restaurant/food news pieces. Hopefully I will keep a running tally:
- I’m pretty sure beef shank and/or SPAM in your jian bing aren’t “traditional”. You won’t find the 2 meat ingredients at most breakfast crepe stands in China.
- NYT’s piece on Oceana false fish labeling report is really fascinating but… Are we just talking about fish that are served at restaurants? Or are they only testing processed fish filet? I mean, when you go to 99 Ranch / H-Mart / fish monger, you see a cat fish in the tank, and it’s a catfish. You see a whole golden pompano on ice, it’s a golden pompano (per below). You see a belt fish, it’s belt fish. Things might get tricky with escolar, grouper, tuna, etc. But man, when I buy milk fish, I know it’s milk fish cuz it looks (and tastes) just like milk fish. Is the whole globe stupid or am I just not getting it?
- LA doesn’t lead the cocktail culture, at all. Chicago, and Boston, and probably even Austin are ahead. Two leading factor: 1) DUI 2) 2 A.M. last call. Also, goddamnit, how can you be a proper Cocktail Town when there’s a drought and bartenders don’t automatic serve you a glass of water? Finally, when one of the top cocktail “bar” doesn’t actually have an actual bar for patrons to sit at and ruminate on how unworthy Pappy actualy is…
West SGV Restaurant update July: Pistachio, Churro Boss, Old Shanghai Closed, etc.
And we’re back on the “blog” like it’s 2007. Because I referenced #2girls1cup today, in addition to spotting a cherry Veedub Corrado and weirdly clean Pinto . Figured it was timely:
Pistachio Kitchen has taken over the old Victory French Restaurant which long sat dormant in Monterey Park. The food.. well, the food is a Chiu-Chou/Vietnamese/Canto mess. Looks like there’s pho, there’s cornish hen red rice; there are goi cuon springs roll, and there are HK cafe style dishes. With the standalone footprint, as well as the large parking lot, both translating to higher than average rent, and the amalgamated menu pan Chinese-Vietnamese menu, the lifespan of Pistachio Kitchen, should be just about a year. Maybe 16 months considering the proper green and red colors of the building signage.
Monterey Park food truck scene has suddenly blossomed after the temporary closure of Kembo food truck. In addition to the new al pastor specialty truck, Churro Boss soft opened in July as well in front of the Ralph’s on Atlantic, south of the AMC Theatres. Sneaking fresh churros into Chinese import movie is now officially the best Mexi-Chino move one can make on a Saturday night. Their schedule can be found on Facebook as well as Instagram.
Old Shanghai in Rosemead lasted just about a year at this awkward plaza space squeezed between American fast food and a crappy tea house. The replace is Shanghai Bistro, but the food, according to Chihuo.net reports, is more Zhejiang than straight Shanghai. Seriousuly though, the interior still looks like crap, so if you want Dongpo pork belly, head over to Chang’an:
These were the two best @dinela #lunch deals we had. Great environment very good food and generous portions. You're not going to beat $15 anywhere for the huge serving of braised #porkbelly with caramelzed chestnuts and bokchoy! Perfectly fried #tofu cubes. #spicy chicken and fish fillet. Added the $9 jidori fried chicken @sinosoul and we had left overs for later. Definitely coming back#😋 👍
Rosemead’s Crown Palace had been flipped into Sunshine Seafood. This is still a dimsum house with push carts. The previous iteration of this location lasted less than a year.
The seafood boil phenomenon, as well as the Chinese kebab rise — think, non-chicken proteins on many, many sticks — just won’t quit the SGV. With the opening of Big Fish, Na Mama, and King Red Crawfish, Cajun House S. El Monte is already the fourth seafood boil opening already this year.
Still Missing from Blogging Action in October: But I Had a Blow-Out Meal at Chuan’s
And got a “feature” on Eater under the new VOX guise. That felt good. Chuan’s is awesome. It’s the Republique of Sichuanese food in America. It will succeed as such whereas Lao Sze Chuan Las Vegas will fail. Mark my words. The story was first published on Eater on 10/10, my hat-tip to the Taiwanese Independence Day, also Mary Chen, PT’s birthday:
Beautifully designed Chuan’s brings Sichuanese local dishes in a modern-rustic setting to LA.
Chuan’s is the first non-franchised outpost of the highly glamorous “Ba Guo Bu Yi”[BGBY] Chinese restaurant empire in the US. BGBY was established in 1996 by Mr. He Nong, a highly respect watercolor painter of lotus flowers in China. In 1998, disgusted by the rapid expansion of Yum Brands’s KFC in China, He (pronunced “huh”) took it upon himself to turn the Chinese millenials towards Chengdu style Chinese food instead of the more popular Cantonese style, Western influenced cafes that were rapidly expanding from Hong Kong towards inland China. By mid-2000s, thanks to glamor of Sichuanese food and He’s dedication to promoting his “culinary culture”, He Nong had become the proverbial Danny Meyer of Sichuan restauranteering.
He Nong had become the proverbial Danny Meyer of Sichuan restauranteering.
Even while finding capital for expansion into major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, He was still painting. In 2001, his water colors traveled to Malaysia for a multi-national exhibit. In 2004, 60 of his paintings were placed in a Germany in a China-Europe exhibition; 10 of those paintings were given to Japan, France, Australia, etc. as national gifts. His 2005 water color titled 秀水沐山川 won him the title of the “Peoples Artist“. After 30 years of painting, He Nong had become China’s own living Monet, except Monet wasn’t also the CEO of a restaurant corporation.
Beyond operating an empire of over thirty upscale Sichuanese restaurants, He Nong is the chairman of the multi-faceted conglomerate Chengdu Jove Industrial. Joe Bastianiach may be an empire builder and a TV show judge, but under Jove Industrial, He Nong operates a culinary school, a boutique hotel, a food processing company that produces seasoning and snacks, an interior design firm, a book publishing company, and a handmade furniture production company. Chengdu Jove Industrial also dabbles in real estate and has developed three commercial complexes.
Despite being busier than Queen Bee herself, He Nong can still be spotted at his newest restaurant baby in Temple City. This particular outfit of Chuan’s in under the management of partner Carol Chen, who brought in a team of Chengdu chefs and paired them with an American FOH. Every member of the waitstaff speaks English but the kitchen doesn’t kowtow to the US palate.
Every member of the waitstaff speaks English but the kitchen doesn’t kowtow to the US palate.
A beer and wine license is coming, and the stage is already set for nightly Sichuan opera showcase (courtesy of the Jove Industrial’s “cultural division”). Furniture was obviously produce by Jove group and imported from China, but the overall design was a joint effort between BGBY HQ in Chengdu as well as an LA-based architect. This Trans-Pacific style of cultural integration, evocative of BYD’s tech center in DTLA, is also apparent in ingredient selection: witness the dish of California avocados and Chinese cucumber salad, witness the use of large mouth bass.
The menu is relatively concise, and is still subject to additions as the alcohol and dessert menu are still in the works. The most prosaic dish of twice-cook pork featured delicately sliced pork belly sauteed with fermented black bean, leeks, and the untraditional jalapeno peppers. The slightly spicy end result is accompanied by 8 palm-sized buns in case patrons wish to produce Sichuanese pork sliders. This unctuous peasant dish is eons above any rendition of twice-cooked pork found in Chinese take-out shacks.
This unctuous peasant dish is eons above any rendition of twice-cooked pork found in Chinese take-out shacks.
The meaty heavy hitters of rice-powder steamed beef on yams and bullfrog hot pot — served in massive ceramic washbasin — are two other highlights of the menu. Chengdu expats will appreciate the hard-to-find greens such as fresh Houttuynia cordata (chameleon plant/heartleaf) and childhood street bread of brown sugar “guo kui” . Despite Chuan’s dedication to Sichuanese cuisine, non-spicy eaters can find solace in dishes such as braised pork belly, “crispy meat with beans” soup, and whole steamed fish. Some of BGBY’s signature dishes in China even makes an appearance in the form of braised soft shell turtle “calipash”.
With the opening of mainland Chinese restaurants all over Los Angeles (ie: Dongpo Meizhou, Little Sheep, Haidilao, Three Travellers, Singapore Leaf), the feel, and the growth of Chinese dining scene is definitely changing. Thanks to the star power of He Nong, Chuan’s is the definitive future of Chinese cuisine in SGV, if not in America. Its arrival in LA is akin to Wolfgang Puck opening Spago in Chongqing.
Finally, a bit of trivia: Chuan’s Temple City officially opened on September 26, 2014, exactly 18 years to the date He Nong opened the first Ba Guo Bu Yi in Chengdu city.
5807 Rosemead Blvd
Reservations are accepted.
SinoSoul AWOL in August, Part II: Met some Thai pals at Kruang Tedd
This experience was totally lovely, except for being filmed for some Asian food show. That was awkward. I look old and creepy next to young some gal. But I got to eat this, and it was delicious. So much so I had subject some vegetarians to oxtail soon. ** HI5 Andrea W **. Originally published on LA Weekly:
Kruang Tedd Restaurant’s Chef Can’t Eat Her Own Muslim-Thai Chicken And Rice, But You Can
By Tony Chen
Categories: Thai Cuisine
P’Toi A’prasert is a petite Thai woman, hardly 40 kilograms even when soaking wet in coconut milk. She took an early retirement from the Royal Thai Navy years ago and, in 2008, came to the United States, with her pensioner husband, looking for a fresh start. Without much English under their belts, the couple settled in Thai Town.
Thanks to her cooking family, A’prasert’s knowledge of her mother flavors runs as deep as any tattooed chef in America with formal training, and she quickly found a job cooking atKruang Tedd restaurant on Hollywood. A’prasert happens to be a devout Muslim who observes halal.
The problem? The chef cannot taste the food she’s cooked before it crosses the pass — because Kruang Tedd’s kitchen isn’t halal. This means that if you eat A’prasert’s glorious khao mok gai, or buried chicken rice, you’ll have to tell her that it’s as good as she thinks it is.
More on that later — first, a little backstory. The building that hosts Kruang Tedd has a long Thai culinary lineage. Previously it was Tepparod, possibly the first Thai restaurant in L.A.’s Thai Town. As early as 1972, the California Restaurant Writers Association nominated Tepparod as one of the best “ethnic” restaurants in Los Angeles. It hustled Thai food to farangs for more than 20 years before closing.
Tepparod became Kruang Tedd, which quickly became a gathering place for Thai rock musicians in the ’90s. Alas, aspiring rockers make mediocre restaurateurs, and Kruang Tedd soon hit a patchy stretch.
Two years ago, while brainstorming concepts to push Kruang Tedd toward the forefront of the competitive Thai Town dining scene after years of neglect, A’prasert casually mentioned she could test a few Muslim Thai dishes not found elsewhere in the area.
The results were the most unusual chicken and rice in Los Angeles — and a Muslim-Thai oxtail soup previously unknown to Angelenos. The khao mok gai (buried chicken rice) andsup haang wua (oxtail soup) were both immediate hits.
The chicken and rice of khao mok gai is essentially a Thai biryani. Deviating from traditional halal cart chicken and rice, it uses turmeric in addition to curry, and the rice is steamed in plentiful coconut milk. As suggested by the dish name, marinated (and pan-fried) chicken leg quarters are buried under par-cooked jasmine rice, which is steamed a bit to ensure complete flavor osmosis. Upon serving, a mint-green chile sauce complements the rice, much like Halal Guy’s white sauce.
There’s chicken and rice in Manhattan, and there’s chicken and rice in L.A.’s Thai Town. One has been hugely hyped; the other is a dormant crouching tiger, as it were, ready to dominate the palate. The oxtail soup tastes like the beautiful marriage of Vietnamese duo boi and Thai tom yum, sporting dreamy chunks of braised beef. Portions of both are insanely large by Thai standards.
Despite the success of the two dishes, Kruang Tedd manager Noi Vanichyanukroh is hesitant to expand the Muslim-Thai menu, as he worries about the health of A’prasert, who is now 60. This year, she wasn’t able to fulfill her Ramadan fast. Thankfully, the night shift at Kruang — the restaurant is open until 2 a.m. on weekends — has mastered her recipe. The second shift happens to be mostly Issan, non-Muslim, women who dish out a coconutty khao soi noodle soup, finished with crisp egg noodles.
While plenty of Muslim-Thais in Southern Thailand, as well as Bangkok, live in perfect comfort in Thailand, A’prasert’s life in the United States is one of inconvenience — since the chef can’t actually taste her own cooking.
In his biography Life, on the Line, noted chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next) details the tragedy of completely losing his taste buds due to tongue cancer in 2007, and having to rely on the other chefs on his restaurant’s line for survival.
A’prasert’s cooking style in Kruang Tedd’s commercial kitchen is evocative of Achatz-during-chemo phase, except A’prasert has never sampled her own food at Kruang Tedd, ever. When asked how she cooks her Muslim-Thai dishes at KT, she coyly points to her heart, then smiles wryly. “The kitchen team helps me, and often so do the customers,” she finally answers.
Still, she says the two Muslim dishes offered at Kruang Tedd are prepared exactly as she would cook them for her spouse. The Muslim dry spices (versus traditional Thai fresh spices) are sourced from various Pakistani and Bangladeshi markets in Koreatown, just south of Thai Town. The meats aren’t halal — since neither is KT’s kitchen — but the flavor is pure Muslim-Thai.