$5.50 for a wooden box of healthy Taiwanese style Chinese cooking. Best part: perfectly cooked rice.
A Chowhound post just advised Railroad Bento, previously discussed here, has closed. The owner, Tony, took my email during Chinese New Years week, promising to contact with the new address. So far, no news. Hence it was a delight to finally be able to meet this uber secret Taiwanese bento purveyor.
A&J is tucked in between the “other” Indian/Pakistani grocery store of Alhambra, and a Edible Arrangements. Yes, if you blink, you’ll never find this place. If you blink, and not call in early enough, you’ll never get a bento box around dinner time. They sell out, and they don’t give a shit. There is no place to sit, there’s barely room to stand, but there is good wholesome Taiwanese food: think sticky rice triangles, pastries, etc.
Is this bento as good as Railroad? Hell no. Is it just as homely. Definitely so. The rice is patted down flat in a thin, assembled wooden (bolsa wood?) box. It’s then covered with a few stir fry items (mostly luke warm), the main “meat” dish of the day and a stewed egg. Sometimes it’s curry chicken, sometimes it’s stewed pork, sometimes it’s braised beef. There are usually only 2 varieties of main protein, and the fixin’s remain the same between boxes. It’s like a Hawaiian plate lunch, but square, with 1/2 as many calories. The rice, firm yet pugent, is flavored by all the stir fries. One tastes each nodule, as if sent down by Inari, the Shinto Rice God. Thai restaurants can never get rice right, but this little strip mall shack did. And it’s bril.
What makes this so tasty is pure culinary recollection. It’s what a Taiwanese mom, with a pseudo busy schedule, with a pseudo interest in providing her child a healthy meal, would make for dinner. For those whose mom couldn’t cook for shit, you can buy this piece of lost, past memory for $5.50, tax included.