Everyone knows Spice Table in Little Tokyo. Nobody knows Tay Do Quan Hy (at least nobody not from El Monte). Dozens of LA restaurant blogs have covered Spice Table, a few of which during pre-opening days. Tay Do Quan Hy? Uhmm… how does one even pronounce the name? Both serves a variation of the Chinese dish Hainan chicken rice, the most famous of which (in LA) is found at Savoy, in Alhambra.
Hainan Chicken really needs no introduction, but since there’s a clip of Anthony B eating a plate of this (forward to ~3:30), I must oblige:
Judging the chicken is absolutely the easier part of comparing Hainan chicken, so what separates the winner from the loser is really the rice. Some would say the sauces are paramount, but I am of the school: too many choices make the fickle go blind.
Tay Do Quan Hy’s Com Ga Hai Nam:
- Rice -
Spice Table: slightly fluffy, short grain rice dotted with fried shallots. Not quite coated with schmaltz, but exhibiting chicken stock profile. Fatasses may consider the serving inadequate.
Quan Hy: possibly day old rice, providing that perfect toothy chew only found after a day of rice drying. It is in that perfect state, ready for frying. Instead, here, it’s tossed with slivers of fried pork belly, ginger diced so small it almost disappears, generous amount of shallots fried in-house, and green onions. This is Hainan chicken fried rice. Just like Spice Table, Quan Hy twists the rice towards another ethnic profile, and then some. The pork bits provide a fierce (fillings may be rattled) chew, the ginger provides deconstructed Hainan chicken flavoring, and the green onion counters the missing ginger-onion sauce. Even the most arden carb haters will appreciate this slicked up copius plate of textural rice.
Summary: Quan Hy’s chicken rice (sans chicken) trumps even Savoy’s. Take that to the bank. Go try this, if it blows, leave f-bomb comments.
- Chicken -
Spice Table: large unseparated leg & thigh. Unchopped, skin on, slightly warm. It was tender and moist, probably of organic/free range nature. Completely uninspiring, but tasteful. Except it’s unchopped and requires eating with hands, or knife and fork. Hey, seriously, what the hell is this? The need to find authenticity in Little Tokyo Pan-Asian restaurant done up by a Singaporean chef who worked at Mozza is understandable. But Asians don’t eat their Hainan chicken with knives and forks, and no one wants to be cracking thigh bones while on their previous hipster downtown date. This chicken prep is atrocious on that account alone. It appeals no one.
Quan Hy: uniformly chopped thigh & wing, skin on. The 8 or so pieces have good chew. It’s not tender, but the texture will appeal to those who appreciate “walking chicken”. These cocks seem well exercised, and while not quite moist (it’s nearly impossible to find juicy Hainan chicken), the exercise taken while chewing effortfully is rather rewarding. And o, it’s chopped. Winner.
- Sauce -
Spice Table: carries the holy trinity of Singaporean style Hainan chicken rice: sweet soy, spicy sambal, ginger scallion onion oil. The key for Hainan chicken is always the ginger scallion oil. This may be personal, but it’s the most universal Hainan chicken dip, and is compatible with both the chicken and rice. Here, it’s as if the preps forgot the ginger and the salt. It’s easy to screw up the simplest things. This is the worst ginger scallion oil in LA. The next day, I microplaned some ginger, sliced and green onion tips pulled from the yard, and lamented the fact that a whole plate of Hainan chicken was flummoxed by such lack of care.
Quan Hy: the Vietnamese are rather culinarily militant. They will take your Hu Tieu, and nipple twist it til it no longer looks Chinese. They will take your Hainan chicken sauce, and throw it into the garbage. Quan Hy eschews the 3-plate sauce combo and goes straight for fish sauce. The Thais will at least dish out sweet soy and ginger scallion along with their fish sauce/tamarind sauce, but not here. It’s thinned fish sauce, garlic, maybe sugar and that’s it. While not the most precious of sauces, this sauce is also bilateral in usage; it serves both the chicken and the rice.
- Price -
Spice Table: Was $14, reduced to $12 after Yelpers/bloggers/every Asian complained.
Quan Hy: $5.70
Rice: Quan Hy by a furlong
Chicken: Quan Hy, by an Olympic pool
Sauce: Draw, both ho-hum, but Spice Table’s rendition just a little bit more crappy
Price: For those not good with math, 2 servings of Quan Hy equals 1 at Spice Table.
9805-9807 E Garvey Ave
El Monte, CA 91733
Til 8pm daily, closed Tues
NB: Tay Do Quan Hy has been flipped as of April, 2012. Caveat emptor, eat at your own risk, blah blah blah. But Spice Table is doing brisk biz.
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