Report On Chop Suey Cafe (old Far East Cafe Location)
Walking into the Chop Suey Cafe was certainly like walking into a time warp with the same booth/dividers from the old Far East Cafe and only enough new fixtures to satisfy current building code requirements. Foodwise, one thing needs to be made clear. This is not an attempt to serve the same food that was offered at the Far East Cafe. Besides the new wave/fusion salads and burgers, even many of the "traditional" dishes on the short menu at Chop Suey Cafe are not items that Far East Cafe served, including orange chicken, kung pao shrimp, cashew chicken, and almond duck. (I know because I saved the take out menu from my last visit to Far East Cafe in 1984.) What they do serve is a variety of stereotypical Americanized Chinese food. As far as the food itself is concerned, we had the house special chow mein and the pressed almond duck. The chow mein was OK--thick noodles like the old days, heavy on the vegetables, but there was something modern tasting about the dish. The almond duck was kind of bland and is not nearly as good as the same dish at Paul's Kitchen. At $7.95 for the chow mein and $8.95 for 10 or 12 small squares of duck, this isn't the greatest food bargain either. I'd recommend that everybody go here once for the experience, but unless you have peculiar culinary tastes, I don't think you'll be back a second time.
Don't go expecting the same tasting dishes that were served at the original Far East Cafe. The original Far East Cafe owner's son Dewey who cooked there has had a place for many years on Caesar Chavez/Soto called New Formosa Cafe(only open for lunch and Saturday's until 7pm-closed Sun/Mon). He and his wife Betty told me the new owners of Chop Suey Cafe came around sampling their food at New Formosa Cafe trying to get the original recipes from the Far East Cafe and they wouldn't give them up. The infamous Formosa Cafe in W. Hollywood is also related to the original owners of the Far East Cafe.
Paul's Kitchen downtown is a better choice if you're looking for that "old style" Cantonese cuisine. The one in
Monterey Park seems to have gone downhill a bit from my last couple visits...serving what seems to be re-heated food.
Thomas Wolfe said it best, "You can't go home again". I went there last weekend with some friends, hoping to relive some old flavors and memories. To say the least, I was very disappointed. Nostalgia is very overrated. Should have known when on a Saturday at noon there were only two tables occupied. I was hoping some of the old dishes they have on the menu would be at least close. Wrong!! Seaweed soup was wakame with tofu. Cha shu was a few slices of pork spread out on a plate served with little dishes of mustard. They could have at least had mustard containers on the table. Pakkai (like I remember and was hoping for) should have been dark orange colored. Chow mein wasn't even recognizable. Hamyu was a total disaster. Almond duck was the only thing that was even close... maybe 50% there. The waitress seemed surprised when she asked if we wanted a container for the leftovers and we said no. Oh well, at least I can say that I went back, just for old times sakes, but never again. One and done.
We went there this past wkend, the food bordered on inedible. The chow mein was goupy, congealed. The appetizer came after the main dishes for which our waitress apologized for, but we were sorry to find out how greasy and gummy the shitake potstickers would taste. One tiny bit of shitake stuffed in a dumpling. Our waitress also seemed suprised we didn't to take any leftovers home. Duh!
Thomas Wolfe was only partially right. You CAN go home again, it's just to a differnet neighborhood, that's all. The New Formosa Cafe in Boyle Heights is home. The moment I walked in the front door, the smell of the food told me that I have come home. We ordered all the old favorites that Far East doesn't do right anymore; almond duck (to die for), pakkai, chow mein, seaweed soup, pea chow yuk and cha shu. When we had questions of a certain item on the menu, Betty would just point to the couple in the next booth and to what they were eating. They were apparently fans of the old Far East and had been pre-warned and luckily for them, had not gone back. They had ordered most of what we were about to order plus shrimp cantonese, too. Gee, that looked awfully good...maybe next time. That was a lot of food for only three of us, and I figured there would be a lot of leftovers to take home, but we nearly finished all of it. Sadly there was not much to take home, but at least, I was in "China Meshi" heaven. Didn't order the ham yu, might have been a little overkill. But as we were leaving, Betty, who waits on tables and is the wife of the cook said that they have some frozen ham yu so I ordered some of that to take home. My 17 year old son, who had never been to the old Far East and had wondered what all the hype was about, had three large servings of everything. Now he knows, and he is a convert. Ah, home sweet home.
The food is terrible. The same neat decor, but they will not get repeat customers. The Chop Suey Cafe would be much better off if they offered something else rather than bad Far East Food. Instead go see Betty at the New Formosa Cafe, they have a Far East Cafe menu that has all of the favorites. Hom Yu, Pea Cha Yu, Almond Duck, Chow Mein with pan fried noodles... She asked me, is that the flavor that you are looking for? and I knew I was finally home again - The Real Far East. New Formosa Cafe 2415 E. Ceasr Chavez Ave.