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Aug 22, 2006 03:48 PM

Formosa Cafe: still around??

Hi.. Another poster very recently queried the board for some old timey egg foo young, which got me thinking about the old Formosa Cafe on SMB. I recall a few years back that there was a push by the retro hipoisie to 'save' the Formosa from extinction. Anybody know whether it's still in business? Always assumed the cocktail scene was the draw, but never had a chance to sample the retro vittles...

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  1. Still there and pretty much the same. They revamped the menu about six years ago. Before the revamp they probably served egg foo young but it would have been inedible. I doubt they still serve it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JudiAU

      Their menu has been modernized sans egg foo young or old:

      1. re: JBC

        Well, Formosa Cafe has been rejuvenated after almost being bulldozed out of existence. With the construction of the large new shopping center next door (Target etc.), it effectively has become an extension of that shopping center.

        1. re: Chandavkl

          I went there recently... still a great hang out, the food though still stinks...


    2. There's also the sister restaurant "New Formosa Cafe"-- 2415 E Cesar E Chavez Ave (1/2 blk. east of Soto),Los Angeles(323) 262-2936. Restaurant(no bar-no liquor) run by the same family who ran the original Far East Cafe in Little Tokyo. They have two menu's--ask for the Far East Cafe menu if that's what interests you.

      Owned by the son Dewey who cooked at the original Far East Cafe and his wife Betty. Call first--they're only open for lunch Tues-Friday and open until 7pm on Saturday's (closed Sunday/Monday).

      4 Replies
      1. re: monku

        Link to New Formosa (Boyle Heights) review......

        FAR EAST CAFï¿1⁄2?

        CHOP SUEY CAFï¿1⁄2?

        NO WAY!!

        NEW FORMOSA CAFï¿1⁄2

        Whoosh Bam! ï¿1⁄2 1939

        Five recent Chinese immigrant cousins spread out across the nation from Indiana to Los Angeles decide to regroup in L.A. and open a restaurant. Why?.........ï¿1⁄2We know how to cook!ï¿1⁄2

        They decide on the name ï¿1⁄2Far East Cafï¿1⁄2 and open in ï¿1⁄2 of all places ï¿1⁄2 Downtown L.A.ï¿1⁄2s Little Tokyo (also known as J-Town) on First St.

        Angelinos of all stripes love it and the business thrives.

        Whoosh Bam! ï¿1⁄2 1941

        The attack on Pearl Harbor results in the internment of all Japanese citizens.
        Japanese homes and businesses are sold for pennies on the dollar. Downtown L.A.ï¿1⁄2s large Japanese population is hit especially hard.

        African-Americans take over many businesses in Little Tokyo and the area is now dubbed ï¿1⁄2Brownsvilleï¿1⁄2. Cafes, barbershops and hardware stores are replaced by Jazz clubs, after-hours joints and soul-food restaurants. Even the legendary Jazz great, Charlie Parker, resides in the area and is a fixture on the club scene for a time.

        Whoosh Bam! ï¿1⁄2 1945

        The U.S. drops the horrific atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese surrender ï¿1⁄2 WWII is over.

        The Far East Cafï¿1⁄2 still in business, and Little Tokyo welcome home the Japanese who re-gain, at a dear price, their incalculable losses.

        Whoosh Bam! ï¿1⁄2 1961

        Dewey ï¿1⁄2 son of Shang G. Jeong, one of the five original cousins ï¿1⁄2 decides to bring the Far East flavor to East Los Angeles. He opens the New Formosa Cafï¿1⁄2 on Brooklyn (now Cesar Chavez Ave..) a stoneï¿1⁄2s throw from Soto Street.

        Whoosh Bam! ï¿1⁄2 1994

        After 55 years and many generations of loyal Angelino customers the Far East Cafï¿1⁄2 is forced to close from the structural damage caused by the Northridge Earthquake. The longtime faithful of the venerable establishment lament the loss and let go a heavy collective sigh.

        It might have been easier to forget if the restaurant had been gutted and the familiar neon sign taken down. However, the fact that it was physically left intact only seemed to keep it in the conscious stomach of its former patrons. Iï¿1⁄2ve witnessed countless passerbysï¿1⁄2 peer into its dusty windows if only to see the wooden booth dividers ï¿1⁄2 originally constructed - and still intact - by the Tanioka Bros Construction Co. - that enclosed the dining tables allowing for more intimate meals.

        Whoosh Bam! ï¿1⁄2 July 2006

        The Far East Cafï¿1⁄2 re-opens under the name, ï¿1⁄2Chop Suey Cafï¿1⁄2. Although the location, interior and much of the menu are the same ï¿1⁄2 the food is not nor is the owners. Old favorites like Almond Duck and pan-fried Chop Suey noodles fall flat on initial tasting. Sources tell me that the new owners made three-time a week pilgrimages to the New Formosa trying to figure out the original recipe and ingredient secrets. When it was obvious that the classic down-home favorites were not so easily discernable they tried to persuade Dewey and his wife Betty, to run the kitchen at the soon to be opened restaurant. Being semi-retired and only open a total of 24 hours a week ï¿1⁄2 which they are quite comfortable with ï¿1⁄2 they decline. A deal for the original recipes could not be reached. The new owners were left on their own to figure out the menu secrets.

        New Formosa ï¿1⁄2 Now

        The exterior resembles one of the many Chop Suey shops in Tijuana . Unassuming with itï¿1⁄2s fading window-lettering, it looks like it may not even be open (this particular day even the sign said it was closed ï¿1⁄2 Betty forgot to flip the sign to open). The interior despite being super-clean, looks like it has not changed since it first opened. Take your pick at one of the 5 comfortable orange vinyl booths that clash with the red and black checkered floor tiles or the ten low-riding counter seats. The wood paneled walls (like your favorite Uncleï¿1⁄2s den ï¿1⁄2 are lined evenly with Chinese ï¿1⁄2Year of the ï¿1⁄2 Dog/Rat/Monkey etc ï¿1⁄2 calendars dating back to the mid-80ï¿1⁄2s. Dewey mans the 4-wok kitchen cooking up the favorites that many thought (and may still think) were lost as Betty holds court in the dining room area.

        Todayï¿1⁄2s lunch partner (an old Japanese dude who grew up in the Crenshaw area ï¿1⁄2 who if you closed your eyes and listened to him talk would think it was Bernie Macï¿1⁄2s grumpy Uncle) spent a great deal of time in Little Tokyo due to his familyï¿1⁄2s businesses in the area and frequented the original Far East Cafï¿1⁄2 in the 50ï¿1⁄2s, 60ï¿1⁄2s, 70ï¿1⁄2s, 80ï¿1⁄2s and 90ï¿1⁄2s.
        He remembers the dishes well and has a good repore w/Dewey and Betty. Because of this we are handed a 15-item menu that says ï¿1⁄2Far East Favoritesï¿1⁄2 and has no prices. I spot another more extensive menu with typical Chinese food fare and prices but we order off the former. Almond Duck, Shrimp Cantonese, Hom Yu and an off-menu item called beef rice are decided upon.

        The duck breast meat slices contained just the right amount of fat and rested in a shallow pool of rich brown broth and was sprinkled with crumbled almonds. It contained no hint of the typical greasy gaminess duck usually carries.
        Smothered in a dense brown gravy with onions, bell peppers and bamboo shoots, the Shrimp Cantonese was one of the best Chinese shrimp dishes Iï¿1⁄2ve tasted.
        The off-menu Beef rice served in a steaming bowl littered with bean sprouts, water chestnuts, broccoli, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. The tender slices were covered in light-brown gravy that did not overpower the ingredients.
        Now, the Hom Yuï¿1⁄2ï¿1⁄2.let me tell you about Hom Yuï¿1⁄2ï¿1⁄2.
        Served in the form of a piece of meatloaf, the fatty pork dish is at first suttle. A few more bites are needed to taste the complexities of this seemingly simple dish. Porkish and silken the Hom Yu is serious comfort food that causes me to clap loudly and slam the table causing the other patrons to come up for air from their lunch.

        Because the New Formosa sometimes gets crowded and is only staffed by Dewey and Betty, you may be asked to go behind the counter and get a drink out of the cooler yourself.
        Because the location has no parking lot and sits a couple doors down from one of East L.A.ï¿1⁄2s busiest pedestrian and traffic areas, you may be able to phone ahead and Betty will meet you in the alley adjacent to the restaurant with your order if you ask her nicely.
        Because Dewey and Betty are already semi-retired you should get down there and taste the Classics before they decide to retire for good.
        Because all their children are doctors, there will be no one to keep the New Formosa open when they deicide to shut the doors permanently.
        Because you read this review, you will not sleep on this joint. You will go and discover what you may have missed, or experience what you thought was gone forever.

        Comments overheard while eating lunchï¿1⁄2ï¿1⁄2ï¿1⁄2ï¿1⁄2.

        Man who drove from Orange County to get takeout:

        ï¿1⁄2Make my order for here I canï¿1⁄2t wait to eat!ï¿1⁄2

        Male diner:

        ï¿1⁄2When I was little I hated funerals except the ones that were in L.A. because we would go to Far East to eat afterï¿1⁄2

        New Formosa Cafï¿1⁄2 ï¿1⁄2 Est. 1961

        2415 Cesar Chavez Ave.
        (323) 262-2936

        Tues-Friday 11 A.M. ï¿1⁄2 3 P.M.
        Saturday 11 A.M. ï¿1⁄2 7 P.M.
        Closed Sunday & Monday

        No Alcohol

        Rated 4 table slams of approval!

        4 Slams = Excellent
        3 Slams = Very Good
        2 Slams = Good
        1 Slam = Fair

        1. re: slowrider

          I'd like to try out the New Formosa. Do you know if it still open? Your last post was in October.

          1. re: miketoyo

            mike - yes! went there few weeks ago and it was good!

            1. re: miketoyo

              Yeah, it's still there.........went last week.
              Hurry up and go..........Dewey and Betty are getting up there and are considering retiring sometime soon. None of their children are going to take over so the o.g. Far East food will probably be lost forever.
              Go this wknd.!!!! Order the Beef Rice - it's off menu.......tell Betty the guy (William) who wrote the review recommended it. Oh, the Hom Yu is a must as well.

        2. went there this week. ( september 06 )... totally new menu.... new concept... new chef... not chinese crap anymore...
          now higher end tapas fusion style.. with asain influence..
          wonderful foods.... creative... some spicy.. some not as much... had 6 items for all of us.. and we were happ with each one...
          place is just to damn dark inside

          1. That's interesting...somehow I just don't feel like going to the Formosa for high end fusion tapas, but maybe that's just me. No such thing as too dark, though, at least for a place like that.

            1. Has anyone else eaten at the "new" formosa cafe since the last post? If so, how is it? Would it be a good place to meet friends for dinner/drinks? What are the prices like for these new high end fusion tapas?