HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
What have you made lately? Share your food adventure

Asian chains that vary in quality

nomo_fan Oct 19, 2007 06:23 PM

While many American chains "try" to keep quality control among their various branches, it does not seem as if Asian chains do the same.

For example: Sam Woo BBQ in Rowland Heights (amazing food)
Sam Woo BBQ in San Gabriel Square (decent)
Sam Woo BBQ in Monterey Park on Valley (not so good)

BCD Tofu House in Rowland Heights (delicious)
BCD Tofu House in Buena Park (awful)

Tokyo Lobby in San Gabriel (food quality has been improving over the past year)
Tokyo Lobby in Hacienda Heights (not so great)

Just wondering if any of you have similar stories of chain restaurant variations in quality and which branches are the best to uphold the name.

  1. monku Oct 19, 2007 10:07 PM

    Sam Woo isn't really a chain of restaurants, but just a licensed name.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monku
      ipsedixit Oct 19, 2007 10:28 PM

      I'm not sure "Sam Woo" is even a licensed name ... more like a gentleman's agreement from what I understand.

    2. goodhealthgourmet Oct 19, 2007 10:48 PM

      i guess chin chin qualifies as a chain...anyone have comparative reviews on locations?

      1 Reply
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
        PrettyPlaty Oct 23, 2007 07:59 AM

        I just know of two- the one in Marina del Rey is awful, the one in Brentwood is decent. MDR's almost feels more like a take out fast food joint, or a diner.

      2. Caroline1 Oct 19, 2007 11:57 PM

        One in the DFW area that varies greatly from location to location is Panda Express. The first one I tried was surprisingly good. Every one since then was a futile effort for a repeat performance. Rotten luck? I can't remember which was the first one!

        A national chain I just flat out don't like is P.F. Chang's. My daughter reported the one in her city is great. I had an injured foot but really wanted Chinese food and couldn't stand up to cook. So being resourceful, I invited a friend to lunch and sent her to pick up P.F. Chang's take out. I ordered about five things, one on the exotic side. It's no longer on their menu, but it had melon or figs or something you don''t think of as a standard Chinese ingredient. When the friend returned with the treasures, everything was there EXCEPT the exotic! Yup. They hadn't forgot to charge me for it, just forgot to send it. So I called, talked to the manager, he apologized and sent me a gift certificcate in the mail. Worth about three or four dollars less than I had paid for the unmaterialized dish. I sent the gift certificate to my daughter, and have no interest in trying them again. The food they did send was about as tasty as unseasoned instant rice. But their menu is interesting reading!

        1. The Chowhound Team Oct 20, 2007 10:40 AM

          Folks, please keep discussion focused on chains local to the LA area. Discussion on national chains is welcome on the Chains board. Thanks!

          1. la vida dulce Oct 20, 2007 10:13 PM

            FYI - The Sam Woo on Valley is actually in Alhambra, not Monterey Park, although these two cities are right next to each other. I totally agree with you, Tokyo Lobby in Hac. Hts. is sub-par. Missing all the energy and ambiance of the SanG. location.
            Service and the quality have improved greatly.
            My blog review from Jan. of this year posted here:

            1. e
              exilekiss Oct 21, 2007 08:02 AM

              Hey nomo fan,

              I'd say the Sam Woo BBQ in Rowland Heights was the worst Sam Woo I've been to out of all of them (I'm talking about the informal Sam Woo nearest the Kingswood, not the fancier Sam Woo on the other side). My friends and I went to that Rowland Heights Sam Woo multiple times, and it just feels like it's gotten worse and worse. The last *two* times we went, we got Food Poisoning. :(

              I haven't been to the OG Monterey Park location (on Garvey) in a long time, so who knows how bad it's gotten.

              I also know the San Gabriel location (on Las Tunas) (the newest locale) has been shut down like... at least 3 (THREE) times for Health Code violations, LOL. (very sad.)

              Other "Asian chains"...

              * Hsiao Mei varies widely, IMHO, depending on location. But also, they may not be the same owners at all. There used to be a Hsiao Mei near the corner of Garfield and Valley. Then a Hsiao Mei on San Gabriel Blvd., near Las Tunas. And a Hsiao Mei on Garfield (near Garvey), next door to the ABC Cafe. I think Rowland Heights had a Hsiao Mei in the HK Plaza.

              * Hao Nien Dong in Arcadia was so-so (just typical or worse)
              * Hao Nien Dong in Rowland Heights also had pluses or minuses, but their food tasted different (flavors were different on quite a few dishes).

              * Garden Cafe in Arcadia - fancier setting, slightly better food than the previous ones, but still horrible compared to good quality Chinese food in general.
              * Garden Cafe in Alhambra (on Valley / Garfield) - worst service I've ever had, worst Chinese porridge I've ever had ("jook"), terrible food overall (I've been dragged there multiple times over the years by friends, and now refuse to go back).

              On a *positive note* :), the best Asian "chain" that remains pretty consistent in its Quality and Great Food would be, IMHO:

              * Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori
              * Shin Sen Gumi in Fountain Valley - My favorite. Amazing Japanese Yakitori. Great selection, awesome atmosphere and great food!
              * Shin Sen Gumi in Gardena / Torrance - Great as well. Never had a bad experience, nor any problems with their food.
              * Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori / Shabu Shabu in Montery Park - Great Yakitori (see my review). And their Shabu Shabu was great as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: exilekiss
                Dig T Oct 23, 2007 06:04 AM

                I'd have to totally disagree with you on your Garden Cafe stance. I've been to the Arcadia location once and the food was fine but the service was horrible. I've been the Alhambra location probably 10 times in 5 years and the food and service were better for me and I have gotten the jook/porridge there which was about average for asian cafes.

              2. raytamsgv Oct 22, 2007 02:07 PM

                I don't think Sam Woo is a chain. Sam Woo incarnations have ranged from noodle/BBQ joints to fancier Cantonese seafood restaurants. Those are fundamentally different types of restaurants.

                1. a
                  AquaW Oct 23, 2007 10:33 AM

                  Not that any of them are particularly great, but I was told that some Todai buffets (Glendale) are more tolerable than others (Arcadia). Personally, it's been too long since I've done Todai or any AYCE sushi/japanese.


                  Show Hidden Posts