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Dec 29, 2008 07:46 AM

Main St. / Las Tunas Blvd crawl ...

The stretch of Main Street and Las Tunas Blvd from Alhambra to San Gabriel to Temple City seems to spawn new Chinese restaurants like mushrooms in a grass field after a spring rainstorm.

Here's a quick and dirty first take on some of the newer offerings along that stretch of road.

621 West Main St
In the space formerly occupied by Szechwan Best (and many other Sichuan-type restaurants), now sits a vegan/vegetarian joint. They've got a "Delicious Hamburger" on the menu made with a protein mushroom patty. A dish called "Jolly Rice" that we were told goes well with the "Lucky Drumstick". The hamburger was neither bad or memorable -- about what you'd expect from a frozen Morningstar hamburger patty. The Jolly Rice was sickly sweet and the Lucky Drumstick was utterly tasteless, and mealy. Oh, and pass on the "Authentic Vietnamese PHO" that's on the menu ... better to just eat instant ramen and overdose on MSG than slurp that junk.

LUNASIA (née Triumphal Palace)
500 West Main St.
Ever go out with a girl who decides to get "some stuff done" to her body and she turns out (gasp!) to be less attractive than before with all that plastic and botox? That's Lunasia. Lots of the same staff (front and back) remain from Triumphal Palace, and the restaurant kept all of the furniture and furnishings as well (incl. the wine list). But the food is about a step worse than before. The pan-fried lobster was dressed in a sauce that was too runny. Our steamed fish came out after about 5 mintues too long in the steamer. The scallops were mushy. The mollusk with enoki mushrooms was a disaster. The abalone was good, but too expensive for the quality and preparation. (FYI - dim sum still served via menu.) The clay pots remain a bright spot, however.

9556 Las Tunas Blvd.
Temple City
How many HK style cafes does SGV need? Well, apparently one more if one judges by the crowds at this new joint. In a space formerly occupied by a hardware store, Green Island takes the HK style cafe to the 21st Century -- you've got your own LCD flat screen TVs in each booth (although you can't really adjust the channels unless you ask the servers), an open-air kitchen, and a private dining "area" cordoned off with hanging beads. I'm told the cook from the old Sunday Cafe is behind this venture, although I did not spy any pork chop rice dishes on the menu. Most of the stand-bys one finds on newer HK-style restaurants can be found here -- e.g., clay pot rice, french-style filet mignon, boiled and salted fish dishes, etc. Almost everything is generally pretty good, and nothing really stands out as totally awful or totally great. Menu is lacking in dessert choices, however (so if you have a sweet tooth, better to go to a place like Tasty Garden).

Some side notes on some of the old-standbys along Main St. / Las Tunas:

Cathy's Bakery: I am told that they are taking advanced orders on Longevity Buns (or "tso-tao") for the Chinese New Year.

Dai Ho Kitchen: Now offering preserved duck feet and wings; limited time only.

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  1. Hard to tell there's a recession when closed Chinese restaurants are quickly replaced by a successor and a new Chinese restaurant takes over from a hardware store. Thanks for the updates. Next on the list is the new cafe that replaced Sika on Valley Bl. in Alhambra across from Phoenix Inn.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chandavkl

      I can't really seem to understand or appreciate the utter fascination and popularity that folks seem to have with HK-style cafes. I'm not slamming the genre, but why so many? And why are they all (generally speaking) so crowded??

    2. Thanks for the update -- I was just wondering yesterday about Jolly and Lunasia. I'm a little disappointed at this year's crop of Chinese restaurants in the SGV.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chowpatty

        Hang tight patty. I am told the old gang from Macau Street have something good up their sleeve.

      2. will have to check out dai ho. ku seems to have softened up over the years, and i still prefer his spicy sesame noodles to any other around town. pair that with some bamboo shoots and those aforementioned, newly minted duck wings, and i'm good to go. and of course newport seafood. what was the name of the restaurant that served austere nanjing duck?

        will have to go for the house lboster at newporte seafood one o these days tool.

        1. Hi ipsedixit,

          Thanks for the great report; wow, it sounds like lots of new eateries are popping up in just one small stretch of the SGV.

          I agree with you: I've never understood how there could be so many HK Cafes opening up in such a small area... then again it seems every block in the San Gabriel Valley has a Foot Massage store opening up. (~_~)

          1. My wife and I had lunch at Green Island last Saturday. It's a beautiful room but I wasn't crazy about the food. We shared an order of potstickers and a chicken/mushroom pot. She liked the pot a lot more than I did. We both thought the Mandarin Deli across the street makes much better dumplings. This differs from the usual HK cafe in that it seemed to me there were fewer choices - for lunch at least, there were mostly clay pots and a bunch of weird (to me) dishes with strange (to me) combinations. I wouldn't go back and aside from the room I don't see what the appeal is. The food is okay but not worth a special trip.

            1 Reply
            1. re: monkuboy

              I wouldn't recommend Green Island for potstickers, or dumplings for that matter; in fact, I wouldn't recommend any HK cafe for dumplings of any kind.

              As for the dishes, yes, there is less variety than what you would find at a typical HK cafe, but I think that's a good thing. That said, did you spy that the menu had a roti offering?? :-)

              As for the variety of the dishes (and the different combos) on the menu, it's emblematic of the newer style of HK cafes. You now see things like pork belly, instead of the more traditional pork chop rice. You'll get eel as an option as opposed to breaded fish filets, etc.