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Mar 31, 2013 01:00 AM

Shufeng Garden (Saporous Grill) in Monterey Park

As discussed in the Specific Sichuan Recommendation For Tomorrow thread, Shufeng Garden - the noted Sichuan place formerly in San Gabriel, opened in Monterey Park (English signage: Saporous Grill, business card: Ma Po Tofu House). As soon as I walked in, the waitress said: "I remember you" and "Food is same". Yes, the same Shufeng menu.

Now, the kicker. On the door was notice of an ownership change. She told me they are closing sometime between April 15th and 20th. It will become a BBQ place (I didn't note the name). The quality was fine, so despite the looming closure, they didn't phone it in today. I would encourage everyone to go and enjoy while you can.

So supersad that I didn't know. And, why did they not simply put the Shu Feng Yuan sign up? I would have recognized it!

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  1. Well at least ipsedixit told us in time so that many of us got to try it before they folded up. Now if he could only explain why they open up and close down branches so fast.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl

      I blame ipsedixit for holding out on us for so long :) Going by what the waitress told me, apparently it changed to Shufeng approximately 3 months after "Saporous" opened as a semi-HK cafe/beer & sports bar. I definitely recall the discount beer signs in the window early on and like TonyC, do not recall the Mandarin signage for Mrs. Chen's Tofu.

      Anyhow (insert sad face), here are some photos from yesterday. Seriously folks, go and enjoy.

      1. re: JThur01

        I ask both of you (Jim and Chandavkl) for forgiveness.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Based on your positive contributions, I'll overlook it. Exactly when did you find out? I'll echo Chandavkl and thank you for even mentioning it. At least I got to make a visit (hopefully more).

          If I were able to ask questions, I'd ask where did the chef come from (previous experience)and is the owner the same/connection to RH Shufeng?

          Only after all those would I ask Chandavkl's question, but maybe ipsedixit has an idea. The magic two year window?

          1. re: JThur01

            Well, there are people who flip restaurants like speculators flip houses, so that would be my guess.

            1. re: JThur01

              Only reason I knew was because I know some of the owners.

              (And, yes, they are related)

          2. re: JThur01

            That'd suggest Saporous turned to Shufeng/Mrs. Chen's Tofu by July of '11? ABC is obviously not the only way to judge a restaurant flip this seems unlikely as Saporous got its ABC license revoked in Nov '11.

            And before Shufeng got its liquour license, there was a "Red Rose Massage" that held the ABC from Nov 11 til Oct '12. (BTW, the fact that city hall didn't BITCH about a massage parlor carrying a type 41 to Monrovia ABC is shocking and is a mockery of MPK's planning commission. It made sense ABC canceled the license.


            I remember seeing 2 ABC signs after Happy Happy and stopped paying attention. Apparently the third sign was for Shufeng's application. *shrug*

            The sign for "Mrs. Chen's Tofu" in Mandarin is clearly there, but that didn't happen til late '12, if not early '13. New place will be "Old Yellow Cow":

            639 W Garvey Ave gets an asterisk from now on. I drive by the restaurant nearly every day, if not twice a day. If I didn't notice, somebody sadly muffed up the transition. It takes 2 days to print a vinyl banner and Monterey Park doesn't bitch about "unpermited" signs like Alhambra even after 60+ days.

            Anyway, ABC report here:

            1. re: TonyC

              The waitress said they'd been there "a year and a half", but I take that as a rough approximation.

              I concur, if it got by Tony, let alone everyone else...clearly something odd happened.

              I wondered about restaurant flipping as well. But, wouldn't that require building a name? (or less than three of them?)

              1. re: JThur01

                Restaurants are sold based on gross sales and net profit, along with fixtures. Oftentimes the restaurant name is not part of the sale. Consequently many purchasers are just looking for a particular volume of traffic commensurate with what they want to pay.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  True. My comment was sort of tongue in cheek, aimed at the multiple names in this case, but I'd also expect some of the flipping could simply come from renovating and re-modeling a restaurant and then selling it several months after the upgrade.

                  I'd still like someone to just go in and ask "Why didn't you use the Shufeng Yuan name on the sign outside?"

                  1. re: JThur01

                    There are many (read: non-restaurant related) reasons to change the registered name of a restaurant without actually changing the actual restaurant itself.

                    Think of it this way. Some people will wear one thing the entire day to work (e.g. shirt and tie). Some people will go through multiple changes of clothing during their time at work (e.g. actors and strippers). But the person wearing the clothes is the same person. They're just changing clothes, and doing it because it serves a purpose.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I think Jim's read my piece on why restaurants change their name outside the context of straight up ownership changes. What we're wondering about is the flipping aspect, to which I've only seen vague references. That's where we thought your insider knowledge might provide more clues.

                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        Not sure what you mean by "flipping" (and honestly, not trying to be difficult or obtuse here).

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Essentially its the restaurant equivalent of a house flipper, who buys a house, fixes it up, and sells within a relatively short time horizon. So somebody would start or buy a restaurant, not with the intention of operating it for long term, but rather, to turn it over in maybe a year or two.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Certainly a major actor since the rise of the EB-5. I think guys were doing that even before then, but I can see that the market would be expanding.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                E1 and E2 as well.

                                But I don't know exactly how they're doing it. But they are.

              2. re: TonyC

                The ABC report mentions (and reminded me) of the name on door Feixiang BBQ.

          3. Did we establish how they are or are not related to the Rowland Heights one?

            Looks very fancy compared to the RH one.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Porthos

              It really isn't any fancier than the RH or SG location. I think the tablecloths could be the same from the SG location.

              Considering the waitress recognized me and the fact they are using the exact same menu, I'd say pretty much cinches it that they are closely related. As first pointed out by echoparkdirt in the other thread, the Zhong's Dumplings are exactly the same, as are the noodles. I'm hoping to get back before closure and get some more info, though there is a bit of a communication gap.

              Why don't ipsedixit or TonyC drop by and ask some questions?

              1. re: JThur01

                Just realized why this branch registered as "fancy" in my mind. The white table cloth. I haven't been to the RH branch in a couple of years but they had this nasty faded green table cloth. Your photo actually has nice white table cloth. Fancy. ;-)

            2. Thanks, JThur01! I'm bummed that I didn't see this in time for lunch today. I used to go to the SG location and then made the trek out to RH only once since it didn't meet my expectations (spicy lobster). Funny, a woman at the RH location said she recognized me. I wasn't sure if she was just saying that but when she commented on my haircut, I knew she meant it.

              I'll have to go to the MP one tomorrow.

              1. I think I have good news to report. I went today and asked if there were any updates about the ownership change date. The man said that they are only changing the name of the place. He said the owner and chef were going to be the same. When I asked if they would have the same menu, there was a slight hesitation before he said yes. I asked if the items we had ordered would still be there and he said yes. I confirmed multiple times and also asked what the new name is going to be and that's when he said it was going to be Ma Po Tofu House and gave me the business card.

                I'm so hoping that it's not a misunderstanding due to language differences.

                Ma Po Tofu House
                639 W. Garvey Ave.
                Monterey Park, CA 91754
                (626) 576-9088


                17 Replies
                1. re: condementia

                  Still a little puzzling since the business cards said Ma Po Tofu House a month ago as did the exterior Chinese sign.

                  1. re: condementia

                    Good grief! I was there and overheard your discussion. Waitress told me "everyone going back to Rowland Heights. I'm confused.

                    1. re: JThur01

                      i am going in an hour. i will ask as well.

                      1. re: echoparkdirt

                        FWIW, both waiter and waitress assured me that it would "still be shufeng"

                        1. re: echoparkdirt

                          If you read TonyC's report in today's Eater L.A., Old Yellow Ox BBQ will be opening soon at that location.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            speaking of TonyC's report, I'm very excited to see singapore style "yukgon" aka "bakwa" aka "rougan" aka "jerky" finally in socal. Pictures look like the stuff they had at bee cheng hiang that's all over asia.

                            I can't believe I drive by there almost every day but did not notice. Will try after work and report back.

                            1. re: blimpbinge

                              Will try after work and report back.


                              Really, proper Sing bah-kwa? The only place I've been able to find it is at the Aberdeen Center in Richmond, BC. There's a stall (or there was) on the ground floor that sells it. What I couldn't eat on the spot got stuffed into the luggage and smuggled back home...

                              1. re: stravaigint

                                So I went after 5pm. It's a husband (singaporean) wife (from OC) operation. The husband wasn't present the time i went. According to the wife, the husbands family works in the same industry in singapore, so the he learned from them and decided to bring it to LA. She was very insistent about them being the first in socal, explaining that the only other ones they had seen were in canada and nyc.

                                The first bite of the pork instantly reminded me of Bee Cheng Hiang that I've tried in singapore, hk, and macau. Was it exactly the same? Well I haven't eaten it in over 6 months so i'm not sure, but its similar enough so that I bought 1/4lb. Though I do remember bch being a little juicier.

                                Pricing ($23 per lb) is the same for all except for the bacon ($26 per lb), because according to the wife, they are more difficult to make and cost more.

                                Unfortunately, their selection was lacking when I went, she said that it hasn't gotten busy enough to make the coins yet (all are currently in small sheets), and didn't have any floss to sample.

                                The wife was also hesitant about allowing me to take pictures in store... so here are the shots i took when I got back.

                                1. re: blimpbinge

                                  Thanks for reporting back! Really glad to hear that the real thing has finally made it here.

                                  My recollection of BCH is that the slices are thicker than what's in your pics, which may explain why it's juicer? Although I also vaguely recall there being different cuts (thicknesses) available, so maybe that'll change as they ramp up the selection. Shame they didn't have floss (props for checking!).

                                  1. re: blimpbinge


                                    I really think you should split this out to a separate thread, as this may be the biggest non-restaurant (junk) food find for me this year. Vua Kho Bo sells bakkwa, as does New Jerky, as does Aji Ichiban, but the only other place roasting their own rougan fresh (weekly) is Prime Cut Jerky on Hacienda.

                                    And thanks for reading.

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      Will do. Need to rewrite/reword a bit, and I kind of wanted to try their other items (floss, coins) andd take better pics before I did. I was kind of bummed I didn't get to speak with the husband, and the wife was reeally hesitant about me taking pics in store. Her reply to my request was "but we already have pics online..*silence*"

                                      If you make a thread though I'll post in yours. Thanks for the rec! With their lack of proper signage, I'd never find it even tho i drive by almost daily.

                                      1. re: blimpbinge

                                        Husband is reachable via cell (listed as tel no on Yelp: 626-329-2779).

                                        I was shocked when he told me $23/lb but... dehydrated pork is expensive, as is dehydrated blueberries.

                                        How is HP Pho Ga Bac Ninh anyway? I really like the com ga dip at the MPK location, but the com ga/pho ga itself, not so much.

                              2. re: Chandavkl

                                The change of ownership notice posted on the door when I visited read: Feixiang BBQ.

                                I'm wondering if the confusion might be the chef staying on? Perhaps BBQ/skewers + Sichuan? Remember, the chef at Shufeng SG stayed on after it became Happy Eating, which had a few Wuhan items added to what was otherwise the Shufeng menu.

                                1. re: JThur01

                                  Maybe that's the business plan--flip the restaurant, leave the chef behind.

                              3. re: echoparkdirt

                                FWIW, now they're saying: "we don't know what they (new owners) will serve", and they are rejoining the mothership.

                                The change is supposedly happening "within days".

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    The menu/chef was speculation on my part, based on the conflicting stories. The waitress told me "everyone" was returning to RH. Thanks for the update.