Here at this modern and brightly-lit restaurant in the same strip mall complex as Tip Top’s Sandwiches and Shaanxi Gourmet, Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soups are dished up from morning until night. The chef honed his craft in Hong Kong before opening Noodle Boy in 2010. From the bounce of the noodles to the spring of the wontons, it’s clear that there is an expert behind the stoves.
Archive for the 'Rosemead' Category
Banh Xeo Quan, also known as Mr. Rice, specializes in southern-style Vietnamese crepes*. Owner Phi Tran, who hails from Saigon, opened the restaurant in Rosemead some five years ago to bring this specialty to the San Gabriel Valley. This place came highly recommended to me by my lovely friend Thien. She and her family have been dining here for years, so I knew I was in for a treat.
A refreshingly succinct menu, neatly laminated and fully photographed, greeted us upon arrival. In addition to its namesake banh xeo, the restaurant also prepared rice dishes, noodle soups, and hot vit lon, fetal duck eggs. Although a banh mi hot dog and soda combo was unbeatably priced at $2.75, no one bit the bullet.
We passed on boba and beer and settled on freshly pressed nuoc mia (sugarcane juice) and minty green nuoc dau xanh la dua (mung bean milk with pandan). Both were excellent.
It’s been almost four years since The Astronomer and I visited Xi’an, the central Chinese city famous for its terracotta soldiers and Islamic cuisine. However, the moment we stepped foot into Rosemead’s Shaanxi Gourmet, our dormant memories came rushing back. With its guardsmen-flanked entrance, Chinese-only menu, and homey service, Shaanxi Gourmet transported us back to Xi’an for one night.
We were lucky enough to have the Kung Food Panda in our company this evening, which meant that the Chinese-only menu wasn’t a problem. For those dining without a Chinese speaker in tow, the restaurant’s walls are helpfully plastered with photographs of the most popular dishes.
To start, we dug into (clockwise from top left) shredded potatoes, congealed pig’s ears, and beef shank marinated in chili oil. The silky spuds were the surprise hit of the trio. Who knew raw potatoes could be so refreshing?
We also tried two versions of cold noodles. The one I liked best came simply dressed with chile, Sichuan pepper, and vinegar, which highlighted the noodles’ angular shape and springy texture.
I recently learned that my friend Evelina‘s family eats Vietnamese-style roasted catfish (cá nướng da dòn) in place of turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas. As anyone who’s ever experienced this crackly and caramelized preparation can attest, twice a year is simply not enough. When a major craving hits and the holidays aren’t in sight, Evelina grabs a table at Thiên Ân Bò 7 Món in Rosemead. It’s certainly not as good as grandma’s homemade version, but the catfish here is still pure “scrumptiousness.” Evelina’s words, not mine.
When a sudden hankering surfaced a few weeks back, The Astronomer and I were on hand to join the catfish queen for dinner at Thiên Ân. A gaudily framed photo of the famed dish greeted us as we walked through the front door. Flanking it on both sides were glowing write-ups from the Los Angeles Times. It’s no secret that this place is delicious.
Evelina called a few hours before our arrival to order a medium-sized catfish ($39) for our party of six. Our whiskered guest of honor was placed before us soon after we received our drinks. If you forget to call ahead, it can take up to 30 minutes for the fish to be prepared. Trust me, the wait is worth it.
The best part of dating a graduate student is the reinstatement of spring break. After graduating from college, I worked diligently from the holidays up until summer vacation before I enjoyed any sort of breather. March was just another month, and my annual trips down to Florida with the track team became a pleasant and distant memory.
I welcomed spring break back into my life last year when The Astronomer enrolled at Caltech. For our inaugural post-collegiate spring break, we packed our bags and headed to Yountville to dine at The French Laundry and Ad Hoc. Observing spring break without having to stress over papers and exams beforehand was a beautiful thing.
This year, we decided to travel even further north to Seattle. Prior to boarding our Jet Blue flight, we stopped by Tip Top’s Sandwiches in Rosemead to pick up sandwiches for the ride. DirectTV + banh mi = a delightful way to spend two and a half hours.
The original Tip Top’s Sandwiches is located in Garden Grove in the heart of Little Saigon. A second branch recently opened in Los Angeles to serve the substantial Vietnamese community residing in the San Gabriel Valley. In addition to “Asian Sandwiches,” Tip Top’s also sells “Euro Sandwiches,” house-made baguettes, frozen yogurt, prefabbed spring rolls, and Vietnamese sweets. We ordered strictly from the banh mi menu.
The Astronomer and I procured four sandwiches. My banh mi dac biet ($2.95) was passable, but not especially great. My main beef with the sandwich was its lack of beef, so to speak. I felt that Tip Top’s long and narrow baguette didn’t provide enough surface area to properly stuff and dress the banh mi. As a result, there was a lot of bread and pickled veggies, but not very much meat. I also thought it was strange that the sandwich contained slices of boiled pork. Boiled pork is lovely atop noodle soups, but has no place inside a banh mi.
The Astronomer and I were mixed on the bread. Two of our sandwiches were made with fresh baguettes that were warm, crusty, and quite pleasant. However, the other two were made with older baguettes that pained the roofs of our mouths with each bite.
For my second sandwich, I chose a vegetarian banh mi ($2.95) with lemongrass tofu. The tofu was plentiful and well-marinated, but it left a lingering garlicky aftertaste that I wasn’t too keen on.
The Astronomer’s banh mi bi ($3.25) suffered the same fate as my banh mi dac biet—too little meat. However, it must be noted that the porky strands of meat and skin that were present tasted very good. Still, all bread and no pork makes for a dull sandwich.
The Astronomer’s banh mi thit nuong ($3.45) packed lots of meat but not very much flavor. While we appreciated the pork’s charcoal essence, its lack of lemongrass and fish sauce was disappointing.
Although we had high hopes, Tip Top’s Sandwiches weren’t in tip-top shape during our visit. With plenty of cheaper, tastier, and more conveniently located banh mi shops in town [See: Bánh Mì & Chè Cali, Saigon’s Bakery & Sandwiches], The Astronomer and I have little reason to return anytime soon.
Tip Top’s Sandwiches
8522 Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770