A recent girls’ night out brought me and my gal pals to San Gabriel’s Phong Dinh Restaurant. I’m not sure what constitutes a roaring good time for you and yours, but for me and mine, it’s a killer baked catfish. I roll with the best posse ever.
Thien An in Rosemead has always been my go-to spot for baked catfish, but we decided to try Phong Dinh this evening at the recommendation of my friend Thien. She promised that the catfish here was even better than the one at Thien An.
According to the restaurant’s menu, Chef and Founder Minh Trang was the first to introduce baked catfish (ca dut lo hau giang) to the area in 1994.
Before the star of the show arrived, accoutrements were scattered about the table—a large platter of herbs and lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber spears, vermicelli rice noodles, rice papers, and best of all, a tangy-sweet tamarind dipping sauce.
Our waitress revealed that the recipe for the sauce came from her aunt, who hails from Can Tho. Now that I’ve experienced this seriously awesome sauce, I can’t ever go back to eating plain ol’ nuoc cham or mam nem (fermented anchovy dipping sauce) with my catfish. Consider me a changed woman.
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Do you remember those Hair Club for Men commercials from the 80s? The ones that end with: “I’m not just the president of Hair Club for Men, I’m also a client.” Well, I’m not just a Scout for the Los Angeles Times, I’m also a Scout Report reader. A powerful testimonial and roaring endorsement all at once, right?
After reading Louise’s Scout Report for Happy Tasty, I immediately made a date with The Astronomer and Mike, our friend and constant Chinese food companion, to check it out.
Wuhan cuisine, which is influenced by the spicy traditions of neighboring Sichuan and Hunan, is a region we’ve yet to experience on our San Gabriel Valley explorations.
I was most excited to try the quintessential Wuhan-style dry hot pot. Happy Tasty refers to it as a “Spicy Hot Pot” on their menu. Every pot includes potatoes, cauliflower, celery, tiger lily buds, black fungus, and lotus root ($8.99) and a choice of two proteins. We selected lamb ($7.99) and beef tripe ($7.99).
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If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, than the folks at Newport Tan Cang Seafood must be absolutely tickled about the opening of Boston Lobster.
While the restaurant’s name might lead one to expect lobster rolls served on split top buns and towers of gloriously fresh oysters, the focus here is seafood prepared with a Vietnamese-Chinese bent. From what I hear through the grapevine, a former cook from Newport opened the restaurant, hence the similar bill of fare.
The Astronomer and I, along with the Astronomer’s fabulous sister Rosalind, dropped in for dinner on a recent Friday night. While the wait at nearby Newport would’ve been painfully long, we were seated straightaway at the peak of dinner hour. Score one for Boston Lobster.
To compare apples to apples, we selected a slew of dishes that we would normally order at Newport. The clams with Thai basil ($11.95) were just as good as their Newport counterparts, brilliantly briny and fragrant from plenty of fresh herbs and garlic.
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With the holidays officially in full swing, chances are you’re going to need a breather from stuffing your face. Rather than skip a meal, or even worse, embark on a juice cleanse, I’d recommend heading to Lu’s Garden for a virtuous bowl of porridge with all the fixings. You’ll feel positively rejuvenated afterward. Promise.
A colleague introduced me to Lu’s a few weeks back for lunch; she’s been dining here for as long as she can remember. I enjoyed our outing so much that I returned the following day with my girl Shay in tow.
For first-timers, it can be a little confusing how the place works. Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll be greeted by a tremendous steam table brimming with all manner of vegetables and proteins.
Select three items from the steam table for $8.25 or four items for $10.75. The cost is the same for vegetarian and meaty dishes. At dinner, diners are required to order a la carte from a menu.
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