S and I love Hong Kong cafes. In Chinese, it’s called 港式西餐 (literally, HK-style Western cuisine). In the Bay Area, our favorite was Shooting Star in Oakland Chinatown. Here in San Diego, the only option we have is A Cafe, which pretty much pales in comparison. So when we were in LA last weekend for S’s badminton tournament*, we got to try out a couple of HK cafes with some friends who are native to the Alhambra/Monterey Park/San Gabriel Valley area. One of the beauties of HK cafes is that they are often open until pretty late, so it was the perfect place to visit after a whole day of matches.
An aside: In case you didn’t know, YES, badminton is a competitive sport! It’s super fast-paced – arguably the fastest racket sport – and very challenging. It’s unfortunate that most people think of it as a backyard sport. If you still have doubts, check this out.
Anyway… back to food. On the first night, we tried Cafe Spot.
Cafe Spot, located on W. Valley Blvd in Alhambra
The menu is pretty extensive – they serve many variations of the typical dishes you’d find at HK cafes: baked pastas, rice casseroles, curry, and some traditional rice and noodle dishes. I was a bit lost at first, but my friends suggested that I choose something from the dinner specials, which comes with a drink (lemon tea, Chinese herbal tea, or HK milk tea) and cup of vegetable soup.
Red wine rib steak (short rib) 紅酒燴牛骨扒
Friends ordered the red wine-braised short rib. The meat was really tender – definitely had been braised for quite a long time (or pressure cooked, I suppose.. haha). I couldn’t taste much of the wine in the sauce. Instead it was quite the traditional soy sauce-based Chinese flavors. Side dishes were two veggie medleys – stir-fried cabbage, and steamed frozen veggie mix. Not the most impressive sides, but considering all this was about $10, it was really worth it.
Grandma’s braised pork belly 外婆家紅燒肉
I can’t ever seem to stay away from pork belly. This actually reminded me of something my grandmother used to make, with dark soy sauce and five-spice flavoring. The pork belly had good texture, tender but not mushy. It was just a tad too salty, though – I was surprised since dark soy sauce is usually very mild, but they must have also added some of the saltier light soy sauce to add flavor. This was about $8, I believe.
S also ordered a baked spaghetti bolognese, which I didn’t get a chance to photograph. It was decent but not too memorable.
The next night, we ventured to ABC Cafe, located down the street, technically in Monterey Park. Their late-night specials were even cheaper than Cafe Spot. Our friend recommended the $7 rib steak.
Grilled ribeye steak, with black pepper sauce 香煎牛扒（配黑胡椒醬）
I didn’t expect much from a $7 steak, but this was actually some pretty good stuff. I requested the steak cooked to medium (not too sure about the quality of the meat so I had it cooked a little more than what I usually do), and it arrived just past medium, but not too tough. Again, two of the sides comprised of steamed frozen veggies and a scoop of mashed potatoes from an instant mix. But I also got 2 fried eggs (you could choose them any style), which was awesome.
Portuguese-style chicken casserole 焗葡國雞飯
S chose another baked dish. This time, he picked the Portuguese-style chicken casserole, one of his favorites from Shooting Star. The chicken is cooked with coconut and curry – actually reminds me a bit of beef rendang, but less heavy on the spices. Here, the dish is served with rice on the side, whereas at other places there is a layer of rice at the bottom of the dish. The curry was all right – I still prefer Shooting Star’s version, which was less oily and more flavorful.
After the meal here, I had an egg puff craving, so S and I actually drove back to Cafe Spot, which is supposedly famous for the egg puffs. I bought an order to go, which meant it was all wrapped in a small pouch and I couldn’t get a good photo :( But they were super delicious – crispy on the outside, and fluffy and chewy on the inside. I’ve been thinking about them ever since leaving LA. So if you’re in the area, definitely hit up Cafe Spot for their egg puffs! Best way to spend $4.
I wish I had gotten to eat more things in the LA trip, but I was very satisfied with these late-night meals. It’s too bad that we rarely have the time or opportunity to go to LA, but I do hope to to try out as many new and yummy things as I can!
500 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA
100 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA