Spicy City

Spicy City opened up semi-recently in The Great Mall of China aka 99 Ranch Plaza on the corner of Del Mar and Valley.  I  believe it took the place of a fairly old Taiwanese o ah mi sua (oyster vermicelli) restaurant.   Will and I visited for a spur of the moment lunch this weekend and were less than impressed.

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The typical cold appetizer 3-way combo was at the back of the restaurant.  You may need to flag someone down to help dish the stuff up, but luckily it’s close to the kitchen and cashier, so there’s always someone who can help.  I got the cold bamboo, brined string beans, and fried tofu.  The overwhelming flavor of all three was salt, but they had some differences. The string beans were crispy and savory, just what I expected. The tofu had an interesting chewy and dry texture. I wonder if this is the vegetarian equivalent of the dry sliced beef that’s usually at the cold plates table.  The bamboo would have been better if it were not so salty.

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Will ordered the cold Szechuan noodle, which was a surprisingly large bowl of noodles.  The undissolved sugar crystals added an interesting crunch to each bite, but the entire bowl was tipping heavily toward the over-salted side.  He liked that the noodles were chewy, but thought that they were dangerously close to being chewy in an underdone kind of way.

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I ordered the crossing bridge noodles. What?! Yes, that’s what I said. Crossing Bridge Noodles is more of a Yunnan specialty, why would I be ordering it at a Szechuan restaurant? Normally, I wouldn’t, but considering the first page of their menu was dedicated to this humble bowl of noodles in chicken broth, I just had to try it.  I did and it was okay.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the bowl. The waitress brought it out in the usual style, with the soup, noodles, and toppings separate, to be mixed together at the table.  The chicken was tender and flavorful, the soup was not too heavy on msg, the rice noodles were plenty, but something was missing. I was expecting some flavorful slices of ham or smoked pork in there, and instead I had some flavorless slices of pork.

Spicy City was not technically bad, but I wouldn’t get off the freeway for the sole purpose of visiting this city.  If one were already in the area and wanted something spicy, maybe. But in the Great Mall of China, where the options are plenty, I’d say this place is skippable based on the stuff that I’ve had. Still, I’m glad I went here, if only so I can stop wondering if this place was any good. Now I know if I want this type of food, I should just go to Lucky Noodle King down the street.

Spicy City
140 W Valley Blvd
Ste 208
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 280-0186

Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine

The first thing I said when I drove by this restaurant was, “What the heck Kalimantan cuisine??”  This restaurants gets the award of most curious name of 2012.  When I got home, I immediately did some internet research and realized that it’s Indonesian, but different.  It seemed different than the usual banana-leaf wrapped fragrant rice with stuff meal I get at other Indonesian places.

When I visited Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine on a weekday lunch, I was surprised that most of the tables were already full.  I had no idea this restaurant existed in my neighborhood, but here were diners who were already in the know.  I ordered the #8 noodle dish, which was chewy hakka noodles with bbq pork, fish balls, and fish cake.  As the menu states, it’s traditional for soup to be served on the side of the noodles instead of combined with the noodles.

Hakka noodles for lunch.

The bowl of noodles surpassed my expectations.  The house-made egg-noodles were wonderful! They had a soft but still chewy texture and were a bit crinkly, which made it easy to pick up a chopstick full of noodles and toppings in one go.  The bbq pork was thinly sliced char-siu which was just the right amount of lean and fatty.  The fish cakes and fried shallots gave a nice pungency to the bowl.  A couple bites of noodle, and a slurpy spoonful of the clear soup was all I needed to declare this lunch a success. My only complaint is that I wish the soup were hotter, but then I’m known to love surface-of-the-sun temperature soups.

Although the menu is fairly meat-heavy, the woman taking my order said that they would be able to make vegetarian dishes if asked, so stay tuned for an update about vegetarian options.

Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine
19 South Garfield Ave
Unit A
Alhambra, CA 91801
Neighborhood: Alhambra

Yun Noodle House

One does not often think of a meal procured from a food court as a great meal, at least not in any of the food courts found in shopping malls. But Asian food courts are where it’s at!  Many a great noodle dish can come from a food court: ramen at the west L.A. Mitsuwa food court.  The countless noodle booths at the Torrance Mitsuwa food court.  Bowls of naengmyun from Korean food courts.  Add Yun Noodle House to the list.

This little noodle booth inside the food court next to the Arcadia Ranch 99 supermarket was so inconspicuous that I skipped it the first time I went there and it wasn’t until last week that I decided to give it a try.  There’s something nice about eating at food court style seating and slurping a bowl of noodles. I could close my eyes, let the smell of the nearby booth’s fried stinky tofu waft in, hear the Chinese grandmas complain about produce prices, and pretend I’m at any food court in China.

Vegetarian noodle soup from Yun Noodle House.

The vegetarian noodle soup is a hearty mix of all sorts of stuff. Carrots, sweet potato (or is it squash??), celery, bean sprouts, dried tofu, fresh tofu, mushrooms, green onion, all join the party in this bowl.  The soup is refreshingly clean tasting with a sweet nuttiness to it.  And surprisingly low on MSG or even MSG free. Add in a healthy spoonful of the chili sauce on the counter and you’ve got yourself a nice bowl of noodle soup. The noodles that come with this bowl are usually thin, but the proprietress of the booth said they can also do wide noodles if you ask for it.

Beef noodle soup. Clean flavors. Reminded me of pho.

The beef noodle soup was surprisingly good for its modest appearance.  The pieces of beef are tender without being too mushy.  The broth had a wonderful sweet aroma that reminded me of a more refined pho broth.  The slightly wide wheat noodles were the perfect size for slurping up the hot broth.  This simple but delicious bowl of noodles was exactly what I needed on a brisk day.

Tofu appetizer

If a bowl of noodle doesn’t seem like enough, there are also supplements on the menu.  Will and I split the cold tofu appetizer, which was baked tofu drizzled with hot sauce, ginger, and scallions.  It needed no extra frills.

Hours after consuming my bowl of noodles, I was pleased to notice that I wasn’t overly thirsty.  Could it be that this food court noodle restaurant made a wonderful broth without resorting to cheating with MSG?

Yun Noodle House
1220 S Golden West Ave
Ste E
Arcadia, CA 91007