Class 302

DSC_5707If you’ve ever wondered what food from a Chinese canteen would taste like or wanted to live out your fantasies of being a Taiwanese school girl, Class 302 is worth a visit.  The decor of this little restaurant with its student desks, large blackboard, and uniforms pinned on walls are all reminiscent of Chinese classrooms. Even the disposable chopsticks and napkins are kept in school bags attached to each table.

In matching with the setting, ordering any of the rice combos off the menu results in your dish coming out in a generic, stainless steel bento box much like the ones I used to bring lunch in during elementary school.

I ordered a pork-chop and Taiwanese sausage bento box which comes with a battered and fried pork chop, some slices of sausage, some Chinese pickled cabbage, and a vegetable selection of stir fried bamboo shoots and ground meat and snow cabbage and edamame.

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Class 302 replicates Chinese cafeteria food perfectly, at least from my limited experiences of eating cafeteria food from my dad’s old office in China.  The pork chop was a thin but fatty, grisly piece that was only lukewarm. The batter had no hint of crispness at all, which led me to believe that it had been cooked a while ago and only poorly reheated.  The pork itself had an off, gamey taste.  The sausage was too sweet and tasted like generic, store-bought sweet sausage.  The vegetables and pickles were forgettable.

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Will ordered one of the few vegetarian meals on the menu, a stir fried noodle dish. Like my rice bento, the dish was lackluster — salty but having no flavor.  The shiitake mushroom slices tasted like someone took some dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked them, sliced them, but forgot to cook them.

class 302

We also ordered a side of sweet potato fries, which were odd to say the least.  The fries were battered and fried, but quickly lost their crisp.  They were seasoned to be both overly salty and strangely sweet, and I’m not just talking about the natural sweetness of sweet potato.  The menu mentioned a plum dipping sauce, but the waiter said they ran out. Even so, I doubt the dipping sauce would have improved these strange, fried sticks of starch.

The only good thing we ordered was the fried stinky tofu.  It was decently stinky, and had a mildly sour taste.  Still nothing close to the real thing, but a valiant effort for a place whose previous dishes were only so-so.  The pickled cabbage was nothing to write home about, but also had nothing glaringly wrong about it.

Considering the long drive from our place to Class 302, you could say I was let down. Even though I was starving when I got there, the food just didn’t taste that good.  Maybe we grossly ordered the wrong thing because some of the tables next to us ordered just shaved ice and those looked pretty damn good.

The place is worth checking out just for the decor, but I suggest eating a meal somewhere else, like any of the restaurants in the same plaza, and then going to Class 302 for a shaved ice dessert.

Class 302
1015 S. Nogales St., #125
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 965-5809

Bon Marche Bistro in Monterey Park

DSC_5278When I picture a restaurant named Bon Mar Che Bistro, I picture a small cafe with cozy tables covered with white tablecloth where I can order a charcuterie plate, a glass of wine, and relax with a good book.  That’s absolutely *not* what Bon Marche Bistro is about.

Instead, it’s a small, family-owned restaurant tucked behind a strip mall in Monterey Park.  It’s famed for ‘home styled’ Chinese food and more specifically, a dish which involves lots of cooked food layered in a wooden bucket.  Unlike other Chinese restaurants in the area, Bon Marche’s kitchen is fully visible, taking up one half of the restaurant.  Standing up and looking over the counter topped with plastic baskets of produce, you can watch the chef toss sizzling bits of food in the wok with expertise.  It reminded me a little of the hole-in-the-wall eateries in China where there was just a giant wok in the middle of the sidewalk.

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On my first visit to Bon Marche, the woman working there was enthusiastic about the menu and the food offered.  I was still perusing the menu while waiting for my dining companions to arrive when she came up and explained their bucket dish and suggested I order it.  But I was really in the mood for claypot rice!

Luckily, when the BF arrived, he ordered a vegetarian version of the bucket dish, so the pressure was off me and the lady let me order the claypot rice with beef and egg.  Our dining companion got stir fried shrimp after helpful suggestion from the lady again.

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The claypot rice arrived and I learned my lesson.  The rice to topping ratio was very skewed — a giant pot of rice and a few pieces of beef, a fried egg, and a small dish of sauce.  If I was given more sauce, which tasted great, the dish would have been better; as it was, it was lacking. The beef was tough and had a strange, unfresh taste.

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The stir fried shrimp dish luckily was better. It tasted just like something my mother used to make for dinner.  The sweet shrimp and the salty sauce played on each other nicely.  When the woman delivered the dish, she exclaimed how special it was because no other restaurants served it and that other restaurants tended to overcook the shrimp.  It was a good spiel and all, but the shrimp was a bit overcooked and while it tasted good, it wasn’t something that I’d never had in any other Chinese restaurant.

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Then came the highly acclaimed (by the staff anyway) bucket dish. The restaurant’s specialty. Was it all that it lived up to?  Well, considering we got a vegetarian version of it, it’s not really fair to judge, but it certainly was the best dish of the visit.  Layered on top of vermicelli noodles were baby bok choy, mushrooms, tofu, and sauce.  Everything was cooked perfectly and the sauce dripping down to the noodles underneath made them a treat to slurp up.

Despite its shortcomings, Bon Marche Bistro lives up to its “home styled” Chinese food description.  None of the dishes we ordered then and on subsequent visits were spectacular, but they certainly tasted like something that could be made at home.  A couple of dishes I got on a later to-go order had some weird tasting meat, but maybe that was just the danger of a to-go order. People visiting the restaurant shouldn’t expect fancy, banquet-style Chinese food.  The restaurant’s menu is full of unpretentious, simple, home-cooking dishes that may not look great, but at least it tastes home-made.

331 W Garvey Ave
Ste D
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 236-3932

Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle (Burmese)

Located in the sleepy area of old town Whittier is Golden Triangle, a family-run Burmese restaurant. The choice of location is strange; I don’t know of any major Burmese population in Whittier. Their menu consists of Thai, Chinese, Burmese, and even some Indian-influenced dishes. After talking to the owner, I found out that the Thai dishes were mostly remnants of the Thai restaurant that sat in the same place this one did before the Burmese family took over.

Golden Triangle (Burmese)

We started off with the tea leaf salad (vegan). It had shredded cabbage, some crunchy yellow peas, fermented tea leaves, and a delicious dressing. The dish tasted pleasantly of tea without any of the bitterness one would expect of tea leaves. It was a refreshing introduction of what was to come.
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