Decent coffee in the SGV at Taza

I’m not sure what is “social” about this social coffee house I went to called Taza in Arcadia, but it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve been to on this side of town.  The dark lighting and retro typewriter makes this hipster-decorated place look straight out of Silverlake or at least the hip part of downtown LA.  They walk the walk, but I was afraid they couldn’t talk the talk.

A decent macchiato for prelunch. Taza coffee.

I ordered a macchiato and was slightly worried that because it wasn’t on the menu, they wouldn’t be able to make it, but the barista behind the counter assured me it would be fine.  I also ordered a vanilla waffle because I can’t resist having a starchy pastry with my morning coffee.

The macchiato came out with just a teaspoon of milk on top. Perfect! The espresso under it was thick and had the right amount of tanginess.  The waffle was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and not too sweet.

Sometimes, I just want to do work out of a local coffee shop that doesn’t serve 30 flavors of milk tea and where I don’t have to hear the people at the next table studying for their AP calculus exam.  Taza just might be the perfect place for that. Now if only it were walking distance of my house.

Taza: a social coffee house
11 W Huntington Dr
Arcadia, CA 91007

Tantawan Thai Kitchen

Will noticed a sign that said “Boat noodles” while driving down Garvey one day on his way to a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. Knowing my love of boat noodles, he immediately reported it to me and that’s how we ended up at Tantawan Thai Kitchen one day for dinner.  The place must be newly opened because the sign for the previous restaurant (a pho place) is still up despite the “Grand Opening” Tantawan Thai banner also being up.

Pad kee mao for dinner.

While there are no outright vegetarian items on the menu, Will was able to order a modified pad kee mao sans fish/shrimp sauce and meat and add in some fried tofu.  It came out looking good and tasted alright, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. I found the fried tofu a little tough and bland.

Okay boat noodles.

I ordered the boat noodle soup and was mildly disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t on the same level as Sapp’s.  The broth was lacking a little of that funky taste I like and was a bit on the sweet side.  The special hot sauce they brought out with it didn’t improve it much.  The noodles were a little too clumped up when they came. The bowl of noodles wasn’t even on the same level as Hoy Kha so I’ll probably continue going to the Monterey Park location of Hoy Kha for my spicy boat noodle needs.

I was hoping for a great Thai place that would replace my need to drive over to east Hollywood for good Thai cooking, but maybe that hype led to my disappointment in this place.

Tantawan Thai Kitchen
9000 E Garvey Ave
Unit C & D
Rosemead, CA
(626) 288-1527

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