Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ong Go Jib Korean BBQ- Rowland Heights

Exterior of Ong Go Jib

Face it: we forget things. We were seeking to find a Korean BBQ place that one of us had been to before during a trip to Rowland Heights. Problem was, we forgot where it was or what it was called! So, when we thought we arrived at the place we had been to before, we just went in immediately to the restaurant and had a seat. Was Ong Go Jib the restaurant we thought we had been to? Nope. Not at all!

Interior of Ong Go Jib

In fact, it was quite empty being at around 11AM. There was one table with a chatty teen which I will talk to you about later, and another table with some seniors eating some food. That was it! No one else was there. None of the grills they said they would use for BBQ were on either at the tables. It was all quiet, with the teen (or college student, I don't know) making all the noise on college, food, and travel to his grandma. :)

Panchan

After ordering from their lunch menu, multiple dishes of panchan were placed onto our table. This was different than our usual whereabouts but it was good! Very good.

Panchan Closeup 1

Here's a overview:
Potato Salad- Slightly sweet and not rich and heavy. Inside the scoop were minuscule pieces of carrot and cucumber.
Seaweed- tasted like seaweed with little flavoring added. Crunchy and tasty.
Fried silverfish- these were delectable, with a thick, sweet soy sauce mixed. Good by themselves!
Napa Cabbage Kimchi- It wasn't to our liking as we are not accustomed to eating slightly bitter kimchi.
Soybean Sprouts- tasted like themselves with a hint of sesame oil. Similar to Bean Sprouts' version, but without the pepper and other vegetables added.
Daikon Kimchi- This was lightly spicy and even a bit sweet. Vinegar was added for a bit of sour flavor. The daikon was crunchy too and was a favorite among us.

Panchan Closeup 2

Broccoli- The broccoli kept its crunch and was lightly flavored with sesame oil.
Fishcake- This was slightly spicy (unusual to us) and sweet, but unlike other restaurants we have been to, the fishcake here was thick, not flat.
Japchae- Bouncy potato noodles and veggies were mixed together with some soy sauce and sesame oil. A tad underflavored to me, but this might be something I am not used to after not eating it for several years as restaurants I went to did not offer it.
Special kimchi- Don't know what veggie this was. Bok Choy? Not too sure, but the flavors were definitely to our liking. It had a nice depth of flavor and had a mild heat and a interesting sweet note to the kimchi. So GOOD.

Bibimbap

After enjoying the panchan for several minutes, my bibimbap (7 USD) arrived at the table, without any meat. Why? I guess there was no meat to be found, as 1. They were not serving BBQ for lunch specials and 2. Our server may have messed up because my dining companion wanted a veggie option and then, the server pointed to this dish as a suggestion. When I chose to switch from dolsot bibimbap to regular bibimbap (the server thought I was pointing at this when I was pointing at the regular bibimbap), I guess she also thought I wanted no meat so there was none. Anyway, meat aside, Korean hot bean paste was also served in a jar and I was free to add as much as I wanted to. When the server served the dish, she even told me instructions for bibimbap. Good job!

Vegetables included shiitake mushrooms, spinach, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, a leaf of lettuce, a brown veggie (burdock?) and a white shredded vegetable. Talk about bad descriptions! On top was a fried egg with a very slight runny center, sesame seeds, and pieces of nori.

Steamed Rice

Rice was served alongside and I plopped the rice in and mixed everything together, which made the large bowl look like this after minutes of stirring along with some of the hot bean paste:

Bibimbap Mixed
(Blurry!)

Overall, a nice healthy dish. The vegetables crunched with each bite and were obviously the star of the show. Unfortunately, the bibimbap wasn't really warm, even with the rice added in. I'd be fine with this on a summer day, but this was winter on a rainy day. But the taste was was pleasant- a simple mix of different flavors that melded well. A spoonful of the hot bean paste added depth and a slight hint of spicy and sweet.

Daikon Broth

A light daikon and pork broth was served along side, with green onions added for some brightness. This washed down everything nicely after eating the bibimbap, and it was also excellent with the fact that it was served hot, not cold.

Vegetable Tofu Chigae

Next came a pot of beef tofu soup without the beef, which we left along for quite a long time until the waiter came to say it was actually my dining companion's choice. We thought we had ordered the wrong thing, but no, it was right! We thought it was going to be like a regular soon dubu with soft pieces of tofu and little liquid, but it was not. We did ask the server to not add any beef and it was followed- a piece of clam did sneak in but it didn't matter. Inside the tofu soup were pieces of cucumber, firm tofu cubes (not soft tofu), green onions, and peppers. The soup however had a nice depth of flavors of spicy and savory, but it was too salty for our tastes when sipped by itself. For 8 dollars, this was quite pricey for such a small bowl, especially when compared to the bibimbap.


Kalbi

Our last item of the day was a kalbi and cold noodle soup combo (16 USD). The kalbi was lightly sweet and (more) savory with the usual marinade flavors that I have seen in a Korean BBQ place. It was however a bit charred, which we didn't like. Also, the portion was tiny, as you can see in the photo- probably just 8 pieces, not 12+.

Cold Noodle Soup

The cold noodle soup was simple and was served with a garlic flavored sauce and vinegar. Inside the bowl were pieces of ice, an assortment of fresh vegetables, and lastly chewy, bouncy noodles which were delightful to eat. The soup was lightly savory, matching the lightness of the dish. After all, were cold noodles meant to be heavy on the palate? No.

While we were eating, the table next to us was talking and was easily overheard in the restaurant by everyone as everyone else talked really quietly and were just concentrating on their food. A relative was talking to a teenage boy who definitely had a interest in food and how things were made. The lady talked about food- different spices used in Korean cuisine, as well as tastes. It was kind of obvious that she wanted to get the boy even more into food, which he seemed to be already. Good job. In my opinion we need more people interested in food that do not just stick with the fried foods available in schools...which there are aplenty.

Sliced Oranges

To end the meal, we received a plate of nicely sliced oranges which were sweet and lightly tangy. Simple, but very refreshing and delicious.

Overall, I would say, a good choice for people living in the area. However, there are plenty of competitors in the area which are cheaper and serve about the same quality of food or better. The service is also quite the normal, friendly service we receive around here in Rowland Heights at their Korean restaurants. The panchan here though is pretty much the specialty, but you should be coming here for the main courses, and not just the panchan right?

Ong Go Jib
18891 Colima Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

Tel: (626) 913-7764

Ong Go Jib Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ong Go Jib in Los Angeles

P.S.:



Watch the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics today! The closing ceremony is tonight too. I have for the past two weeks, you should too. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A&J Restaurant- Arcadia

Exterior of A&J Restaurant

I wrote about A&J Restaurant-Irvine last summer; it was not for our tastes and ended up being another piece of "evidence" that we should just skip Chinese food when traveling to the OC. Or maybe not, with good advice from the likes of Elmomonster and Eileen on Asian food in the OC. I attributed A&J to being the Orange County- people probably were accustomed to that type of taste and thus A&J had to fit in to their wants. After I wrote about it though, comments were being left on A&J as a whole.

San Diego blogger Kirk of Mmm-Yoso said in his comment, "We were underwhelmed with A & J as well....the only thing that was ok was the Kaufu, of all things....."

Tony C of SinoSoul said in his comment, "Ban Mu Yuen on Valley is just as atrocious, IMO. The various A&Js have not turned out quality Taiwanese grub since the late 80s IMO... cest la vie?" (Ban Mu Yuan- Chinese pronunciation of A&J's Chinese name)

Which left me pretty much thinking, I will never go back to any A&J. But somehow, we just had to visit A&J Restaurant in Arcadia after driving by it. It was a new restaurant, after all. Before, it housed many unremarkable restaurants, ranging from Japanese to who knows what? I've lost track after driving by here for about ten years now. Was it kind of obvious we were in for the same experience? Not really. We were hoping for different. And it was, on our visit on a bright, sunny long weekend where again, I got sick. ( :( )

Interior of A&J Restaurant

Inside it was modern and airy with plenty of natural sunlight from the windows. A server, which ended up to be a previous employee at Mandarin Noodle Deli- Temple City, took our orders and checked up on us.

What we were already displeased with as we sat down were the dishes. Whoever was cleaning them was doing a lazy job. All the plates, tea cups, et cetera had a film of oil on them which could not be easily washed off with a rinse of tea and a napkin wipe. We try, we try. This was quite disappointing though to see such problems when A&J had opened for about two months when we visited.

Seaweed and Bean Sprout in Garlic, Vinegar Sauce

Our starter was Seaweed and Bean Sprout in Garlic, Vinegar Sauce (1.95 USD). This was pretty good, with a very, very light hint of vinegar and garlic. We do however prefer the bolder flavors of the seaweed salad available at Mandarin Noodle Deli though, especially when combined with their cucumber salad marinade.

Bean Curd Skin with Mustard Greens and Soy Beans

The Bean Curd Skin with Mustard Greens and Soy Beans or Xue Cai Mao Dou Bai Yeh (2.15 USD) was a cold version of the usual hot version, with plenty of mustard greens and not so much of the edamame or the bean curd skins. This was pleasant to eat, with the mustard greens not even being bitter at all. However, the serving size was tiny, and I wished for more bean curd skins.

Shao Bing

As seen in other tables and online, people order lots of their items involving bread. Thus, we ordered their Jiang Rou Shao Bing, or Chinese Sesame Biscuit with Sliced (Soy Sauce) Pork (2.65). The shao bing had several layers of fluffy dough and was very light and easy to eat. Inside was a filling of shredded pork which was seasoned with some hoisin sauce. Nothing quite spectacular, but I did like the fluffiness and the multiple layers in the biscuit.

Pan Fried Beef Bun

In addition, we also tried their Beef Bun (1.50 USD), as pretty much every table here and in Irvine was eating it. It definitely housed a lot of juice inside, as you can see by the photo. My one bite was a dense and crispy bread exterior with mound of extra juicy and salty ground beef mixture. My other dining companions felt this was quite salty and fatty- definitely get something lighter to balance out the meal if you plan on ordering this.

Beef-Noodle-Soups

For a "main course", we ordered two bowls of Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (szechuan Style)/ Spicy Beef &Tendon Noodle Soup (Szechuan Style) (6.95 USD). When ordering, you can pick between thick, broad noodles or pencil thin noodles. Persuaded by our MND server, we ordered the thick noodles, although we usually like thin noodles better.

Thick Noodles

These bowls of noodle soup were clearly superior to the Irvine location. Not only were the bowls larger, the servings of noodles, beef, and vegetables were all much more plentiful compared to in Irvine. The soup had much more beef flavor in comparison to Irvine, and was almost comparable to Mandarin Noodle Deli on a bad day (passable but I want more flavor). However, what was different was that it was quite spicy with a layer of chili oil, which we were not accustomed to. I was sweating after eating this. The thick noodles were very chewy and were from the same dough as they use for their dumplings. However, they were a bit easier to eat as although they were broad in shape, they were not too thick. Good, but I still got tired of the chew by the time I was finishing the meal. I'm sure a thick noodle lover would enjoy them though. They were generous with the stewed beef pieces, giving us plenty of pieces as well as cutting each piece larger compared to the Irvine location. Plus, each piece was tender and had soaked up the beef flavors in the soup. Overall, I would say the beef noodle soup was decent, but the spiciness level puts us off from eating it again. I am a wimp.

Jia-Jiang-Mian

On the other hand, the Noodles with Ground Pork, Ben Sprouts, and Shredded Cucumber, or Jia Jiang Mian (6.25 US) was relatively flavorless to me. However, that is my opinion about these noodles all the time. Whether it be here or in Beijing at Crystal Jade, I end up calling them flavorless as the ground pork mixture has way too little sauce/flavor. Mandarin Noodle Deli is the only restaurant where I think there is enough flavor, but the fried ground pork puts me off.

We did order the thin noodles as the MND waitress recommended us to, and they were very thin, chewy, and had a nice pull. Cucumber and bean sprouts added some veggies into the dish. It seems like we might have enjoyed the thin noodles if they were in the beef noodle soup. Ha!

Potstickers

Last but not least, we also ordered a plate of their potstickers, which featured a thick and chewy wrapper and a lightly flavored pork and cabbage filling. These were cooked in my opinion for too long, as seen by the dark brown color of the potstickers. Plus, the fried portion was not really crispy either. In this case, I feel that the Irvine location made a better version.

Overall, we left pretty much the same way we did in Irvine: nothing special! However, we all agreed this was a much better improvement than the Irvine location. With the oily dishwashing though and just okay food, we do not plan on returning. After all, Mandarin Noodle Deli is just a stone a few more minutes away from here. I might return for breakfast, but there is Doe Jon Station across the street which is good also. They probably would have stiffer competition if Noodle House was still around though.


A&J Restaurant
27 W. Las Tunas Dr.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 445-7270

A&J Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A&J Restaurant in Los Angeles

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mandarin Noodle Deli (CLOSED)- Temple City: More Dishes and Photos

Exterior Mandarin Noodle Deli

*PLEASE NOTE: Mandarin Noodle Deli is changing ownership on April 4th, 2010. This information will then be old and the old food may or may not be changing significantly. The current owner plans on taking a break from restaurants now. Please visit in their final days of opening and try out their food!

The new restaurant is New Mandarin Noodle Deli. Nowhere as good their previous owner (this post).

There is a thing about writing about restaurants again, and then again. Why even do so? Well, things change in life. What was once recent news (Green Island, for example, with a "new menu") is now old, outdated, worthless (Green Island, after a few months of writing the post, had another "new menu")! Kind of like writing in depth reviews of digital cameras. They get outdated in the course of one year, two in the case of D-SLR's. Too fast, I say. Another post on Green Island? No. Yes. No. Yes. No.

Mandarin Noodle Deli however, has not changed. The owner is still the same, extremely protective of her business by only letting herself take all the orders and get change for customers. There is still a big (and growing) clientele that is not Asian, which is unusual for the stereotypical SGV Chinese restaurant. But, it gets a post. Why? I try a new item available. PICTURE TIME! And meanwhile, I take duplicates of the items I have tried. They pile on. Now, with the Nikon D90, how about taking even more duplicates or trying to make something look even better? Today you get to see that big giant pile of photos. The works and labors of 4 visits so far, within about six months. (Next week, a new restaurant. You won't be bored)

Cucumber and Seaweed Appetizer 1
(Sony W90, sunny day at the window)

Cucumber and Seaweed Appetizer 2
(Nikon D90, vivid setting, nighttime shot)

The thing about taking multiple shots is looking at how the things around you can change. See, the cucumbers totally look different in the bottom shot. The table was NEW in stead of the old tables. The lighting was different. But, the cucumber and seaweed appetizer (we asked half and half of each) was equally delicious in both visits! Cucumbers were cut into thick pieces and marinated in a vinegar and sugar mixture which was so good, I could drink a cup of it or dip their green onion pancakes in. Refreshing with a nice crunch, these were perfect during the summer day I shot the first photo in and the chilly evening I shot the second photo in.

The seaweed was seaweed, with shredded cucumber, marinated also in a vinegar mixture, but with even less seasoning compared to the cucumbers. With the cucumber marinade juices this tasted better. By itself, it was good, but the extra kick of flavor was beneficial for its success for me.

San Tung Chicken Salad

The San Tung Chicken Salad, which I also shot a year ago, was equally scrumptious, but only this time a blurry photo came out due to unsteady hands with a weak light source. With crunchy pieces of cucumbers (not marinated, just smashed into pieces), smoky pieces of juicy shredded chicken, and a minced garlic and soy sauce mixture, it made for a delicious appetizer. Of course, it was also a good choice for an entree as well, if you decided to manipulate it that way. The sauce was and still is another of my favorite "dipping sauces" for Mandarin Noodle Deli's green onion pancakes, with its piquant punch and bold flavor.

Green Onion Pancake 1
(Sony W90, little light during sunset)

Green Onion Pancakes 1
(Sony W90, sunny day. Much more appetizing! Sharp! Pretty colors!)

Green Onion Pancakes 3
(Nikon D90, dark rainy day. Adjusted curves in Photoshop)

Green Onion Pancakes 4
(Nikon D90, closeup nighttime with bright shots, Vivid)

The Green Onion Pancakes are still fantastic. Did I tell you that a friend who was visiting from China said that these pancakes tasted like what he ate during his childhood? The multiple layers, with a pleasant chew (thick noodles that are too thick= bad chew), were fun to munch on, while the crispy exterior brought more flavor and a light contrast in texture in the edges. Green onions brought what would have been a bland pancake into life, with their burst of flavor. If I was the chef, I would still add about 1.2 times more green onion, but this was plenty. Mandarin Noodle Deli has already added more green onion to their green onion pancakes compared to about three years ago, so I am a happy camper. This place is still my favorite choice for green onion pancakes. Earthen's version is also quite excellent, but is no comparison to this as their preparations are quite different from each other.

Beef Noodle Soup 1
(Sony W90, sunny bright day.)

Beef Noodle Soup 2
(Sony W90, sunset. Boring shot, but shows how big the bowl is! (Spoon is a big ladle spoon to pour soup)

Beef Noodle Soup 3
(Nikon D90, vivid, nighttime. Better, with the noodles not hidden away in soup)

Mandarin Noodle Deli's beef noodle soup has still remained the same after improving from three years ago. It is still a bit watered down in comparison to back in the day in Monterey Park, but still quite beefy with a nice spice which warms you just enough- definitely nowhere to sweating, if you like your beef noodle soup that way. There are plenty of tender chunks of beef that shred as you please, and the noodles are nicely tender with a nice pull. You can try their thick noodles if you want, but for me they are too thick and chewy. However, I could have asked them to cook the noodles longer and they might have been better- sometimes they cook the noodles for different amounts of time. Anyway, it is all about personal preferences. I never grew up eating thick noodles other then broad rice noodles or he fen/hoh fun, so of course, I am not used to it. Usually restaurants recommend the thick noodles, but since the owner knows we like the thin, she does not ask us what we would like to try.

And also, yes, you can get the beef noodle soup without green onions and cilantro. For me, they add a nice brightness to what is a very beefy and noodle intensive dish, but people also have the preference of not having green onions and cilantro. On the visit where I took the picture with the D90, there was a person who was screaming to the owner (as she was not cared for in 20 minutes as the owner was busy doing telephone orders, paying back customers, and taking other earlier customer orders (too much, you see!), "No green onion or cilantro! There must be none of it!" for about three times. It came to the table without, of course.

Da Lu Mian
(Nikon D90, rainy day)

Of course, we decided to branch out from the beef noodle soup and try some other noodle soups. To answer Wandering Chopstick's thought about the same soup base, well, there are certainly some other different soup bases on hand. One is featured in Mandarin Noodle Deli's "Da Lu Mian", which the owner recommended to us after asking about it. In this case, the noodle soup base was a light meat broth which was then made lightly thick with a cornstarch slurry. With the soup, there were plenty of vegetables, including blanched spinach, bamboo shoots, carrots, and mushrooms, as well as plenty of egg flowers. There were also thin slices of pork, and the standard noodles. I assume you could probably get the thick noodle as well. This was comforting and a nice change from the usual heavy flavors of the beef noodle soup. I would recommend this noodle soup if you are looking for a lighter bowl of hearty soup.

Rice Cake Soup
(Nikon D90, Vivid, Nighttime)

On another visit, we found out that the rice cake soup was also similar, but instead of noodles, it had cylinder tubes of rice cake. Simple meat broth with plenty of veggies. However, the rice cakes were unusual. They were not consistent; some had been cooking for a long time and thus were very tender and soft with barely any chew. However, most of them were ultra chewy still, to the point my teeth were almost hurting after finishing the meal, and could not soak up the flavors of the soup. This was interesting, but to suffer the chewing, I would rather order the stir fried rice cakes instead, which have thin oval shaped rice cakes instead. A bit more oil involved, but much more satisfying to eat. How long the rice cakes have been soaked/cooked for the day pretty much tells you how much you will be happy with the dish!

Stir Fried Rice Noodles 1
(Sony W90, sunny day)

Stir Fried Rice Noodle 2
(Nikon D90, rainy day (edited brightness/contrast/curves). Shaky hands= blurry noodles)
Stir Fried Rice Noodle 3
(Nikon D90, vivid, nighttime. Shaky hands=fuzzy photo)

So far these days, we have been ordering the stir fried rice noodles quite often. Why? Because they are a simple but tasty rice noodle dish. Plenty of pork strips (not doctored with cornstarch or baking soda to make it soft and tender), onions, bean sprouts, cabbage, and carrot in the dish, which are then seasoned with a slightly sweet soy sauce and broth mixture which I quite like. This mix of ingredients is also found in their stir fried rice cakes, FYI. As for the noodles, they were standard, being bouncy and light to eat. Not mushy, not hard- just right.

Potstickers
(I like last year's photo much more! (Sony W90)

As for their potstickers, they have not been ordered that often, but still offer a resilient and chewy skin with a flavorful seared bottom from cooking in the wok. Inside, the same fresh pork mixture, with little alterations but long marinading time, is still tasty but barely salty or savory to me. Guess it is just wine they use when they marinade the mixture? Not sure. I like mine with plenty of vinegar, and sometimes, a tad of soy sauce. Even better, the beef broth from the beef noodle soup. Yum.

Stir Fried A Choy
(Nikon D90, rainy day)

Of course, sometimes we just order vegetables as well. Just like this plate of A Choy, which was not altered or doctored up with lots of MSG. Instead, it was a simple stir fry of crisp A Choy, garlic/garlic powder, and salt. Easy! And definitely tasty. A Choy is kind of like cooked romaine lettuce but with more veggie flavor to me.

Stir Fried Cauliflower
(Nikon D90, Vivid, Nighttime)

On another day, we saw a nearby table order cauliflower, and thus we did too. But let me share you another a customer story of what they think all Chinese restaurants have. The person who was ordering this dish (non-Asian, but with an Asian wife and her family) was angry that he could not get his fortune cookies. He complained, "Why can't all these Chinese restaurants have fortune cookies?" His wife did not really help out or say anything of the authenticity of fortune cookies though. Smartly enough, Mandarin Noodle Deli had fortune cookies (I never knew that!), but he was angry until he could get his taste of fortune cookies for a day in a Chinese restaurant. We received no fortune cookies though after our dinner during the same night!

As for the cauliflower, the person who was angry about the fortune cookies ate this with plenty of (or to me, a TON as I rarely add lots of salt, oil, or sauces after the cooking as been done (exception: vinegar) of soy sauce. I ate them simply as is, as they were scented with a light garlic flavor which was very pleasing. The cauliflower were cooked to fork tender and were a great palate cleanser. Also, just good enough to eat by themselves. Vegetables are good! Per a waiter at another restaurant, "Vegetables are worth more than meat." I agree! (Hmm...maybe that explains the two vegetarian restaurant posts! :) )

So, as you can see, I am still quite happy with Mandarin Noodle Deli as a noodle place. But I am also quite accustomed to eating there. New noodle places just don't seem up to snuff! 101 Noodle Express and Liang Noodle House in Arcadia both did not satisfy me or my dining companions. And as you will see next week, nor did the new A&J. Yes, the owner is quite busy during full visits (e.g. Friday, Saturday nights), as only she can take the orders. But, the food is still our running favorite in noodle houses/dumpling restaurants. Delicious appetizers, good noodle soups, and tasty sides. What more could you want?

Mandarin Noodle Deli
9537 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City, CA 91780
Tel: 626-309-4318
*Cash only, closed on Mondays*


Mandarin Noodle Deli on Urbanspoon

Mandarin Noodle Deli in Los Angeles