Welcome to Meanwhile in the SGV, a regular report for San Gabriel Valley’s prolific and ever-changing restaurant scene. Reporting for the first time on Eater, roving reporter Jim Thurman finds all the latest highlights from America’s vibrant epicenter of Asian cuisine.
This month, a long-time breakfast spot closes abruptly, a pho spot rises from the ashes, three more chains arrive, another change for the former Bahooka and more options for Burmese food.
Monterey Park: Har Lam Kee was shut down by county health inspectors on February 2nd. These sort of closures usually only last a few days, but that doesn’t explain the for rent sign in the window. Dating back to the late 90s, the restaurant was a popular Cantonese breakfast spot known especially for their congee. It closed three years ago to the day, only to re-open months later following a re-model. 168B E. Garvey Ave.
El Monte: Displaced when Monterey Park’s Jade Plaza burned down this past December 15, Pho Ly Thuong Kiet has resurfaced in a strip mall about seven miles to the east. Now known as Pho LTK, the menu remains as before, offering a variety of types of pho, bun bo hue, bun rieu and other Vietnamese dishes. 10512 Lower Azusa Rd.
Rosemead: The tiki bar Bahooka was a SGV institution until its 2013 closure. Minus the tiki décor and with a pan-Chinese menu, Moonlight Bar & Grill took over in 2015. The space has now become Cinnabar Restaurant & Bar, featuring another pan-Chinese menu. Among the broad menu are some Hunan-style items (fish head, beer flavored chili frog, eggplant with thousand year egg) and some of the seemingly mandatory Sichuan favorites. Beer and soju are available for now, but a full liquor license might be in the works for the famed bar. 4501 Rosemead Blvd.
El Monte: Cetana Mon Myanmar opened three weeks ago, becoming the first Burmese restaurant in El Monte. The menu is typical of Burmese places, which means a smallish number of items (around two dozen), with tea leaf salad, coconut chicken noodles and mohinga among them, though Burmese-style chickpea tofu is conspicuous by its absence. Oddly, the Malaysian staple char kway teow carries over from the previous tenant, Little Malaysia. The loss of Little Malaysia leaves chain PappaRich as the only dedicated Malaysian restaurant in the western SGV. 3944 Peck Rd.
Rosemead: Located doors away from the Chengdu Taste in Lucky Plaza, Ah May Myanmar becomes the sixth Burmese restaurant in the SGV. In addition to a nice décor, Ah May has a larger menu than most Burmese places. This means, along with Burmese staples like mohinga, tea leaf salad and coconut chicken noodles, Ah May has goat with potato curry and kodangal salad (pennywort) among a good selection of other Burmese salads, curries and appetizers. It replaces a hot pot place, Melting Pot. 8526 Valley Blvd.
Rowland Heights: Continuing the trend of Koreatown restaurants opening SGV branches, Mister Bossam has opened in Yes Plaza. A specialist in Korean pork belly (bossam), it replaces modern Italian restaurant Buccumi. Prior to Buccumi, it was home to the wonderfully named Tomato R+D. 18162 Colima Rd.
Temple City: Chains, chains, everywhere a chain. Three more hit since our last update. In addition to the opening of Chengdu Impression, Simmer Huang opened in Camellia Square. With outlets in Australia and Canada, the concept here is hot pot, available either multi or single item. Along with your usual choices, a unique option is butterfish. 5728 Rosemead Blvd.
Monterey Park: Ju Fu Lai Seafood has taken over the space at the back of Garfield Plaza (on the Dean Sin World side). Despite the name, there are plenty of non-seafood items on the menu, which does include seafood as well. The most intriguing item is “Smashed Fish.” The space was most recently occupied by Na Na Ma and has turned over rapidly since Giang Nan closed in 2014. 306 N. Garfield Ave., #A-12
Rowland Heights: Forgive us for overlooking the December opening of Taiwanese snack/tea house Even Life. It replaced Rockstar Noodle Bar, but left their signage up, causing some to miss the change. Even Life features its own signature teas and milk teas and serves an item called Jewelry Box, the first time we’ve seen coffin bread since Pa Pa Walk shuttered. 17550 Colima Rd., Suite C
Temple City: A few doors down in Camellia Square, the first L.A. county location of Taiwanese chain Sunmerry Bakery has opened. The similarities to 85°C Bakery-Café are hard to overlook. Sunmerry is known for their salted cheese foam coffees and teas, freshly squeezed lemon teas and their frozen taro milk cake. They join chains 85°C, Duke and Bake Code among a field of locals in the crowded SGV bakery scene. 5728 Rosemead Blvd.