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Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
[Official Photo]

16 Landmark Cantonese Restaurants to Savor in Los Angeles

Dim sum, claypot rice, barbecued meats, and so much more

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Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
| [Official Photo]

The San Gabriel Valley’s Chinese food explosion began in the 1980s and 1990s when Cantonese and Taiwanese immigrants settled in the area. In the following years, Cantonese cooking rose to prominence in LA and America. Characterized by roasting, boiling, steaming, stir-frying, and deep-frying techniques that incorporate fresh ingredients and ample seafood, Cantonese cooking is as diverse as it is delicious. Another hallmark of the genre is wok hei (wok breath), which is a distinct flavor imparted on dishes as the result of sugars and oils caramelizing in a blazing-hot wok.

In the past two decades, the Southland’s Cantonese restaurants have gradually been replaced by Sichuan, Shanghai, and northern Chinese establishments due to an increase in mainland Chinese immigration. But even with stiff competition, many Cantonese restaurants have been able to stand the test of time. Here now are 16 Cantonese restaurants to try in Los Angeles.

A number of LA restaurants have resumed dine-in service. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Los Angeles Public Health website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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May Mei

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May Mei is a solid Cantonese restaurant that has been a local favorite for 15 years. The daily chef specials and long list of Cantonese specialities makes it a neighborhood must. There are many renditions of popular tofu dishes on the menu, like fish and tofu in black bean sauce and  Cantonese-style soups that can take hours to make, like the crab meat fish maw soup. Seafood is a main draw here including the salt and pepper shrimp, black bean clams, and salty fish fried rice.

Joy’s Unique Restaurant

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Joy’s Unique opened in the middle of the pandemic to much fanfare due to its affordable lunch and dinner meals of traditional and Chinese-American dishes. The restaurant offers two-, three-, and five-course meals that include rice and soup. There are also all-day specials for individual-sized orders. Menu standouts include the French-style beef, beef chow fun, spicy and salted chicken wings, curry Dungeness crab, pan-fried tiger shrimp, and soy sauce pigeon.

Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
[Official Photo]

Tam's Noodle House

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Tam’s Noodle House opened during the pandemic selling only frozen Hong Kong-style wontons and dumplings. Now that on-site dining is allowed again, the restaurant serves Hong Kong- and Cantonese-style cafe foods like curry fish balls, barbecue pork, beef stew lo mien, steamed rice roll, and Hong Kong-style milk tea. All the noodles and dumplings  are made in-house. Tam’s offers three varieties of egg noodles including wonton-style egg noodles, rice noodles, and flat egg noodles. 

Cantonese egg noodles with beef and pigs feet at Tam’s Noodle House in San Gabriel.
Tam’s Noodle House
Cathy Chaplin

Ho Kee Cafe

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Ho Kee is known for its roast duck and array of Cantonese and Hong Kong comfort dishes, but the specialty is its see fong choi (private kitchen dishes). These specialty menu items, which can be on the pricier side, include abalone and sea cucumber, winter melon soup, steamed egg custard in crab shell, garlic steamed razor clams, and jumbo shrimp.

ACC Chinese Fast Food

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Hidden inside a nondescript parking lot is a small mom-and-pop that’s been around for decades. The affordable Cantonese barbecue meats are better tasting than the big name establishments in the area. In fact, ACC is a wholesaler to many popular San Gabriel Valley restaurants that cannot afford to have a barbecue master in-house. The restaurant serves both an Americanized and a traditional Chinese menu, along with daily specials like Hong Kong egg waffles, beef noodle soup, and even a handful of non-Cantonese dishes. The roast duck is a must-order and the roast pork is only available on the weekends and can be preordered. 

Nature Pagoda

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Nature Pagoda is a tiny mom-and-pop that has been around since the ’90s. The entire menu is based on traditional Chinese medicinal principles meant to balance the body for optimal health. The places serves traditional herbal teas and herbal medicinal soups, but the star dish is the claypot rice. A Hong Kong specialty, clay pot rice (bao zai fan) is a one-pot meal that is similar to Korean bibimbap. The bottom of the rice is crispy while the rest of the rice is moist and steamed with ingredients like mushroom and bamboo shoots, Chinese sausage and pork ribs, or salted fish with ground pork and tofu. All clay pot rice dishes are made to order so it may be a bit of a wait.

The Congee

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The Congee offers humongous portions of wontons, lo mein, fish balls, beef balls, and other Hong Kong-style dishes, but its namesake congee is the star. Congee, pronounced jook in Cantonese, is a porridge made from rice usually served for breakfast or at dim sum. It’s made by boiling rice in a lot of water for a long time. Classic flavors include chicken, abalone, pork, scallions, ginger, and thousand-year-old egg. A good bowl of jook should be silky-smooth, which the Congee does just right. 

Garden Cafe

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Garden Cafe is another Hong Kong-style cafe with a menu as big as the Cheesecake Factory’s. Diners can order everything from Indonesian fried rice to wonton noodles, Singaporean-style vermicelli, and even mediocre steak specials. Garden Cafe’s best kept secret is its weekly to-go set dinners. Both locations offer special dishes each week that are advertised on paper menus that can only be obtained at the restaurant. There is a new dish everyday of the week that may include a Chiu Chow-style or five-spice duck, braised short ribs with red sauce, or a Western-style dinner.  It’s important to note that both locations do not serve the same specials and the set dinner is only available for pick-up at 3 p.m.  

Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant

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Atlantic Seafood serves dim sum favorites like the egg white snow bun, pineapple preserved salted egg yolk bun, and even frozen dim sum to-go, but what it really excels at is traditional Cantonese dinner time dishes like clams, egg custard, satay beef noodles, barbecued meats, suckling pig, salt and pepper shrimp, and herbal soups.

Ruby BBQ

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Ruby BBQ is a cut above when it comes Cantonese-style barbecue. The roast pork’s crunchy exterior gives way to tender hunks of belly, while the roast duck’s crispy skin sheathes moist, gamey meat.

Tang Gong Seafood Restaurant

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Not many dim sum restaurants make dishes in-house these days — most serve frozen wares  reheated for service. But that’s not the case at Tang Gong, which is home to the best crispy baked barbecue buns. Another unique item is the purple yam salted egg yolk bun — the exterior tastes like a crispy, hot mochi ball while the inside oozes out steaming salty egg yolk. Other notable dishes include spicy fried garlic shrimp dumplings and crispy red rice noodle rolls. 

Alice's Kitchen

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A hallmark of a true Hong Kong-style cafe is a menu with enough variety to give the Cheesecake Factory a run for its money. The menu here, which varies at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has something for everyone. There is a wide array of standard classics like pork chop baked tomato rice, pineapple buns with pork cutlet, claypot rice, congee, noodles, and scallop fried rice. The grilled steak entrees are served with either rice or pasta and come with drinks. There are also an array of Chinese-American dishes like honey-glazed spare ribs and honey walnut shrimp. Alice’s Kitchen is operated by the family that opened the original Delicious Food Corner in Monterey Park.

Harlam's Kitchen

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Find Harlam’s Kitchen in Rosemead’s Square Plaza’s run-down food court. One of the reasons people still come to the plaza is solely for Har Lam’s Hong Kong-style comfort food: wonton noodle soup, chow fun, porridge, and rice noodles with beef brisket and tendon. The stall is so tiny that you can see the staff standing shoulder to shoulder, wrapping fresh dumplings and blanching noodles. The metal chairs in the food court haven’t been changed in decades, while the  food is served in styrofoam containers. Harlam’s must-order item is the zhaliang, a crispy Chinese fried donut wrapped inside a thin rice-noodle sheet and topped with sweet soy sauce, sesame seeds, and scallions. 

NBC Seafood Restaurant

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Come to NBC Seafood for dim sum or a family-style dinner. The best dim sum to order is the special “To To” ma lai go sponge cake, which is layered with salted duck yolk and made using a recipe from a famous Hong Kong chef and food personality (梁文韜). For those visiting NBC for dinner, the family-style Cantonese meals are a hit. The suckling pig and lobster meal for 10 people consists of a half order of suckling pig, five lobster dishes, as well as stir-fried noodles, roasted garlic chicken, and dessert. 

E&J Yummy Kitchen

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Cantonese cheung fun (steamed rice roll) is a common snack and dim sum must-order. Typically, the rolls are filled with shrimp, pork, beef, fish, or veggies and topped with a sweet soy sauce. The version at E&J Yummy has a bunched-up texture from the scraping motion used to make them. Diners can choose to add an egg topping to the steamed rice roll, which brings all the flavors together. Top it off with some chile sauce. 

RiceBox

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Rice Box is the first hip and modern Cantonese restaurant in Los Angeles that really hits the mark. Diners can create custom rice boxes, choosing from the signature char siu (barbecued pork), black soy-poached chicken, crispy seven spice pork belly, or a vegan special. Chef and co-owner Leo Lee uses only organic produce, as well as ethically-sourced, sustainable, and hormone-free meat. The signature char siu barbecued pork uses Duroc pork and is marinated in a family recipe that’s been passed down for more than three decades. The triple-roasted porchetta is marinated overnight, cured, and roasted for three hours in the oven and then smoked.

Chef Lee’s rendition of the traditional Chinese celebratory dish beggar’s chicken is only available a few times a year and sells out quickly. Beaneath the proofed almond milk bao dough, beautifully decorated with Chinese characters for rice and box, is a deboned and brined whole chicken stuffed and steamed with abalone and shitake mushrooms, steamed rice, ginkgo nuts, and marinated egg stuffing wrapped in lotus leaves. 

Dishes from Rice Box in Downtown LA.
Rice Box
Rice Box [Official Photo]

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May Mei

May Mei is a solid Cantonese restaurant that has been a local favorite for 15 years. The daily chef specials and long list of Cantonese specialities makes it a neighborhood must. There are many renditions of popular tofu dishes on the menu, like fish and tofu in black bean sauce and  Cantonese-style soups that can take hours to make, like the crab meat fish maw soup. Seafood is a main draw here including the salt and pepper shrimp, black bean clams, and salty fish fried rice.

Joy’s Unique Restaurant

Joy’s Unique opened in the middle of the pandemic to much fanfare due to its affordable lunch and dinner meals of traditional and Chinese-American dishes. The restaurant offers two-, three-, and five-course meals that include rice and soup. There are also all-day specials for individual-sized orders. Menu standouts include the French-style beef, beef chow fun, spicy and salted chicken wings, curry Dungeness crab, pan-fried tiger shrimp, and soy sauce pigeon.

Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
Soy sauce pigeon at Joy’s Unique Restaurant in Temple City.
[Official Photo]

Tam's Noodle House

Tam’s Noodle House opened during the pandemic selling only frozen Hong Kong-style wontons and dumplings. Now that on-site dining is allowed again, the restaurant serves Hong Kong- and Cantonese-style cafe foods like curry fish balls, barbecue pork, beef stew lo mien, steamed rice roll, and Hong Kong-style milk tea. All the noodles and dumplings  are made in-house. Tam’s offers three varieties of egg noodles including wonton-style egg noodles, rice noodles, and flat egg noodles. 

Cantonese egg noodles with beef and pigs feet at Tam’s Noodle House in San Gabriel.
Tam’s Noodle House
Cathy Chaplin

Ho Kee Cafe

Ho Kee is known for its roast duck and array of Cantonese and Hong Kong comfort dishes, but the specialty is its see fong choi (private kitchen dishes). These specialty menu items, which can be on the pricier side, include abalone and sea cucumber, winter melon soup, steamed egg custard in crab shell, garlic steamed razor clams, and jumbo shrimp.

ACC Chinese Fast Food

Hidden inside a nondescript parking lot is a small mom-and-pop that’s been around for decades. The affordable Cantonese barbecue meats are better tasting than the big name establishments in the area. In fact, ACC is a wholesaler to many popular San Gabriel Valley restaurants that cannot afford to have a barbecue master in-house. The restaurant serves both an Americanized and a traditional Chinese menu, along with daily specials like Hong Kong egg waffles, beef noodle soup, and even a handful of non-Cantonese dishes. The roast duck is a must-order and the roast pork is only available on the weekends and can be preordered. 

Nature Pagoda

Nature Pagoda is a tiny mom-and-pop that has been around since the ’90s. The entire menu is based on traditional Chinese medicinal principles meant to balance the body for optimal health. The places serves traditional herbal teas and herbal medicinal soups, but the star dish is the claypot rice. A Hong Kong specialty, clay pot rice (bao zai fan) is a one-pot meal that is similar to Korean bibimbap. The bottom of the rice is crispy while the rest of the rice is moist and steamed with ingredients like mushroom and bamboo shoots, Chinese sausage and pork ribs, or salted fish with ground pork and tofu. All clay pot rice dishes are made to order so it may be a bit of a wait.

The Congee

The Congee offers humongous portions of wontons, lo mein, fish balls, beef balls, and other Hong Kong-style dishes, but its namesake congee is the star. Congee, pronounced jook in Cantonese, is a porridge made from rice usually served for breakfast or at dim sum. It’s made by boiling rice in a lot of water for a long time. Classic flavors include chicken, abalone, pork, scallions, ginger, and thousand-year-old egg. A good bowl of jook should be silky-smooth, which the Congee does just right. 

Garden Cafe

Garden Cafe is another Hong Kong-style cafe with a menu as big as the Cheesecake Factory’s. Diners can order everything from Indonesian fried rice to wonton noodles, Singaporean-style vermicelli, and even mediocre steak specials. Garden Cafe’s best kept secret is its weekly to-go set dinners. Both locations offer special dishes each week that are advertised on paper menus that can only be obtained at the restaurant. There is a new dish everyday of the week that may include a Chiu Chow-style or five-spice duck, braised short ribs with red sauce, or a Western-style dinner.  It’s important to note that both locations do not serve the same specials and the set dinner is only available for pick-up at 3 p.m.  

Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant

Atlantic Seafood serves dim sum favorites like the egg white snow bun, pineapple preserved salted egg yolk bun, and even frozen dim sum to-go, but what it really excels at is traditional Cantonese dinner time dishes like clams, egg custard, satay beef noodles, barbecued meats, suckling pig, salt and pepper shrimp, and herbal soups.

Ruby BBQ

Ruby BBQ is a cut above when it comes Cantonese-style barbecue. The roast pork’s crunchy exterior gives way to tender hunks of belly, while the roast duck’s crispy skin sheathes moist, gamey meat.

Tang Gong Seafood Restaurant

Not many dim sum restaurants make dishes in-house these days — most serve frozen wares  reheated for service. But that’s not the case at Tang Gong, which is home to the best crispy baked barbecue buns. Another unique item is the purple yam salted egg yolk bun — the exterior tastes like a crispy, hot mochi ball while the inside oozes out steaming salty egg yolk. Other notable dishes include spicy fried garlic shrimp dumplings and crispy red rice noodle rolls. 

Alice's Kitchen

A hallmark of a true Hong Kong-style cafe is a menu with enough variety to give the Cheesecake Factory a run for its money. The menu here, which varies at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has something for everyone. There is a wide array of standard classics like pork chop baked tomato rice, pineapple buns with pork cutlet, claypot rice, congee, noodles, and scallop fried rice. The grilled steak entrees are served with either rice or pasta and come with drinks. There are also an array of Chinese-American dishes like honey-glazed spare ribs and honey walnut shrimp. Alice’s Kitchen is operated by the family that opened the original Delicious Food Corner in Monterey Park.

Harlam's Kitchen

Find Harlam’s Kitchen in Rosemead’s Square Plaza’s run-down food court. One of the reasons people still come to the plaza is solely for Har Lam’s Hong Kong-style comfort food: wonton noodle soup, chow fun, porridge, and rice noodles with beef brisket and tendon. The stall is so tiny that you can see the staff standing shoulder to shoulder, wrapping fresh dumplings and blanching noodles. The metal chairs in the food court haven’t been changed in decades, while the  food is served in styrofoam containers. Harlam’s must-order item is the zhaliang, a crispy Chinese fried donut wrapped inside a thin rice-noodle sheet and topped with sweet soy sauce, sesame seeds, and scallions. 

NBC Seafood Restaurant

Come to NBC Seafood for dim sum or a family-style dinner. The best dim sum to order is the special “To To” ma lai go sponge cake, which is layered with salted duck yolk and made using a recipe from a famous Hong Kong chef and food personality (梁文韜). For those visiting NBC for dinner, the family-style Cantonese meals are a hit. The suckling pig and lobster meal for 10 people consists of a half order of suckling pig, five lobster dishes, as well as stir-fried noodles, roasted garlic chicken, and dessert. 

E&J Yummy Kitchen

Cantonese cheung fun (steamed rice roll) is a common snack and dim sum must-order. Typically, the rolls are filled with shrimp, pork, beef, fish, or veggies and topped with a sweet soy sauce. The version at E&J Yummy has a bunched-up texture from the scraping motion used to make them. Diners can choose to add an egg topping to the steamed rice roll, which brings all the flavors together. Top it off with some chile sauce. 

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RiceBox

Rice Box is the first hip and modern Cantonese restaurant in Los Angeles that really hits the mark. Diners can create custom rice boxes, choosing from the signature char siu (barbecued pork), black soy-poached chicken, crispy seven spice pork belly, or a vegan special. Chef and co-owner Leo Lee uses only organic produce, as well as ethically-sourced, sustainable, and hormone-free meat. The signature char siu barbecued pork uses Duroc pork and is marinated in a family recipe that’s been passed down for more than three decades. The triple-roasted porchetta is marinated overnight, cured, and roasted for three hours in the oven and then smoked.

Chef Lee’s rendition of the traditional Chinese celebratory dish beggar’s chicken is only available a few times a year and sells out quickly. Beaneath the proofed almond milk bao dough, beautifully decorated with Chinese characters for rice and box, is a deboned and brined whole chicken stuffed and steamed with abalone and shitake mushrooms, steamed rice, ginkgo nuts, and marinated egg stuffing wrapped in lotus leaves. 

Dishes from Rice Box in Downtown LA.
Rice Box
Rice Box [Official Photo]

Related Maps