Well, there are several characteristics. They usually serve a somewhat pan-Asian/pan-Chinese menu, concentrating heavily on Cantonese/Hong Kong cuisine. That means about two dozen kinds each of chow fun, chow mein, porridge, and fried rice from various regions of China or Singapore and Malaysia. There's usually some sizzling udon and ramen thrown into the mix too.
The Hong Kong part is British-influenced. For example, you can get hot tea with milk, but Hong Kong-style, which is with condensed milk. Most places will have an afternoon tea special (usually from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) that features a drink and sandwiches or snacks for about $5.
What makes them really popular though is that they're almost always open late at night. Most will stay open until 1 a.m. or so, but Sika's in Alhambra is open 24 hours. Back when Sika's used to be DJ Cafe, and before that when it was OK Cafe (I know! I liked this name best.), it was a frequent haunt for late night shrimp wonton noodle soups and deep-fried chicken wings after a night of clubbing.
Recently when cousin T and her husband flew in from Oregon near midnight, and my Norwegian cousin and her friend were waking up from a jet-lagged nap, I thought I'd revisit Sika's. But first, photos from a previous dining out with lil' sis. As we ordered only two dishes on that occasion, I had this sitting in my queue for months. Also, it was a good opportunity to film a little video of something SimCooks had requested a while back as well. But more on that at the end. So back when the restaurant had changed its name yet again, and they basically kept their staff and menu, lil' sis and I had made a visit. She ordered her usual honey lemon drink for $1.90.
I got a Hong Kong hot milk tea with condensed milk for $1.90. Free refills!
This sometimes happens at these places, but not always so don't expect it, but on this night we got free soup. It was a corn cream.
We decided to be adventurous and ordered Fu Zhou fried rice for $6.95. (We normally get Fried Rice Yang Chow-Style which is the Chinese barbequed pork kind.) We were a little surprised by the sauce topping of gai lan (Chinese broccoli slices), mushrooms, scallops (dried and fresh), and shrimp on a bed of yellow rice. But oh man! It was sooooo good. The shredded dried scallops added a nice brininess to the dish.
The other new-to-us item was the $6.95 Portuguese baked pork chop. Comes with a rice or pasta option. The pork chop was in a curry sauce with some bell peppers, onions, and potatoes on top. This was really good as well.
Patting ourselves on the back for venturing away from our usual deep-fried chicken wings and beef chow fun that we usually order at Hong Kong cafes, we finished off the meal with a free shredded bean curd skin dessert soup. Looks like egg drop soup huh? It tasted similar to the sweet tofu dessert you get at dim sum restaurants, but in soup form. And again, always a nice surprise when a freebie comes to the table.
So back to the other night when my cousins were flying in from various points, what usually happens in my family when one of the cousins comes into town is we all start figuring out when, where, and who will meet up to eat. Yes, we rarely socialize in any other way except eating. I think on this night, it was just 7 of us. No free soup or dessert soup this night. One of my cousins ordered the Spanish coffee for $3. Comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Several of my cousins had already eaten so they just got dessert. (Really, the point of our dining out isn't so much to eat as it is to catch up with each other.) The mango ice cream was $2.29. Funny thing. I handed my camera over to my cousin's husband so he could take the photo for my blog, but he just wasn't doing it right (too far away, weird angle). So he finally handed the bowl over for me to photograph so he could eat it. You know, my cousins all complain about waiting for me to take a picture before they can eat it, but they all read my blog. It's a Catch-22 guys!
I almost always order a beef chow fun with dry soy sauce at a Hong Kong cafe. This night was no different. $6.79. This was a little lackluster this night. Can't put my finger on it, and memory escapes me as to why. I much prefer the version at Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie.
The shrimp wonton noodle soup for $4.59 easily feeds 2-3 people. Not as many shrimp and not as big of wontons as I remember from before the name change. Hmm. Was my memory that bad, or has the chef changed when the restaurant's name changed? Don't get me wrong, it was still tasty, I just remembered it as better.
The deep-fried squid with spicy salt for $7.99 wasn't as light and crunchy as I remembered either.
Deep-fried chicken wings for $6.29. These were good with their crispy outside and juicy inside, but some pieces were bigger than others. I like the almost-all big pieces of wings from Phoenix Food Boutique.
And finally, my cousin's crepes with mango ice cream for $4.29 came out. She had a hard time cutting the crepes with her fork, and said they didn't taste too fresh. Which is kind of funny since they came out last, there was certainly enough time to make them fresh. But with 3 maraschino cherry stems available, we had something to work with here!
So recalling my conversation with SimCooks, who wondered if her tongue skills with spitting out bones when eating fish helped with French-kissing. I had said my cousin T can tie a maraschino cherry stem into a knot with only her tongue. See the knot?
Don't believe me? Well, I videotaped it just for you.
December 14, 2008 Update:
Sika's is now closed. A new restaurant called Face Cafe is opening in its spot.
Other Hong Kong cafes:
Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie - Alhambra
Garden Cafe - Alhambra
Sunday Bistro - Alhambra
301 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Hmm. The take-out menu lists the hours as 7 a.m. to 4 a.m., but the neon sign at the restaurant proclaims "Open 24 Hours."