Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine - Monterey Park (Closed)

Since we were meeting up to swap apple butter for chili sauce, Susan of Open Mouth, Insert Fork asked if I wanted to try a Chinese restaurant that someone had recommended to her.

Even with the address in hand, the restaurant is located so far inside the strip mall that it took a few turns before I could find it. We went at night so I had to take a photo of the outside during the day time so others would have an inkling of where to find it. Look for the driveway between the hair salon and post box businesses.

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Then drive all the way to the back where you'll find Bon Marche Bistro aka B Village Cuisine. The waitress insisted the restaurant was simply called "B," named after the owner/chef. The menu simply has a "B." Signage declares it Bon Marche Bistro and B Village Cuisine. So I'm just calling it by all names in case there's any confusion.

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Susan said the woman who recommended the restaurant to her said the duck was the best she'd ever tasted. So we ordered the "Tasted" half duck for $12.90, which came in a metal-lined wooden tub of $5.90 for two people. The duck was incredibly flavorful and tender.

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Underneath the duck were meatballs, daikon, tofu, and other vegetables.

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I was curious about this dish and a bit of Googling on Hong Kong village cuisine turned up information on Wikipedia about poon choi, a Hakka-influenced dish meaning "basin-vegetable" in which layers of various meats and vegetables were cooked in a big tub. The dish originated when Mongol troops invaded China during the Song Dynasty. The emperor fled to Guangdong and Hong Kong. To feed the emperor and his troops, the locals gathered what they had and cooked it in a huge tub. I've only eaten Hong Kong cafe food so curious about Hong Kong village cuisine, I mentioned the restaurant to my brother, who asked his in-laws. My brother's father-in-law said village cuisine referred to the New Territories and that the poon choi literally were served in laundry tubs.

Since this was in November, shortly after the restaurant had opened, Susan and I were given complimentary purple sticky and wheat rice sweet porridge for dessert. Normal price is $2.50.

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I don't think she was nearly as enamored with the food or the restaurant as I was. I was struck by the specials posted all over the walls. That the restaurant was touting village cuisine stuff ie. peasant fare was simply fascinating to me. As was a customer who stopped by to pick up a large order to go and just had to tell us how excited he was to find a restaurant serving the food in which he grew up. The menu also says if we'd like something off-menu to simply ask and the chef will try his best to make it for us. Also, when we had first walked in, the flames coming out of the wok were at least several feet high. I was impressed and wanted to go back so I could order something that would require that wok.

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The poon choi dishes are definitely one of the restaurant's most popular. Just look at all those tubs.

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On a later visit with my brother and his wife, we ordered the pork with taro root for $6.90 on a poon choi base of $5.90. Larger poon choi basins would obviously cost more.

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Since the Hakkas invented red-cooked dishes, the pork was incredibly tender and flavorful, thereby making the taro flavorful as well. There were also layers of other meats and vegetables. Poon chois aren't meant to be stirred up, just eat each layer as you get to it.

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There were also several dishes with unusual names that I just had to try like the pan-fried "York Heck" beef with onion, $9.90. What the heck was "York Heck"? The beef was actually a little dry and seasonings tasted almost cheesy-strong. I know! Weird description, but that's what it tasted like to me. Not one of my favorites.

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The "York Heck" dish came with watercress soup.

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We also ordered the beef steak fried rice with sliced apples, $8.90. At first the dish came out sans apples, which confused us so we thought maybe apples was a euphemism for something else. But no, the chef just forgot to add the apples. The waitress took our plate back and after a few minutes, brought it out again with apples.

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I know it sounds weird but the char on the apples and beef totally worked. Really a great and unusual fried rice dish. Plus, I knew it'd be good since this dish required that wok and those super high flames the chef could achieve with it.

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After my brother mentioned the restaurant to his father-in-law, his father-in-law came back several times in one week. That good huh? Well, apparently my brother's father-in-law really loves the spare ribs with ground pork rice in clay pot for $6.90. So on another visit with my brother, that's what we ordered. I haven't had a good clay pot rice dish since Macau Street closed. The rice was actually cooked, not just placed, in the clay pot so that it developed a nice crunchy crust. The spare ribs were perfectly tender and flavorful as well.

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Is it any wonder this is lil' sis' favorite spare ribs clay pot rice?

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We also ordered one of the specials on the wall, filet mignon chow fun for $9.90. Instead of the usual chow fun noodles, the dish used cheong fun noodles. Not that I'm complaining because the noodles were fresh and the filet mignon was so tender.

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My brother's father-in-law chatted with the owner and found out that he used to cook for several cruise ships. Ah! That explains the cruise ship pictures on the wall. After traveling so much, when he decided to open his own restaurant, he wanted to cook comfort food. Adding the statement on the menu that he'll try to cook any customer's request was his way of offering comfort food to his customers as well, even if their comfort food is different from his own.

The menu also listed "Sak Kong" military camp cuisine with "Sak Kong" fried rice and Marchicken. Anyone know what that even means? And some dishes need better translations since pork oil and belly noodles with soup is literally what it says in Chinese, said my brother's wife. The dish may very well be really good, but somehow ordering pork oil and belly noodles doesn't sound very appealing.

Definitely order braised dishes since Hakka cuisine is known for that and anything that requires the chef to use his wok will turn up good results. I can't think of any other Hong Kong restaurant that even remotely offers what Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine does. It's truly village cuisine/peasant fare/comfort food.

The restaurant also had a variety of dim sum dishes on the menu, which you can read in my Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine dim sum post.

February 4, 2012 update:
Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine is now closed. :(

Other Hong Kong restaurants:
Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie - Alhambra
Garden Cafe - Alhambra
Sika's - Alhambra (Closed)
Sunday Bistro - Alhambra
Won Ton Time - Alhambra (Closed)

Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine
331 W Garvey Ave., Ste. D
Monterey Park, CA 91754
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

1 year ago today, Vote for me! Vote for ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced milk coffee).
2 years ago today, I simplified ie. lazified Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe even further so my hands wouldn't get sticky.


  1. I should take my dad. He loves anything in a clay pot!

  2. Sounds fantastic! I remember seeing poon choi before but can not remember when I had it last time. Looks like a great deal for the price.

    The claypot rice also looks great too. Don't see many good claypot rice dishes around the SGV. Most restaurants cook them electronically, which always makes the crust very thin and not flavorful at all. It never burns, but the rice is just not comparable to pot rice where the chef controls the cooking, not the machine. And at this restaurant the cost is even cheaper than my favorite claypot rice at May Mei. Really need to try out this place someday soon now.

  3. Hi WC ... long time no chat (I have been reading only lately) ... this restaurant looks like something I would love to go and visit on my return visit to L.A. next year!!!

    Can't wait to try it!!

  4. WeeMo,
    It's a nice hidden find for homey cuisine.

    Do! It's lil' sis's favorite claypot spare rib rice.

    Tigger Mum,
    Are you compiling a list of places to hit up next time you're in town?


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