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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Garden Cafe - Alhambra

OK, one last post discussing Hainanese chicken rice, a few loose-end posts, and then we'll move on to the roasted catfish recipe I teased way back when. Unless you want me to veer off on this tangent? But no one was interested when I first mentioned him...

My friend, HH, was in town earlier this month and staying with me for a few days. His flight came in late at night. After traveling around the country for several weeks, he was also sick. For late night eating and some wonton soup, there's nothing like a Hong Kong-style cafe. I decided on Garden Cafe in Alhambra since it was open until 4 a.m.

A decade ago when I first moved to SoCal, and way before I started food-blogging, I used to go to Garden Cafe pretty regularly. One of my second-cousins had taken me here and the varied menu made it an easy default restaurant option when we couldn't decide where to eat.

Then Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie opened and that became, and still is, my preferred Hong Kong cafe. But as I've already blogged about Baccali, Garden Cafe, I decided to take him to Garden Cafe that night. They either redid their menu, or I never noticed before, but it's now rather Cheesecake Factory-like with lots of ads and pictures interspersed. And the picture for the Hainanese chicken rice for $6.50 looked pretty good. As you can see, the rice had color, indicating that it had been cooked in chicken broth and had some flavor. The chicken was firm and juicy. I didn't care for either of the dipping sauces, but the chicken and rice wasn't half-bad. Not as good as homemade, mind you, but much tastier than Savoy Kitchen's.

Garden Cafe 1

We also ordered a bowl of shrimp wonton soup for $4.95. Hong Kong-style shrimp wontons are on the large side, packed full of shrimp. My friend ate the whole bowl.

Garden Cafe 2

I also got my standard order of Hong Kong-style hot milk tea, black tea with condensed milk for $1.95. Free refills too!

Garden Cafe 3

As you can see, I love Hong Kong-style milk tea. This picture was during lunch back in October with UnHipLA. If you dine here for lunch, the drinks are $1.25 with your order and you also get a free soup. It's usually a Hong Kong-style Tomato Borscht.

Garden Cafe 4

UnHipLA ordered a fresh fruit, mango, and ham salad for $4.95. Yes, ham. On fruit. The odd combo is actually rather expected since Hong Kong cuisine is a fusion of British and Chinese influences.

Garden Cafe 5

I ordered grilled filet mignon cubes and pork chop with rice and veggies for $7.95. Can't beat two large pieces of meat at that price.

Garden Cafe 6

I think Baccali does all these dishes just a tad better, but Garden Cafe is still pretty good as far as Hong Kong cafes go. I recommend their other sizzling meat platters, or sizzling udon and any of their noodle stir-fries. Their rice porridges are very smooth and cooked until the rice is almost obliterated. For another odd fusion combo that works, try the Hong Kong Macaroni Soup with Spam and two eggs. They also have breakfast specials that include entree, toast, bacon or sausage or eggs, and coffee or tea starting at $4.95.

Other Hong Kong-style cafes:
Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie - Alhambra
Sika's - Alhambra (Closed)
Sunday Bistro - Alhambra

Garden Cafe (Several locations)
228 W. Valley Blvd., #101
Alhambra, CA 91801 626-289-1833
Open 7 a.m. to 4 a.m.

1 year ago today, how I learned to cook and my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother)'s death anniversary dinner.


  1. I think I'd like to put this place on my list for the next time I'm out in LA. I love hot milk tea too. I sometimes order with boba.

    I swear, I need a couple of months to get through all the places I've marked from your blog AND another couple of months to make all my favorite recipes from here too :)

  2. U are into Hainanese Chicken of late? Hehehe. The wantan soup noodle looks good.

  3. Christine,
    But you're from SoCal, I figured you've already been to a lot of these places. :)

    Sometimes it's easier to blog in themes. :)

  4. You are killing me with the Hainanese chicken posts.

    I guess if you're going to hold back on your family's recipe (fair enough too, I say) I might have to muddle through it, or wait for a trip to London when I will prowl Chinatown for what looks like a decent place to eat this.

  5. I think they changed their menu to match the modern decor. Or maybe they changed owners???- probably not so. Typically I go to the Garden Cafe Arcadia location which is pretty much good. Their breakfast is very good- porridge has some specks of dried scallop and like you said, it is very soft. Noodles are good too. But somehow the porkchop and egg dishes were somewhat oily.
    Did you hear about Garden having a side project of frozen yogurt? There is one in Arcadia and it's 35 cents per ounce for now.
    As always, great photos and writing!

  6. Oanh,
    Ha! The VNese food sucks in London. Good luck finding decent Hainanese chicken rice. ;)

    Yeah, I think the menu upgrade was to go along with the redecoration. I didn't know about the fro-yo, I'll have to keep an eye out if I ever go to the Arcadia location.

  7. I just went there yesterday...and contradicting to the LA health Department, they have a B! Not a C.
    Breakfast was good: I had a chicken plus two eggs, toast, and mushrooms. It was good, but again oily. Chicken also had a lot of flavor+crispy crust, but the meat seemed like it was tenderized with something. It was so soft and tender!
    Also, we had the porridge, which was plain, but good. Rice was not too evident- small pieces.
    Noodles are very good, like you said in your review. They basically are the same at lunch, but less selection and smaller plates.
    On the note of fro-yo, it's (the shop) not open in the morning. But I haven't checked during the noon time- so it might be open at that time.

  8. WSL98787,
    Their breakfasts are such a bargain. Half the price is what I usually pay for the HK milk tea alone.


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