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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park

If we're going to talk about Chinese and Vietnamese food prepared by Chinese-Cambodians in the San Gabriel Valley, cousin Q's older brother's friend recommended Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park. Though the restaurant specializes in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, because it's owned by Chinese-Cambodians, my cousin's friend says he can order Cambodian dishes off-menu. So I added it to my mental "to-eat" list for the next time he was in town.

But my cousin's friend hasn't been back in town in months and my cousin's cousin invited me out to dinner at Kim Tar. So of course I went. I called my cousin's friend to get recommendations for the Cambodian off-menu items, but he didn't call me back until after we had already ordered. So next time perhaps?

Of course, no seafood restaurant is complete without live fish tanks. Notice in the bottom right corner? They were filling jars and jars of fresh jalapenos for the tables.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 1

We went in the late afternoon, around 4 p.m. so there were only a few other diners. They offered us the lunch menu which had some good deals, but my cousin's cousin wanted to order a special squid dish that her kids liked. Unfortunately, the dinner chef hadn't started yet. Seems obvious but just so you know, there is a different chef for lunch and for dinner, with different specialties.

My cousin's cousin ordered the 4-course $48.95 family meal that included sauteed clams, fried shrimp, deep-fried fish, and sour fish soup.

Ngheu hoac chem chep xao la que (Vietnamese clams or mussels sauteed with basil sauce). Yummy. The clams were nice and large and the basil sauce was a nice contrast. So far, definitely way better in appearance and taste than Battambang.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 2

Ca hap hoac ca chien chua cay (Vietnamese steamed or fried fish with sour spicy sauce). The flounder was huge, lightly battered, and fried to a hard crisp.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 3

After it reached our table, the waiter poured the spicy sour cilantro green onion sauce on top.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 4

A close-up of the gorgeous frying. The sauce was so good, just slightly sour but not too much. Not really that spicy but there were plenty of chili peppers at the table to remedy that.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 5

Tom Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Shrimp Fried with Salt). This is a fairly common item. Large shrimp. Nicely fried.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 6

Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup). You can order it Vietnamese or Thai style. Lots and lots of bac ha (Vietnamese taro stem). Large filets of catfish, tomatoes, and pineapples in the soup. This came out in a really huge pot with a gel burner underneath to keep it bubbling. There was so much food that my cousin's cousin called her husband to come help us eat. :P

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 7

Muc rang muoi (Vietnamese deep-fried squid with salt). A tad too salty, but nicely crispy. This dish was ordered in addition to the family meal. The kids wanted the dinner squid special, but as I said, the lunch chef was different and didn't know how to make it. I tried asking my cousin's cousin but she couldn't quite describe how it was prepared. She said they just order "squid" during dinner time and always got the other squid dish.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 8

Complimentary dessert of green tea and tapioca pudding.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 9

Overall, I thought the seafood was very fresh and I loved the deep-fried flounder with that sour spicy sauce. I would go back just for the flounder alone.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant
964 E. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755

Other Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants owned by Chinese-Cambodians:
Battambang Seafood Restaurant - San Gabriel

1 year ago today, mochi ice cream at Mikawaya - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo).


  1. d'oh! I never knew chem chep and mussels are the same. What is the main difference between Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup and Thai Sour Fish Soup? (I'm drooling all over the keyboard looking at the picture of Tom Rang Muoi. By the way, not sure if you got my email, is banh trang still ok as my item of choice? :D

  2. I definitely want to try this place. I love any dish that combines sour and spicy.

  3. Oh, once again, I wish there'd be a place like this where I live. Sometimes I crave homestyle dishes so much, it's crazy!

    The salt and pepper shrimp look awesome. I know it's a common dish, but when it's done right, it's so good. And, I can't believe it cost less than $50 for everything. How do they make a profit?

  4. Oh I love Kim Tar...I grew up on their food when there was one in Anaheim...went downhill real fast after a few years, but when it was good, it was good.

  5. Hedgehog,
    I didn't order the Thai-style so I don't know. Did you try my tom rang muoi recipe? I think it's pretty good. And yes, email me your address.

    It wasn't terribly spicy, but just the right amount of sour for me.

    All the Chinese restaurants around here are about this price. :) You can try my tom rang muoi recipe if you like. I think it's pretty good.

    I couldn't figure out if Kim Tar was a chain or if there were just similar names. I liked this location though.

  6. I believe Kim Tar is a small chain around the L.A. area. Not sure though, but the food at the locations I've gone to seemed to be the same types. I wasn't aware that there was off-menu dishes there, hmmm. For breakfast, I love getting that huge dumpling thing with the long crispy fried... thing... I don't remember the names.. The fried flounder is amazing, I have to agree.

  7. Tiiiiinaaaaah,
    I haven't been to any of the other Kim Tars so I didn't know for sure if it was a chain or not. As for off-menu, it may only be my friend who can order that stuff. ;)

  8. i went today and i found hair in my shrimp walnut! ew!!!!

    i told them about it and i ordered french beef instead. that came out with no hair and overcooked i think.

    then i didnt feel like eating no more and i developed stomach cramp.

    we also had yang chow fried rice, not as good as newport seafood, and crab aparagus soup which i did enjoy.

    dessert was too sweet.

  9. MomtoMel,
    Why are you ordering beef in a seafood restaurant?


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