Brilliant Saturday Afternoon in the SGV

Dim sum is one of those things that I only got into as an adult. I ate it about once or twice a week growing up so it was pretty uninteresting to me. It wasn’t until I was an adult (or actually, a teenager in high school) when I started going to dim sum restaurants without my parents.

I would bring home tales of bad service or sketchy siu mai. Often my parents would admonish me to speak Chinese (for better service) or go to such and such restaurant (for better siu mai). But what’s the adventure in that?

This past Saturday, I met up with a bunch of folks for dim sum at King Hua, the latest incarnation of Casa de Oriente, a restaurant my dad named and managed when it first opened. He didn’t own it but the owners gave him permission to name it. My dad was a quirky man, much like myself. He loved soccer and learned to speak Spanish while playing with locals and working with Spanish-speaking workers. Casa de Oriente was his acknowledgement of neighborhood (on the border of El Sereno and Alhambra).

Attending this dim sum brunch were Carina from UncouthGourmands, AK from I’m Not Lawfing, Keisha, the climbin’ couple; Debbie and Kevin, Mike from Right Way to Eat and a few other friends.

After my dad retired, we rarely visited the restaurant and the last time I had gone, I was shocked at how dismal and dirty it had become.  Apparently they’ve recently had a huge makeover and the restaurant has changed names many times. Now as King Hua, it was a high-end dim sum house. No more carts.

I miss the carts. But I know what they’re going for.

Friends ordered the first round which consisted mostly of dessert, a couple of rounds of various dim sum and some spare ribs from a lady walking by. When I got my hands on the tick sheet, I only ordered dumplings and a few other dishes I thought my friends would enjoy including of course, the siu mai and crystal shrimp.

As a kid, I loved the crystal shrimp but as an adult, I’ve grown more fond of siu mai. The juicy pork and shrimp is just the perfect combination of flavors. King Hua’s were great. Unfortunately, they were serve way, way too hot and I burned my tongue on so many dishes. Ah well, what is it about dim sum that turns us into scavenging heathens? Bring on more dumplings!

Oh, and some “French style goose liver stuffed in deep fried squid.” It turned out to be some good fried squid but nary any “foie gras.” Maybe next time we’ll order the dozen “French Style goose liver dumplings” which at $16 seemed like a deal.

We were stuffed but this was only the first part of what turned into a food crawl through the San Gabriel Valley. Though it was raining heavily, I enticed some others to Fosselman’s Ice Cream. The shop is just across the street from King Hua. There, Carina, AK and I enjoyed a great banana split consisting of scoops of taro, banana heath and dark chocolate along with hot fudge, hot caramel and pineapple. Topped off with whipped cream and cherries, who needs froyo?

AK and I were going to meet Anisha from Food is my Nish at Claro’s, an Italian grocery nearby. We invited Carina along for the ride. I had intended to get a cookie but I was way too full so I spent my time digesting my lunch by shopping. I was happy to discover they carried several brands of amarena cherries but I bought the Fabbri band because it comes in a pretty blue and white crock. Recently, I was saddened to learn Bottega Louie, one of my favorite restaurnats in Downtown L.A. stopped carryng the semi-fredo dessert which has several amarena cherries in it.I was told the cost of a jar was $90. I don’t know how large that jar was but I bought a $20 jar at Claro’s.

I had used maraschino cherries years ago in my Christmas sangria but I suspect these amarena ones will be better. Seven Grand, my favorite whiskey bar in DTLA, makes the best Manhattans and they use these cherries.

We were in the store for an hour, laughing with the owners and workers. They were trying to push Jeremy on us who is single. “He dances so great” and other qualities were described to us but I think we all secretly wanted to go out with Bob, the non-Italian who married into the Claro family.

We didn’t want our fun SGV crawl to end so we headed over to Golden Deli for a delicious bowl of pho. I had my usual dac biet (#1) but I avoided the tendon. Pho Minh is still my favorite bowl of pho but Golden Deli was very generous with its bean sprouts and basil.The noodles were definitely great in a delicate light broth.

I didn’t want the afternoon to end but I had to say goodbye to my SGV sweeties as we all headed off to our respective dinners. Oh yes, we still ate dinner despite our foodie-tastic day.

Read Carina’s post about our day here.