While I may not have grown up eating Cantonese / Hong Kong cuisine, I could appreciate the tasty flavors from various specialists in L.A. over the years thanks to my San Gabriel Valley friends. But, as some of our veteran Hounds / Onioners might’ve noticed, there’s been a stark decline in Hong Kong / Cantonese restaurants for awhile now. Whenever we travel to the SGV, all we see are Szechuan or Hot Pot restaurants all over the place. And with the downfall of Sam Woo BBQ (for tax evasion), there are even fewer places that specialize in HK / Cantonese food. I’m curious if the situation is the same in other parts of the country where there used to be strong representation? (@ipsedixit @ColinMorey @sck @hyperbowler and all.)
Seemingly with little fanfare, a new Hong Kong / Cantonese specialist by the name of Tam’s Noodle House has emerged in a corner of a strip mall in the SGV.
We had met up with a good friend originally from Hong Kong (fully vaccinated) to see how Tam’s was in comparison to food they grew up on.
Combo Noodle Soup (Wonton & Fish Ball Noodle Soup):
The most shocking thing to find out is that unlike every single other Hong Kong / Cantonese SGV restaurant we’ve tried over the years, Tam’s Noodle House makes their own Egg Noodles in-house(!). This sounded really promising. They also make the other styles of Noodles (for their other dishes) in-house as well(!). So their Flat Rice Flour Noodle, Shrimp Noodles, Rice Flour Noodles are all handmade. Nice.
Taking a sip:
Deep oceanic and poultry flavors: I can taste Shrimp and Fish, and a light Chicken Broth all combined beautifully together. It is stunning, and better than Noodle Boy’s Wonton Noodle Soup, and better than Pearl River Deli’s Wonton Noodle Soup (which is delicate, but very light).
The Housemade Wontons taste fresh, beautiful Marinated Ground Pork and Shrimp, the Wonton skin is tender, and the flavor combination is just really crave worthy. Like great comfort food!
The Fish Balls are disappointing: Nowhere near as good as Noodle Boy’s Housemade Fish Balls, these were a bit too dense. Definitely just stick with the pure Wonton Noodle Soup.
Their Housemade Egg Noodles were excellent. They had this slight bite and structure to them, more firm than the mass-produced stuff at Sam Woo BBQ or various other Hong Kong BBQ restaurants we’ve tried over the years. They aren’t as big on the “chew” as other types of Handmade Noodles (for, say, Beef Noodle Soup, etc.), but these Cantonese style Egg Noodles are much thinner in general. These were great as well.
And we had to do the @Sgee Style Wonton preparation, a bit of Red Vinegar and a bit of the Chili Oil. Absolutely delicious and better than Noodle Boy!
Shrimp, Leek & Pork Dumplings:
First, I totally get that ordering Dumplings at a Hong Kong / Cantonese restaurant is asking for trouble; it’s not their specialty. But we’re suckers for great Handmade Dumplings, so when our friend asked the waitress and confirmed that they made their own Dumplings in-house from scratch as well, we had to give it a try.
Sadly, they were just OK. They’re certainly better than mass-produced, frozen dumplings at the supermarket, but compared to greatness like Ly Family Kitchen, this really falls short. The Dumpling skin is very thin, and lacks much bite to it. The filling is pretty tasty, but also lacks the “oomph” and standout qualities from places like Ly Family and Cindy’s Kitchen.
Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce (here Sauteed with Garlic):
One really neat option Tam’s Noodle House has is that they offer an Appetizer sized version of Choy Sum Vegetables (for a reasonable $4.50)! That’s a great way for one or two people to enjoy some veggies, along with sampling other dishes, where usually a full order of Sauteed Vegetables is enough for 3 - 4 people easily.
Tam’s Choy Sum is normally poached and served with a side of Oyster Sauce. Our friend asked the waitress nicely and the kitchen was able to just serve it Sauteed with Garlic. The wok skills were evident and this was excellent Choy Sum wok-fried with Garlic. It tasted fresh, tender with some structure in the stems and the Garlic was so fragrant.
Deep Fried Squid with Spicy Salt:
Their Deep Fried Squid with Spicy Salt was just a touch oily, but only a touch. Otherwise, this was very good! Very fresh Squid, lightly battered, the oil tasted fresh (not overly reused / old oil like many average places).
Steam Flour Roll with Hotbed Chives & Shrimp:
Unfortunately their Steam Flour Roll (usually in English as “Steamed Rice Rolls”) are the one Noodle / Roll base that they don’t make in-house, and it shows. It looks promising, but unfortunately it’s super soft, borderline mushy, and lacks any real mouthfeel. The Shrimp and Chives were delicious (as was the sauce).
Combo Lo Mein with Shrimp Eggs Flat Noodles (Wontons and Stewed Pork Feet):
Their Lo Mein stands out in that instead of the usual Egg Noodles, Tam’s serves their Lo Mein with Handmade Shrimp Eggs Flat Noodles(!). We didn’t even know such a thing existed! @ipsedixit @ColinMorey why didn’t anyone tell me?!
These were fantastic! If you look closely at the pic (above), you can see little specks in the Handmade Noodles (that’s the Shrimp Eggs). These Noodles are special: Toothsome, great chew, there’s a light brininess and just a delicious savoriness in every bite.
Their Handmade Wontons are just as great on this 2nd visit. Fresh-tasting, flavorful Marinated Ground Pork and Shrimp (not overly fatty, nor gristly / dry like many versions).
The Stewed Pork Feet were mouth-wateringly delicious. Nicely stewed, great deep flavor in every bite.
Wonton Noodle Soup:
The first sip of their Housemade Wonton Soup is as contemplative as the first visit: You taste a delicate Seafood-based Broth, redolent of Shrimp and Fish. It is then perfectly integrated with Chicken stock. Our friend from Hong Kong said that Tam’s was the closest in taste to their favorite Wonton Noodle Soups in Hong Kong.
The Handmade Egg Noodles are nice, and the Handmade Wontons taste as fresh and perfectly balanced as before. It is the perfect package and is arguably the best Wonton Noodle Soup in L.A.
Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice:
I used to think Fried Rice was a basic “filler” dish for the longest time. It’s tasty, but so many So Cal restaurants make a mediocre version that I thought that was “normal.” Then thanks to our Hounds’ recommendations and @ipsedixit recommending the greatness that is Dragon Beaux’s Fried Rice, I started really appreciating great Fried Rice with real Wok Hei (Breath of the Wok).
Tam’s Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice is pretty darn good. There’s real Wok Hei (Breath of the Wok) here, real wok skills, the Fried Rice is not overly greasy, nor soggy. There’s a deep presence to it, and every bite is just heart-warming, happy comfort food. It is better than any Fried Rice I’ve had locally in years.
Chinese Chives with Dry Land Fish:
I’ve never heard of “Dry Land Fish” but this came recommended: This was Chinese Chives sauteed with Fried Dry Land Fish (small “White Bait”-style Fish) and Onions. And it was delicious! You get the vegetal from the Chinese Chives, and then a burst of briny, fried goodness from these Deep Fried Dry Land Fish.
House Special Steamed Chicken with Ginger & Green Onions (Half):
Good flavor. The Ginger & Green Onion Chicken was perhaps a touch overcooked compared to the near medium poached Chicken from Pearl River Deli (Chef Lee has got that technique down pat!), but this version was still quite tasty. Good Special Soy Sauce, Ginger and Green Onion combination of flavors. Flavorful Chicken and perfect over some Steamed Rice.
Chicken Chow Mein:
Their Chicken Chow Mein uses their Handmade Egg Noodles, and prepared Hong Kong style with shatteringly crisp Fried Egg Noodles, perfectly moist, succulent morsels of Sauteed Chicken and Yellow Chives, some Chinese Broccoli. Outstanding Hong Kong / Cantonese Egg Noodle Chow Mein!
Deep Fried Chicken Wings with Salted Egg Yolk:
Just another winner: Nicely Deep Fried Chicken Wings, then quickly sauteed with Salted Duck Egg Yolks(!). There’s a delicious almost creamy aspect, a nice flavor that only Salted Duck Egg Yolks can impart.
Classic Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken:
Before I get chastised by my fellow Onioners, yes, I know this was probably a case of asking for trouble (ordering a Taiwanese dish at a Hong Kong restaurant). But our waitress strongly recommended this dish, so we decided to give it a try.
I have no idea why Tam’s Noodle House has a Taiwanese dish on their menu, but I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is definitely not like any Three Cup Chicken I’ve ever had: The Chicken turned out to be Chicken Bones (with barely any meat on them), deep fried and then sauteed with Onions, Bell Peppers, coated in a Soy Sauce / Sesame Oil mixture.
It was a tasty flavor combination, but unfortunately you were just eating batter and spitting out bones most of the time.
Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce:
The Poached Choy Sum was again perfectly cooked through, tender, and the Choy Sum itself was immaculate.
Century Egg & Pork Congee:
In a sign of quality, even Tam’s Congee is stellar: Perfect density and viscosity, being neither too thick or too watery like far too many versions around town. More importantly the classic combination of Century Egg & Pork Congee is usually found with leftover, dried Pork slivers. Not so at Tam’s! Here, the Pork is fresh, moist, meaty and tender. It is seriously the best quality Pork in the Century Egg & Pork Congee that I’ve ever had. Their Congee is probably one of the best I’ve had in the SGV.
Ginger Scallion Pork Kidneys:
I have to credit some long-time SGV friends of mine for introducing me to this seemingly crazy dish years ago. I fell in love with the flavors then and it’s been a favorite ever since! Tam’s version takes nicely cooked Pork Kidneys (it usually comes with Pork Kidney and Liver, but I asked for Kidney only), and serves it with Ginger, Scallions and Bean Sprouts in an absolutely addicting fragrant Special Soy Sauce-based Sauce (but so much better). Perfect with some Steamed Rice.
House Special Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli:
Very good. A great alternative to Choy Sum.
Salted Fish & Chicken Fried Rice:
To make sure it wasn’t a fluke, on this 4th visit, we ordered another Fried Rice dish, their Salted Fish & Chicken Fried Rice. Tam’s Chef has some real Wok skills. This is excellent Fried Rice, with real Wok Hei, not too greasy, not overly wet, nor dried out. The Salted Fish they use here is more pungent, bolder, saltier and with a nice oceanic breeze hitting every bite. The Chicken meat is tender and the whole dish is just happiness on a plate.
Combo Lo Mein with Shrimp Eggs Flat Noodles (Stewed Beef (Brisket) & Wontons):
Normally Beef Brisket at various Hong Kong / Cantonese restaurants locally is a mixed bag. It can be a bit chewy, chunky, sometimes tender, but usually not. Tam’s version of “Stewed Beef” (Brisket) was outstanding! Super tender, almost fall apart, with a bit of Beef Tendon included. And the stewed flavor was not overly salty, balanced and just so good! I was stunned.
Their Handmade Wontons were as standout as the last 3 times we ordered it. They are consistently great so far.
Their Handmade Shrimp Eggs Flat Noodles were still excellent as well. It makes for one of the most unique, standout versions of Lo Mein here in So Cal, toothsome, flavorful, very good.
Another questionable order from us (ordering a Shanghai dish at a Cantonese restaurant), but this just seemed so strange / interesting (why was there a lone Shanghai dish featured on a mainly Hong Kong / Cantonese menu?). This turned out to be fine. Not great, but not bad. Nicely fried and battered, but the taste and batter was not like any Shanghai version of Seaweed Fish Fillets that we’ve tried at various Shanghai specialists.
Tam’s Noodle House is a real welcome addition to the local culinary landscape. Opening during the pandemic (a challenge), featuring Hong Kong / Cantonese cuisine (another challenge), they are thankfully excelling at what they do. Tam’s features outstanding Fried Rice dishes, sublime Congee, and very good wok skills for various sauteed dishes.
But beyond all those great dishes is their Wonton Noodle Soup, featuring Housemade Wontons that are perfectly balanced, and Handmade Egg Noodles (made in-house!). Add in the delicious, clean, vibrant Wonton Soup, and expected condiments (Red Vinegar and Chili Oil) to add, and you have the best bowl of Wonton Noodle Soup in L.A. Their Lo Mein with Handmade Shrimp Eggs Flat Noodles is also amazing.
They may not do everything well, but Tam’s Noodle House has quickly filled the vacuum left by the closure of all the Sam Woo BBQ branches, and easily surpassed them. This is a legit Hong Kong / Cantonese specialist with some standout items that are worth seeking out.
Tam’s Noodle House
120 N. San Gabriel Blvd., Suite #J
San Gabriel, CA 91775
Tel: (626) 782-7666