Ding’s Garden

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For an area with so many Chinese people, you’d think that there would be a plethora of quality Chinese options as well in the Rowland Heights area. Unfortunately, the options are nothing compared to the heart of SGV. But we’re in the area quite a bit, as most of you who actually visit my blog know. We were originally going to go get dim sum at Happy Harbor, but it was closing (we went at around 2:45). Faced with the decision of going to Coconut Bay without NFL games on, Han quickly looked for another place for us. He found Ding’s Garden, in same plaza as Coconut Bay.

For some reason I assumed it was Taiwanese cuisine, but realized my mistake when I saw the numerous beef noodle soup and xiao long bao options on the menu. The six of us (myself, Han, Natalie, Daniel, Liz, and Stephen) ordered: 2x beef noodle soup, cold appetizer combo, onion pancake, and XLB for Liz. It was enough, since we weren’t that hungry, and Stephen didn’t want to eat the tripe, bean curd, etc. because he’s as white as rice (which he probably doesn’t eat either). Nothing great, and nowhere near the quality of similar restaurants in SGV, but everything was fairly solid.

Beef noodle soup tasted…like beef noodle soup. The cold cuts were pretty good, too. The onion pancake was interesting, because they weren’t the thin ones most people are accustomed to. Rather, they were thick and doughy, reminiscent of those sesame pancakes you see at Chinese Islamic restaurants. And the outside was crispy as if it had been in a deep fryer. Not bad, although I’ll take the normal version any day. Overall, Ding’s Garden is arguably my favorite restaurant in the area now, and isn’t that just a bit sad…

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Chris Hei grade: B-

Ding’s Garden
18922 Gale Ave, Ste A
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 810-0600

Ding's Garden on Urbanspoon

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Coconut Bay Bar & Grill

Photo credit: Shaved Ice Sundays

Can anyone tell me if there’s any real differences between The Boat, Banana Bay, and Coconut Bay? I swear, they all basically look the same and have the same menu. And they’re all near one another (except The Boat has been replaced by President Thai Cuisine, which has – you guessed it – the same look and menu). Anyways, we did frequent these restaurants from time to time when I was in college, because Will loved it so much. I, on the other hand, wasn’t too impressed to drive double the distance of Thai Town to get watered-down Thai food. But it was a good excuse to go play some miniature golf beforehand :P

Coconut Bay, however, has recently re-entered my life in the last few weeks. The reason: big projection TV! As some of you know, a group of us plays basketball in a league that’s based in City of Industry. So basically, Rowland Heights is the closest area with restaurants. And since we’ve been playing on Sunday mornings, it’s the perfect place to watch some football afterwards (though my heart hasn’t been into it since I missed playoffs…).

Enough irrelevant talk Chris, how’s the food? Like I mentioned before, it’s basically watered-down Thai food that I’m forced to drive 30 miles for. Enough said? I ordered the Thai Style Roasted Duck and King Noodles (to honor you, Will – his favorite dish) on my two recent visits. All I can say is that they were just okay. But service is great, Thai iced tea/coffee has free refills, and you get a big ass TV to watch football. They even enable the audio of the game for us. These factors alone are enough for me, although you won’t here me speak of the food.

Chris Hei grade: C

Coconut Bay Bar & Grill
18922 Gale Ave
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 913-9933

Coconut Bay Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Supreme Dragon

Photo credit: Anita L. on Yelp

We started playing our basketball games in Covina lately, as opposed to Industry/Rowland Heights. Since we had no idea what to eat in Covina, Han suggested that we still go to Rowland Heights to eat (I think he really wanted to eat Chinese). Anyways, he brought up Supreme Dragon, so that’s where we ended up going.

After trying various dishes ordered by everyone at the table, I have come to the conclusion that Supreme Dragon is basically a poor man’s version of 101 Noodle Express and Dean Sin World. Their dishes, like the xiao long bao and beef noodle soup, aren’t as good as those two places, but still quite solid. Supreme Dragon is best restaurant I’ve tried at Rowland Heights so far. The pan-fried bao, in particular, was good. They’re smaller than what I’m used to (rather cute-looking, actually), but they were fried well and tasted good. I would have no problem coming back after games on Sunday.

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Chris Hei grade: B-

Supreme Dragon
18406 Colima Rd, Ste E
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 810-0396

Supreme Dragon on Urbanspoon

President Thai

After a satisfying victory a couple of Saturdays ago, we decided to head to Diamond Plaza in Rowland Heights again to eat. Since the team is full of indecisive eaters (Han was out of the country), we settled on President Thai (where The Boat used to be – don’t cry Will), as it was the closest restaurant to our parked cars. At first, I was somewhat excited, because I have been to the one in Pasadena and considered it one of the better Thai restaurants I’ve tried. But this location turned out of to be nothing like it…

This location is indicated as “President Thai Cuisine,” as opposed to the other location, called “President Thai Restaurant” on their website. I suppose that means that this location was supposed to be the more approachable version (like a cafe), compared to its more “formal” counterpart (although I’ve never seen a fine dining Thai restaurant before). Each of us got a lunch special. The dishes came with a soup or salad. I got the salad (pictured above), which had a weird honey-mustard dressing. Not good. Should’ve gotten the soup – I think they actually gave tom yum.

I ordered the beef noodle soup for my dish, while everyone else got a noodle dish I believe. This was just mediocre – a little bland, maybe even a little too sweet from what I remember. Should’ve gotten what everyone else ordered, although I tried a few bites and those weren’t really noteworthy, either. Stephen got the spicy noodles and requested 10/10 in terms of level of spiciness. Poor guy only ate half of it, and had to leech off of Chris Quinn’s pad thai.

They gave us a complementary dessert, which was a red bean soup with coconut milk I believe. By far the best part of the meal. Maybe I ordered the wrong things, since I’m not one to order off the usually-limited lunch specials menu. They did have some of the dishes I remember ordering at the Pasadena location I believe. However, if they can’t even execute dishes like pad thai and beef noodle soup, then it’s not a Thai place I would crave. More along the lines of the numerous delivery-centric Thai restaurants in West LA.

Chris Hei grade: C

President Thai Cuisine
1390 Fullerton Rd, Ste 105
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-3340

Phoenix

Another loss, another Chinese restaurant afterwards. Maybe we shouldn’t go to Chinese restaurants anymore to counter the bad luck, although 1) the game comes before the food 2) what else is there in Rowland Heights? Anyways, the place of sulking this past weekend was the Phoenix Food Boutique that’s in the same plaza as Banana Bay (there’s another one close-by on Colima Rd. as well, next to Half and Half). We went to this one because Han said that this one’s quality is actually better.

Our group of five ordered the following: yang chow fried rice x2 (Han and Chris Q.), BBQ pork fried rice (Stephen), beef chow fun (Lawrence), and hainan chicken (myself). I feel that it’s somewhat unfair to fully judge Phoenix because I didn’t try any of the drinks or desserts. Without those items on the menu, the restaurant is basically the Chinese half of a Chinese cafe restaurant with fewer options. And unfortunately, my chicken was a little bland (though the sauce was good – needed a lot more of it). The other dishes were decent, nothing special. If Han drags me here again, I’ll be sure to get a drink and dessert, and that might be it.

Chris Hei grade: C

Phoenix Food Boutique
18166 Colima Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 965-8688

Simbala

Came here after being murdered on the basketball court last Saturday. After such a downer, I was looking forward to having good Taiwanese food after a long absence. There are seriously no good Taiwanese restaurants in L.A., so any Taiwanese restaurant that sounds decent is appealing to me, because I’m the Indiana Jones of Taiwanese food and I want to find the holy grail. I’ve actually been to SinBala in Arcadia, and thought that this was in the same family (and that Asians just didn’t know how to spell the same word twice). I’m not so sure about that though. Regardless, the menus of the two places are very similar, and I remember the Arcadia location being pretty good. I had high hopes…

Despite them being most famous for their sausages (they even have a whole section on the menu reserved for the same sausage served with various condiments and sauces), I got the fried pork chop rice ($6.25) because I had a craving for something fried. I also got an order of ba wan, or Taiwanese meat ball ($2.75). The pork chop was really good, but the other stuff on the plate (cabbage, peas, carrots, corn, and scrambled eggs with tomato sauce) were nowhere as close. Should’ve had a side order of the sausage instead – forget those lame veggies. I also stole a piece of my friend Stephen’s fried chicken (done the same way as the pork chop), and it was very good as well. The meatball, however, was pretty lackluster. The filling of pork, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms was bland, and the sauce didn’t help that much. It wasn’t the holy grail (or even one of those chalices), but I would have no problem coming back to Simbala if I’m in the area.

Chris Hei grade: B-

Simbala Restaurant
18489 Colima Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 581-9885

Note: credit Mike L. of Yelp for the first photo.

New Capital

My basketball teammates and I came here after a heartbreaking loss (I missed the game-tying three-pointer). I haven’t had dim sum in a long time (sans after our last game about a month ago), and like my stance with pho I refuse to eat dim sum west of downtown, so I had no objections to go to New Capital. I remember going to the one in San Gabriel, and remember it being pretty good. So I had reasonably high expectations for this location.

Maybe I’ve become pretentious and snobby, but I found my lunch here to be rather mediocre. None of the things we’ve had were noteworthy, although I have to agree with Han about the baked BBQ pork bao being rather bad. Of course, that didn’t stop glutton me from eating a bunch of food. We got the usual assortment of dim sum stuff (shu mai, har gow, etc), and they weren’t bad. But they’re weren’t exactly great, either. Just decent. Perhaps my expectations for dim sum have risen due to my absence from such locales. But I do think that the dim sum my teammates and I had after our first game was better than this (though that restaurant’s name has been wiped from my memory). I have to mention that the prices for the dishes at New Capital are more than fair, as they had a weekend special where everything was the same price (unless we got stuff of the same price only), so if you’re hungry and poor and want dim sum, this is fair.

Chris Hei grade: C

New Capital Seafood Restaurant
1330 S Fullerton Rd, Ste 207
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 581-9813

Note: credit city-data.com for the first photo.