September 2019 Weekend Rundown


It had been a while since we last visited Rossoblu. We hadn’t really been in a hurry to return to Chef-Owner Steve Samson’s flagship restaurant, as our initial visits were mixed at best. His cooking at Sotto (before it shuttered) seemed more on point, at least for the Pastas.

Rossoblu Bread Basket (Anchovy Butter, Herb Butter, Onion Friggione):

The Bread itself was rather unremarkable, served cold, but still having decent softness. But it was the Anchovy Butter (funky, yet creamy, buttery), and Onion Friggione that really made this sing. Tasty! :slight_smile:

Valbruna’s Eggplant (Tomato Sugo, Parmigiano Reggiano, Basil):

This was OK. Tender, thin strips of Roasted Eggplant, helped by a burst of tart-sweet Tomato Sugo, some pungency from the Parmigiano Reggiano and the fragrant Basil.

Maltagliati (Seasonal Mushrooms, Dandelion Greens, Sage):

This Housemade Pasta arrived really soft. Being a fresh Pasta, it’s not going to have the al dente quality of a Dried Pasta made with Semolina Flour, but this was really soft, feeling like it was overcooked a touch. The actual flavors of the Seasonal Mushrooms, Sage and Dandelion Greens had a real savory quality to it. It was enjoyable, but in our city of great Pastas offerings, Rossoblu’s didn’t really stand out (to make it worth the drive across the city for).

Roasted Suckling Pig (Half Saddle, Cabbage Slaw, Calabrian Dipping Sauce):

We were really looking forward to seeing what Chef Samson and his staff could do with an Italian style Roasted Suckling Pig. I had dreams of crispy Roasted Pig Skin, succulent meat within… then taking a bite, reality hit:

Chewy, barely crisp outer skin. The Roasted Suckling Pig lean meat within was moist, but mainly a basic Salt seasoning. If you had no experience with fresh-made Chicharrones (Fried Pork Skin / Pork Rinds), or a great Hong Kong-style Roasted Suckling Pig, Rossoblu’s version would taste like a solid Pork main entree, but even on its own it feels a bit underwhelming.

However, after experiencing great, freshly-made Chicharrones from a street stand around L.A., or the legendary Hong Kong Suckling Pig at Monterey Palace, it makes Rossoblu’s version feel even more mediocre. :frowning: (Yes, I realize those are totally different cuisines, but why would you want chewy, not crisp Suckling Pig skin and mainly one-note salty Pork within, when you can have Suckling Pig done so much better?).

Coal-Roasted Vegetables:

Literally a bunch of random farmers market Root Vegetables Roasted with Sea Salt. :expressionless: They were fine. Simple sometimes is just what’s needed, but here it felt like an excuse to make it easier for his staff to quickly execute, call it “rustic” or fit that “rustic” feel, and call it a day. They tasted like the sum of their parts. Nothing more. :frowning:

Service was also pretty dismal: Our server showed up to check on us… twice throughout the entire evening? We had to wave down other servers / busboys to get anything (or to clear plates).

Rossoblu has a pedigree in a local favorite chef from Sotto. It’s loud, festive, and the menu reads like a great tribute to regional Italian cooking. However Chef Samson wasn’t cooking on this visit. His staff’s execution of various dishes reinforced our initial few visits: Some tasty dishes, some decent, with mediocre main entrees (proteins). I’m not sure I’m in a hurry to return.

1124 San Julian St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Tel: (213) 749-1099

Newport Seafood (San Gabriel)

Newport San Gabriel has been on downhill alert for awhile now, and our last 2 visits were just OK. The only reason we ended up here was our friend wanted to have a Birthday party and felt like Newport’s Lobster, so off we went. :wink:

French Style Beef Loc Lac:

About the same as our last 2 visits, this was fine, tender, big punch of Black Pepper in each bite.

Sauteed Ong Choy (Water Spinach):

Could’ve been a touch less salty, but solid.

Deep Fried Tofu:

Good crunchy batter, piping hot Tofu within. By itself it’s decent, but when eaten with the Soy Chili Dipping Sauce it’s much better.

Crispy Fried Squid with Salt and Pepper:

This was poorly fried, soggy and oil-laden. :frowning:

Newport Special Lobster:

And the reason for coming to Newport (not only this time, but in general): The Newport Special Lobster. You can choose the size of the Live Lobster you want to cook up. This was a 6 pound Lobster.

This was an improvement over the last 2 visits: The Lobster meat was tender, not overcooked. There was a nice flavor of Sauteed Green Onions, Black Pepper and a good savoriness permeating each bite. :slight_smile: (Perhaps the closure of 626 Lobster reunited some of the staff that left?)

Fried Chicken:

This simply named “Fried Chicken” seems like Newport Seafood’s version of the Hong Kong / Cantonese style Crispy Chicken dish where they ladle Boiling Oil over the Chicken to crisp it up. Unfortunately this was overcooked, dryish Chicken, with barely any crispness in the skin. :cry:

Salt and Pepper Crab:

For a Live Crab dish, this was really disappointing. It lacked any of the inherent sweetness that Live Dungeness Crab should have. It was a bit overcooked as well, a stark contrast to how excellent the Live Lobster was.

Steamed Whole Fish - Live Rock Cod:

With Newport Seafood charging the same prices as Sea Harbour for their Live Rock Cod, you’d hope it’d be similar in quality and execution. Unfortunately, Newport Seafood’s Live Rock Cod falls a bit short. The Fish itself is steamed sufficiently (albeit a touch overcooked, but still tender). But their version of the Fish Soy Sauce that surrounds the fish and seasons it is less savory, less seasoned, and as a result the Fish just doesn’t sing.

Service this time was a step up from the absolutely horrendous service we had the last 2 visits (where the servers were downright rude and ignored our table, even after making eye contact, when we tried to wave them down for refills on Tea / Water, etc.). It was still nowhere near as friendly or hospitable as Newport’s early days (and the staff looks totally different).

Newport Seafood (San Gabriel) is still as popular as ever: By the time we left, there was a massive throng of people waiting for a table, but it feels like they’re getting by on their reputation alone (from the early days). While their Live Lobster is still a standout and delicious dish worth trying, all of their other dishes we had ranged from poor (oil-laden, soggy Fried Squid) to overcooked and dry (their Fried Chicken), to decent. Perhaps that’s enough? But if it’s Live Seafood, like Steamed Fish or Boiled Spot Prawns, or Live Crab, Sea Harbour is head and shoulders above Newport in terms of execution, quality and flavor.

Newport Seafood
518 W. Las Tunas Dr.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: (626) 289-5998

Burritos La Palma (OG) (Revisit)

It had been too long since we last stopped by Burritos La Palma, but since we were exploring Flour Tortillas in our last Taco Journey, we decided to stop by Burritos La Palma to see how their Handmade Flour Tortillas might be holding up these days.

As before Burritos La Palma proudly states their origins from Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico. Their “Burritos” are small, but fairly priced to match ($3.15).

Deshebrada Burrito (Shredded Beef in Green Chile):

That first bite reaffirms why we still had Burritos La Palma bookmarked: This incredible, tender, almost luxurious mouthfeel with their Handmade Flour Tortilla that puts to shame most Flour Tortillas around the city. :heart:

The Deshebrada filling is as satisfying as before: Meaty chunks of Stewed, Shredded Beef with their Green Chile Sauce and chunks of Potatoes. :blush:

Flautas (Deshebrada de Res):

Their “Flautas” are similarly pint-sized, looking more like Taquitos than the larger “Flautus” one sees at many local places. Still, there’s a good crunchiness in each bite, a beefiness from the Deshebrada filling, but it’s not as tender and stew like having been stuffed tightly in these Flautas and deep fried. Overall, quite tasty.

Another Visit:

Complimentary Chips & Salsa:

Trio of Burritos:

Birria de Res Burrito (Spiced Shredded Beef):

As our previous few visits, Burritos La Palma’s Handmade Flour Tortillas are the real star here: Still an amazing suppleness, a “soft” almost caressing mouthfeel when you’re eating these Burritos. Just outstanding! :heart:

The Birria filling is a touch salty, and the spiciest of the fillings, but nothing severe.

Deshebrada Burrito (Shredded Beef in Green Chile):

Their Deshebrada remains our favorite filling: The aromatic qualities in the Green Chilies, the balance of the Stewed Shredded Beef and Potatoes with the Green Chilies gives this flavor the most balanced, delicious result. :blush:

Chicken Tinga Burrito (Shredded Chicken and Potatoes):

We enjoyed their Chicken Tinga Burrito as well, the Shredded Chicken and Potato stewed combination was our 2nd favorite, more balanced than the Birria. :slight_smile:

Burritos La Palma (Original) might have a limited menu, but it makes up for it with their outstanding Handmade Flour Tortillas used for their mini Burritos. If you ever wanted to understand why some folks obsess over Flour Tortillas, look no further than Burritos La Palma. Order up a Deshebrada Burrito and marvel at the suppleness, nice mouthfeel and realize what you’ve had as “Flour Tortillas” at most other local places (outside of Loqui) is now a disappointing substitute.

Burritos La Palma (Original Location)
5120 Peck Rd.
El Monte, CA 91732
Tel: (626) 350-8286

Hong Kong Cafe

We must’ve driven by Hong Kong Cafe numerous times in our visits to the San Gabriel Valley over the years, and never once thought about stopping by.

Ginger & Honey Tea:

There was a nice spicy Ginger kick to each sip (which I adore), but they added way too much Honey, so it was bordering on saccharine sweetness. :frowning: Next time, we’ll ask them to go easy on the Honey.

HK Style Rice Noodle with Beef Stew:

But we were here for Hong Kong Cafe’s version of the “Rice Roll”: Listed as “HK Style Rice Noodle” on the menu, they offer 2 types: One that’s plain with Bean Sprouts and one with Beef Stew.

When it arrived, we were thinking this would be like the Dim Sum version of “Rice Rolls” with meat stuffed inside the Rice Roll itself, but this was totally different: Hong Kong Cafe’s version is already rolled on itself with no filling (plain), but then toppings are laddled on top.

Taking a bite: Wow! :open_mouth:

There’s a real silkiness, smoothness, perfectly cooked with a great mouthfeel! :blush: It is stunning.

The Beef Stew (Beef Brisket) has a good, simple Soy Sauce-based stewed flavor to it, but it’s the Rice Rolls themselves that shine. They are different than the Dim Sum version of Rice Rolls (which are stuffed and different size and shape), but they are excellent regardless. (A huge thanks to @moonboy403 for the recommendation!) :slight_smile:

(Cash Only)

Hong Kong Cafe
162 W. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Tel: (626) 288-3282

Mr. Champion

While we were in the area, we remembered to stop by another recommendation for Guangzhou-style Rice Rolls from @ipsedixit.

Walking in, there were some seats occupied by Rilakkuma and friends(!), which were adorable, but also made us wonder if we had wandered into someone’s private dining area for their stuffed animals. :sweat_smile:

Honey Ginger Tea:

Thankfully Mr. Champion’s Honey Ginger Tea was nowhere near as sweet at Hong Kong Cafe’s, but we also asked our waitress to make it less sweet.

BBQ Pork Rice Noodle Roll:

As @ipsedixit said, Mr. Champion does indeed specialize in Guangzhou-style Rice Noodle Rolls, the twisted up Rice Rolls that look different from the usual smoother straight Rice Rolls at Dim Sum restaurants. This was what @beefnoguy was talking about in our Longo thread if I remember correctly.

Visually arresting, Mr. Champion’s Rice Noodle Rolls taste much better than Longo Seafood’s disastrous version. There’s structure and body to it, and they are thinner than the usual Dim Sum variety. But I’d have to agree with @beefnoguy that the traditional Hong Kong Dim Sum style Rice Roll tastes better (to us). These weren’t bad at all, quite tasty, but for overall mouthfeel and taste, we’d rather have the Hong Kong-style Rice Rolls. :slight_smile:

Stewed Pork Foot Rice:

Their Stewed Pork Foot Rice was unfortunately rather generic. A bit salty, also tasting like they reheated the Stewed Pork, this isn’t something we’d order again here.

Mr. Champion
168 Las Tunas Dr.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 538-4938

HiHo Cheeseburger

HiHo Cheeseburger’s claim to fame is using 100% Grass-Fed “Wagyu Beef” for their homage to the American Cheeseburger. Looking at their website, it turns out their “Wagyu Beef” is actually New Zealand Grass-Fed “Wagyu Beef,” which clearly is better than all of our American Fast Food Cheeseburger sourcing.

We’ve enjoyed HiHo Cheeseburger in the past. It’s close by, convenient, and informal, in the popular fast-casual vein (order at the counter, take a seat and the food will be brought to you).

HiHo Cheeseburger (Beef, Cheese, Ketchup, Onion Jam, Lettuce, Housemade Pickles, Mustard):

It is apparent from the first bite that HiHo Cheeseburger’s Grass-Fed New Zealand “Wagyu Beef” is quality and not just for marketing purposes. It’s beefy, juicy, succulent, and just delicious. :slight_smile: Is it an upgrade over the standard “American Cheeseburger” that the website purports?

Yes, absolutely. :slight_smile:

However, the Hamburger Bun (baked daily from a local bakery) is a bit too soft, barely holding up throughout the meal. It’s a homage to the American Cheeseburger, so it’s a standard White Bun, but in this day and age of more upgraded, Gourmet Burgers, with quality Buns of all sorts (Brioche, Potato Bun, etc.), going back to this simple White Plain Bun that’s super soft feels a bit underwhelming.

Still, it’s a solid Burger and great if you happen to be in the neighborhood. :slight_smile:


Their French Fries are twice fried, and cut by hand. They are tasty, with a nice crunch, although there were plenty of little dark bits of the Potato (that would ideally be cleaned / cut away). They aren’t as good as Connie & Ted’s amazing Fries, but respectable and great for a fast casual concept. :slight_smile:

HiHo Cheeseburger is a simple, approachable concept, serving elevated Cheeseburgers using New Zealand Grass-Fred “Wagyu Beef”, quality ingredients, Fries and Shakes and Pies. However at $8 for their starter Cheeseburger (1/3 pound), and $11 for their 1/2 pound version, with Fries being extra ($3.75) it falls into the territory of competing with the Gourmet Burgers around town, and at that point, it falls short. But if you’re in the area, it’s perfectly delicious.

HiHo Cheeseburger
1320 2nd Street, Suite #B
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: (310) 469-7250