The first Kee Wah Bakery appeared in Hong Kong in 1938, where its moon cakes, bridal cakes, and other pastries gradually generated a loyal clientele. In 1985, when much of that clientele had migrated to the United States, Kee Wah set down new roots in LA to offer its signature floury goods to Californians. Patrons pick from crispy egg tarts, red-bean swirls, and pineapple crust buns using a self-serve bakery system, which is refilled with fresh breads baked three times a day. During the autumn, when the Chinese Lunar Festival is in full swing, the bakery churns out moon cakes filled with lotus seed and red-bean paste. The shop's three locations in the San Gabriel Valley?Monterey Park, San Gabriel, and Rowland Heights?help meet the demand for Chinese wedding cakes and almond cookies throughout the valley.
If you're arranging dinner for a crowd, it's hard to go wrong with pizza. The same goes for breakfast and waffles. What makes these foods so ubiquitously popular? Macau-born Le Cordon Bleu graduate Sundi Sunarjo has a theory: it's the toppings. In opening her cozy sweet shop, Love to Go, Sunarjo dreamed of a creating signature dessert that would be as customizable and broadly appealing as those two classic snacks.
She came up with the "waffza." First, Sunarjo slices a big waffle into quarters, then dips each "slice" in dark Ghirardelli chocolate. From there, it's time to consult the customer: would they prefer to add peanuts or english toffee? Or perhaps a topping combo based on s'mores? Ice cream and whipped cream finish off this sweet fusion. (Waffles also come undipped and crispy, served in sundaes and other creations.)
Creativity spreads into every corner and cup of the cafe. Baristas specialize in a unique brand of latte art, which landed on LAist's list of The 10 Cutest Foods in the San Gabriel Valley. Instead of etching a traditional heart or leaf, they take extra time to draw portraits or write out messages in color. In fact, they can even sculpt three-dimensional critters from the foam, resting on a pedestal of the fair-trade Lamill coffee.
The flavors of Asia are subtly incorporated into the drinks at Whatever Tea Lounge. The staff whirs together slushes and milk teas flavored with exotic options such as kumquats, wintermelon, and lychee. From there, can be added a bit of Asia's unique food textures with the addition of chewy boba pearls or bits of grass jelly. But when creating the food menu and wallpapering the walls of the kitchen, chefs use explicitly Asian recipes. They season short ribs with a generous amount of black pepper, fry up pork chops with rice, and even create a crispy fried shell around green-tea ice cream.
Twice each day, JJ Tea House's baristas brew tea. They serve it poured over ice and will stir in milk, tapioca beads, and flavors such as lychee or strawberry by request. There are a slew of specialty drinks for guests to sip: avocado smoothies, Oreo milkshakes, and green-apple yogurt are just a few examples.
The spot's cooks also prepare snacks such as egg rolls, mini corn dogs, and rice plates with minced pork or slices of sausage. Operated by a group of self-professed WiFi junkies, JJ Tea House is an inviting place to curl up with a laptop and surf the Internet complimentarily.
The cooks at A&J Hot Point Hot Pot lay the foundation of a delicious, belly-warming meal—the broth—at your table. The rest of the work, they leave to you. The soup remains at a simmer while you submerge the ingredients of your choice, ranging from meats to a variety of veggies. As you dip these morsels into the stew, it simultaneously cooks and flavors them in traditional Chinese dining style.
The broth menu itself is international in scope. Choices range from a Mongolian herbal mix to soups tinged with Korean kimchi and Japanese coconut curry. Some, such as the hot and spicy or spicy chicken broth, add additional fire. Guests dunk unlimited bites into the hot pot during all-you-can-eat lunches and dinners, then balance out the heat with a dessert of ice cream or a nice bowl of cold broth.
The leaf-savvy baristas at Tenju Tea House craft a variety of tea and tea-fusion beverages steeped to order with loose tea leaves hailing from around the world. Black, green, herbal, and other specialty blends release their aromatic flavors beneath steaming pours of water, infusing libations such as milk teas, iced teas, and traditional hot concoctions with natural ingredients that bolster health like a romantic jacuzzi session with a beloved multivitamin. Toasty bagel sandwiches, hot dogs, and savory Japanese snacks fill out the café's menu, each made to order for noshing on the go or while surfing the free WiFi from an array of Asian-inspired seating.