Four Sea is one of the rare L.A. restaurants to specialize in Taiwanese breakfast.
A lot of people seem to have the misconception that eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley is as easy as heading to a concentrated Chinatown. In reality, the sprawling area east of downtown Los Angeles encompasses 374 square miles, more than a dozen towns and can be pretty tricky to navigate, even for the valley’s most seasoned eaters. Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Alhambra are the best-known entities, since they’re closest to the city, but don’t discount the eastern end, where Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights and West Covina have their own culinary treasures.
When Danny “Kung Food Panda” Chen put out a call for a crawl of the eastern SGV, many bloggers jumped at the chance for new experiences. Since we started in the morning, our first stop was at Four Sea, a restaurant in the same strip mall as Malan Noodles that the Ma family opened in 2002, spun off in San Gabriel in 2009 and specializes in Taiwanese breakfast.
Order at the counter, culling from hot and cold cases and a red and blue tiled board, before grabbing a table below a garden mural.
Flaky, sesame lined buns formed the basis for Bun and Cruller ($2.80).
In Chinese, the literal translation of fried crullers is “oil stick.” Wrap the “bun” around the cruller and dip in sweet, nutty soy milk to achieve the intended textural and flavor contrast.
Fried radish cake ($2.90) produced my favorite bites of the meal, with rectangles that were crispy outside and completely bombed with minced garlic and scallions.
Egg “tortilla” ($2.80) turned out to simply be thin sheets of scallion-studded omelette.
Salty rice rolls ($2.80) were reminiscent of oversized maki, with sticky rice surrounding crullers, salty, desiccated pork floss strands and crunchy, pickled radish bits.
Rice pudding ($2.50) arrived in a dense, savory dome topped with sliced mushrooms, ground pork and soy-soaked egg.
Cooks inundated gelatinous strips of spicy pig ear ($2.50) with chile oil, dry chile bits, scallions, cilantro and garlic. This particular container had flavor to spare.
Soy milk comes hot or cold, salty or sweet. My sweet soy milk was cold, nutty and fairly rich.
It was good to experience Four Sea, one of the better Taiwanese style breakfasts I’ve tried in the San Gabriel Valley. Next time, it will be fun to work my way through the array of buns and cold items.