Happy Kitchen: Finding Harbinger of Good Chinese Food in SGV [CLOSED]

  • Home
  • California
  • Happy Kitchen: Finding Harbinger of Good Chinese Food in SGV [CLOSED]
Restaurant Los Angeles

It’s not exactly a secret that the San Gabriel Valley long ago supplanted L.A.’s Chinatown as Mecca for Chinese food in Southern California. Drive Valley Boulevard alone and you’ll face a staggering array of regional Chinese eating options. If you wanted to try every Chinese restaurant along Valley Boulevard, it would probably take over six months, and that’s if you commit to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, not every option is magical – some, far from it. So that leaves the big question; how do you know where to go when the restaurants have generic names like U2 Cafe and Happy Kitchen? Popping into a new restaurant is worth a shot; even a game of culinary pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey can pay dividends in the SGV. If you want to increase your odds, turn to trusted food writers who have done their due diligence like Jonathan Gold and Linda Burum, who have been eating in (and writing about) San Gabriel Valley restaurants for two decades apiece.

Recently, it took a Los Angeles Times review from Linda Burum to learn about Happy Kitchen, yet another regional Chinese gem that was hidden in plain sight at 301 West Valley Boulevard, a strip mall where I’d eaten many times.

According to Burum, Chef Jixian Liang cooked at Happy Kitchen for three years, mastering the dishes of the owner’s native Liuzhou, in southern China. Now Liang and wife Fuang Liu own the restaurant, and he added dishes from his hometown of Harbin, in northern China.

A massive checklist menu features dozens of options. Sure there were plenty of variations on rice noodle soup, dumplings and casseroles, but other dishes held more appeal, including “Liuzhou Radish Beef Triple,” “Ginger Arctic Surf Clams” and “Pickled Sour Napa w/Pork Tripe.” Only a few “Pots” cost more than $10.99. Given the low prices, the two of us were inspired to over-order, which was plenty rewarding.

Chinese Food Los Angeles
It was a foregone conclusion that I’d order some form of rice noodle soup, and settled on Lamb Snail Rice Noodle Soup ($7.99), with nubs of bone-in lamb, crispy shards of wonton, peanuts, scallions, slippery wood ear mushrooms, sheets of fibrous bamboo shoots and rice noodles, all piled into a murky broth. The lamb was nice and juicy, and the soup was loaded with contrasting flavors and textures, but the broth wasn’t dynamic when isolated, and I was hoping for actual snail meat, which was addictive on last year’s trip to Ensenada. The soup was worth ordering, but the dishes got even better.

Chinese Food Los Angeles
Cumin Lamb Fried Noodle ($6.99) featured fettuccine-like noodles tossed with aromatic cumin seeds, fatty sheets of lamb that helped to slick the noodles and crunchy bean sprouts.

Chinese Food Los Angeles
For his Double Cooked Pork Slices ($7.99) Chef Liang tossed crispy, golden sheets of hog meat in a tangy vinegar sauce with crunchy cilantro stalks. Thin-shaved garlic and tiny cuts of ginger added just enough of a kick to elevate a seemingly simple dish into the realm of complexity.

Chinese Food Los Angeles
I finished with a Tea Chicken Leg ($3.99), which featured a lacquered skin that was virtually devoid of fat, and the bird’s smoky, aromatic dark meat was infused with a pronounced tea flavor (oolong?).

I split four dishes, and the portions were so large that nearly half the food was relegated to the fridge as leftovers. I made our first dent in Happy Kitchen’s menu, and will continue to add additional dents shortly.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Your Tea Chicken Leg was devoid of smoky aromatic meat and tea flavor?

Doesn’t like a recommendation to me.

Perhaps you need to reword?


Good point. The chicken had plenty of “smoky aromatic dark meat and a pronounced tea flavor.” I’ll reword. Thanks.


Food GPS » Happy Kitchen – San Gabriel, CA - March 16, 2010 | Shanghai EXPO 2010

[…] Original post: Food GPS » Happy Kitchen – San Gabriel, CA – March 16, 2010 […]

Leave a Comment