>> Ho Kee Cafe 豪记私房菜 | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 12 October 2020

Ho Kee Cafe 豪记私房菜

Arcadia location.


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (02 February 2024) is available as part of the Free Friday Favorites section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
Ever since opening, the original Ho Kee Cafe on Del Mar Avenue in San Gabriel has been busy, its smaller space often bursting at the seams with humanity. Lively groups of customers, people waiting for tables or takeout orders, and efficient service weaving their way in and out of both. This led to the opening of a second, larger branch in Arcadia in the spring of last year.

These days you will not get to sit near the kitchen, see the roasted ducks hanging, and hear them being chopped up after putting in your orders, but the food remains at the same level it has since opening. Often times you will sit next to tables with Cantonese being spoken in Hong Kong accents, it almost feels like a Wong Kar-wai film when the foods start arriving. Wear your best vintage clothing!

While there is an appetizer list, often these plates are just as big as entrees, like the squid with salt and pepper ($12.95, above). Over time they have added a good deal more spice in the form of peppers along with the salt and pepper. Tentacle-y bits and thicker cuts are both fried so well, with very little oil left when served.

Most large groups you see will be ordering full or half roast ducks with lots of mouths to feed at the table, but a good compromise if you come alone or with one other is the roast duck & BBQ pork over rice ($12.95, below), which gives you the opportunity to try two great meats on one plate.

The BBQ pork is as comforting as you might imagine, while the duck with its caramelized skin is just about as good as it comes in all of Los Angeles. Even the side of vegetables is crisp and cooked just right.

Wonton soup fights will be forever a part of the internet, with superlatives being thrown around with fervor. While the old Noodle Boy in Rosemead always had the most following, the bowl here at Ho Kee Cafe deserves a lot of respect as well.

The aroma and first sips of broth from wonton soup Hong Kong style ($8.95, above) are full of dried shrimp and seafood flavor as required. The greens again are cooked to perfection and not just a colorful side. Wonton skins are thin and show the pink of the shrimp within.

Biting into those for the first time led to a widening of the eyes as the flavors hit each part of the tongue. The shrimp are fresh and crisp, remarkable how such a seemingly simple bowl of soup can have so much flavor.

Continuing the Hong Kong theme, do not miss out on one of their ten options of congee. A good selection is the sliced pork w/ preserved egg porridge ($8.95, above), which is great during the meal and for breakfast the next day when warmed up.

Deeply savory and satisfying, the preserved egg especially has you digging around inside the rice porridge to find bits of it.

One of the cafes many highlights is probably a dish that will never not be ordered on future visits, the minced pork with string beans ($13.95, above). While the meat is listed first in the name, the dish is really all about the string beans and the spicing.

The vegetables have an almost unreal crispiness and snap to them. They are also dense and filling, coated with a wonderful spicy oil that gently tingles after a few continuous bites. There is a dusting of the preserved pork which by no means takes away from anything, but the string beans will be the part you remember.

Cantonese comfort favorites like tomato beef over rice ($9.95, above) do not disappoint either. Despite being the (normal) lower quality cuts of beef and large tasteless tomatoes and high sugar content, the dish is spot on.

If there was one loser from the last two meals at Ho Kee Cafe, it is probably the beef chow fun with soy sauce ($12.95, below), which is just not savory enough to compete with other dishes that pack so much punch.

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