Aiming for High-Class Hong Kong Seafood - China Red [Thoughts + Pics]


#1

A relative newcomer by San Gabriel Valley Hong Kong Seafood Specialist standards, China Red has been well-documented on FTC for its Dim Sum, but less has been said of their Dinner menu. Over Christmas break, we had a nice gathering of friends from the Westside and our friends in the SGV (who helped us translate).

Opened near the Arboretum and Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia, China Red has garnered a loyal following for its solid Dim Sum that for some dishes put it near the top of the L.A. Dim Sum scene. (Note: Adding in the Dim Sum experience we had during our Dim Sum Journey into this thread as well.)

Dried Scallop with Egg White Fried Rice:

We usually don’t order much Fried Rice, but ever since @ipsedixit introduced us to Dragon Beaux’s excellent Fried Rice, we’ve been intrigued to see how local places compare. China Red’s Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice is OK at best. It lacks any real wok hei (breath of the wok).

Deep Fried Squid in Spicy Salt:

Too salty, and a bit too greasy. :frowning:

Baked BBQ Pork Buns:

We were hoping to find a good version of the Tim Ho Wan-style Baked Charsiu Bao (BBQ Pork Buns) that @beefnoguy and @chandavkl enjoy. Sadly, China Red is not it. :frowning: The outer crust wasn’t crunchy at all, being rather soft. The filling of BBQ Pork was fine, but nothing standout.

Pan Fried Turnip Cake with X.O. Sauce:

Delicious! :slight_smile: The X.O. Sauce flavor added a beautiful briny, spicy quality and the Turnip Cakes were slightly crisped, and the flavors just gelled together.

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling:

They were fine, but tasted pretty much like most of the other places in the SGV (it was rather disturbing how similar most of them tasted).

Supreme Broth with Bok Choy:

Delicious. Nicely cooked Bok Choy, Ginkgo Nuts, Tofu Skin in a light, savory Broth.

Steamed Asparagus Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll:

I appreciate China Red using Asparagus to mix things up slightly. The Steamed Rice Rolls were a bit overcooked (slightly too soft), but you could still separate each piece.

Salty Pork Bone & Watercress Congee:

Very good Porridge. Loved the Watercress with a bit of porcine flavor coming through each bite with the Pork Bone base.

BBQ Pork Pastry:

A touch oily, but with a nice sweet-salty filling of BBQ Pork.

Crispy Bean Curd Sheet Rolls:

Really crispy with a mixture of Sauteed Vegetables inside.

Shishamo with X.O. Maggi Sauce:

China Red deep fries the Shishamo and then tosses it with X.O. & Maggi Sauce, resulting in dampening the crispy exterior (boo!), but giving it a nice, briny edge. Overall it was fine, but it felt a bit heavy.

Pork & Shrimp Xiao Mai:

Called “Xiao Mai” on the menu, China Red’s Shumai are fine. There are nice large chunks of Shrimp and Pork within, although a few of us felt it was a bit too fatty (too many fat chunks mixed with the lean Pork).

Steamed Pork Ribs:

Delicious! A very good, tender version of the Steamed Pork Riblet dish at Dim Sum. Tender, balanced, not too salty. :slight_smile:

House Special Rice Noodle Roll:

This is one of those wondrous creations of taking a deep fried crispy Rice Cruller and encasing it with a soft, Steamed Rice Roll, so you get a bit of the soft, slippery and crispy crunch. It works somehow, and hits a nice textural contrast.

BBQ Pork Bao (Steamed):

Sticky Rice Wrap with Chicken:

Sadly they use parchment paper, and there’s no Lotus Leaf scent at all. :frowning: It’s a bit too salty, but there is a slice of Abalone within.

Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce:

Crisp Fried Chicken Wing with Pepper Salt:

These were addictive, salty, peppery, lightly spicy, the Fried Chicken Wings were perfectly cooked. :slight_smile:

Mango/Grapefruit Sago in Coconut Milk:

Delicious, tropical, fragrant. Favorite Dessert for half of our group. :slight_smile:

Baked Egg Tart:

These arrived warm (not hot), but they were the best of the Dim Sum places we’ve tried recently. Not as good as Jim’s Bakery when they’re fresh out of the oven, but very tasty nonetheless. Creamy custardy center that isn’t too sweet. :slight_smile:

Deep Fried Lotus Sesame Ball:

Dinner:

Dinner at China Red is a totally different experience compared to Dim Sum Lunch: There’s no wait, and during our 2 visits, it was about 40% full, which is due to the “high-class” angle China Red is aiming for, with much of their menu devoted to a variety of ways to cook their Live Seafood.

We were curious about newer offerings like Braised Sea Cucumber in Corn Sauce(!), Sauteed Fresh Milk with Fresh Roe, and Baked Kobe Beef Tongue. Our Chinese-speaking friend confirmed with the waiter that their “Kobe Beef” was actually Australian Beef, so we held off on ordering that. And then we saw that they offer their Live Seafood “Sauteed with Cheese”(!!!), @ipsedixit @beefnoguy @chandavkl @J_L please tell me this is not a new “thing” in Hong Kong that’s coming over here. :face_vomiting: :grimacing: :sweat_smile: We decided to… not try that. :wink:

Crispy Fried Pork Intestines:

I don’t eat Offal that often, but (of course) we happened to have our Offal-loving friends with us, so this arrived at our table. :slight_smile: These were surprisingly quite good! The Pork Intestines were deep fried to a super crispy exterior with a little bit of soft fattiness underneath. :slight_smile:

Salt & Pepper Shishamo:

This variation of Shishamo was better than the X.O. Sauce version during Dim Sum. Still a touch on the oily side, but nicely peppery and zesty with a good briny umami coming through. :slight_smile: (Sea Harbour’s Deep Fried Smelt is better executed.)

Sauteed Pea Shoots with Garlic:

Perfectly cooked, nice Garlic flavor coming through with each bite, tender Pea Shoots that still had a little bite on the stem.

Steamed Stuffed Chicken (or “South of the River Hundred Flowers Chicken”):

Our friends from Hong Kong chuckled when they told us about this dish they ordered: In English the menu translates this as “Steamed Stuffed Chicken” which sounds rather… bland. They said in Chinese it’s literally “South of the River Hundred Flowers Chicken” which sounds way better and prettier - more Chinese restaurants need to hire our FTC Chinese speakers to translate their menus. :wink:

This looked similar to what @Ns1 @A5KOBE @beefnoguy @PorkyBelly and others were talking about at the now defunct Embassy Kitchen I think(?), which was a pleasant surprise to see it on our table during this visit.

China Red essentially takes Chicken and Shrimp and Shrimp Paste and dices it all up and deep fries it into this presentation here. It is visually stunning, and it was delicious! :blush:

Crunchy exterior gives way to a nice, tender mixture of Marinated Dark Meat Chicken, Shrimp and Shrimp Paste. What was even better was that the mandolined Orange Slices weren’t just for show: They were sliced so thinly that the Orange and its peel were edible! (easy to chew.) So you had this great burst of bright citrus helping to balance out the Deep Fried Chicken & Shrimp pieces. :slight_smile:

Live Rock Cod - Steamed:

Nicely steamed, fresh, bright Rock Cod. This was fine and still tasty, but it lacked the execution of Sea Harbour’s Steamed Live Rock Cod that we had a month later.

Steamed Crab with Rice:

Visually appealing, China Red takes a whole Dungeness Crab and steams it with Seasoned Glutinous Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf.

Unfortunately this turned out to be just the sum of its parts: The Dungeness Crab was fresh and tasted fine, but it strangely imparted zero Crab flavor and no brininess to the Glutinous Rice. The Lotus Leaf seemed to be non-existent as well in the final Rice flavor. :frowning: The Glutinous Rice was hefty, sticky and had bits of Chinese Lap Cheung Sausage, some Mushroom and that’s about it.

We were puzzled because it looked like it should taste far better than it actually did. Our HK friends said they’ve had similar dishes in Hong Kong and elsewhere and said that those renditions taste much better and there is supposed to be some nice Crab flavors infused in the Rice. Oh well.

Fried Chicken Shrank (No Pics):

The mistranslated “Fried Chicken Shrank” is actually Deep Fried Chicken Cartilage with Salted Duck Egg Yolks(!), which sounded great. These turned out to be a bit too oily and not cooked long enough: The Chicken Cartilage chunks were still quite firm in certain bites and the Salted Duck Egg Yolks imparted an interesting savory saltiness, but perhaps added too much to the heaviness of the dish as well.

Fried Squab:

The skin wasn’t as crispy as we would’ve liked, but still had a subtle crispness about it. The Squab meat was moist, and it had a deep poultry flavor to it, gamier and with more character than Chicken or Duck. Overall it was nicely done and quite tasty. :slight_smile:

Pork Ribs with Special Garlic:

These were a bit too fatty. Eating away from the large fatty chunks, the lean Pork Meat with Fried Garlic was delicious and nicely seasoned. :slight_smile:

Even at only 40% full, it seemed service was a bit slow and not as attentive as Sea Harbour (or Monterey Palace).

Ultimately, China Red remains a solid choice for Dim Sum if you’re in the area. Their Steamed Spare Ribs, House Special Rice Noodle Roll, Chicken Wings, Mango Sago and Egg Custard Tarts were some of our favorites for Lunch.

For Dinner, they have a lot of options to cook a bountiful selection of Live Seafood, but their execution isn’t as good as Sea Harbour. We enjoyed their Steamed Stuffed Chicken (order in advance), Fried Pork Intestines, and Fried Squab the most, while they seemed to be less successful with dishes like their Crab Rice, Pork Ribs with Special Garlic and their Live Seafood preparations. Still, this is a great option if you’re visiting the Arboretum or in the area and hankering for Hong Kong Seafood or Dim Sum.

China Red
855 S. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 445-3700


#2

I should mention to you that the best crispy top bbq pork bun I’ve found in the LA area is the giant bun sold at Family Pastry on Spring St. in Chinatown (called "Snow Mountain bun, I believe). Not that it compares to Dragon Beaux or anything else you can get in the Bay Area. But it’s sure better than what you get at Lunasia, China Red or Bao (!!!), and it’s only $1.35. However, once they sell out that’s it for the day and you’ll have to settle for their regular giant baked bbq pork bun, which is a pretty good consolation prize since it’s usually the best regular baked bbq pork bun in LA, except that an imposter occasionally shows up in their kitchen.


#3

This is quite common in HK especially in regards to lobster.


#4

Ok, so this begs the question, why? Asians generally eschew cheese, and what is it about cheese that brings out the flavor in a live lobster? Is there any flavor enhancement when adding the savory taste of cheese to the briny sweetness of live lobster meat?


#5

I really can’t answer that question since I haven’t had it for 2 decades…

I would imagine that it’s not 100% cheese since that’ll be way too thick. People love lobster mac & cheese and lobster thermidor so I can see it work if we go with a more mild cheese and lighten its strong flavor.


#6

Lobster has no taste. It’s essentially a vehicle for drawn butter, if you’re a Westerner.

Cheese on lobster (or even fish, like Tilapia) and pork chops are de rigueur in HK style cafes now for about 2 decades, give or take a day or two.


#7

Thanks @ipsedixit. Mm… Tilapia & Cheese. :nauseated_face: :sweat_smile: And Pork Chops & Cheese?! Wow. Then again we haven’t been a HK cafe in years. Thanks for the insight.


#8

I peeped my head in during various afternoon and it’s all gone.

The Big Chicken Bao’s I’ll get some for a quick breakfast on the go!!!


#9

It’s easy to miss because it’s deceptively named “bake pork chop” and you’re expecting something like a take and bake pork chop. But no, it’s a breaded monstrosity with a ton of tomato sauce and cheese on rice.

My wife loves it, I don’t understand it.


#10

You mean something like that from let’s say…Garden Cafe in Alhambra? I love it! Big portion, low price, plenty of tender porky goodness with caramelized cheese on top and just enough acidity in the tomato sauce to balance out the richness when mixed in with the rice. Ultimate comfort food right there! :joy:


#11

Baked Pork Chop! I need to get me some! Love that stuff since high school eating at 1am