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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Awesomelyest True Acticle On Authentic Chinese Food

Posted by mikenopolis on April 1, 2011

Joe Soong wrote an article on AlhambraSource.Org regarding Los Angeles County’s Chinese restaurant’s public health ratings. As much of a borderline germaphobe as I am. When it comes to good food, if the food ain’t spoiled, spit on, dropped on the floor or wrapped with a dirty cloth, I don’t care much, bring it to me. From what I’ve read, the Health Department picks on many aspects of the restaurant, not just the food. So in some ways, a restaurant can cook the best food, but still have a “C” rating if their dish washing detergent is too close to the food areas, or the temperature of the gravy is a degree off, etc. Main point is, thje rating does not indicate the quality of the food, but the quality of the kitchen, which CAN be an issue, just not necessarily on your visit.

Please go HERE: http://www.alhambrasource.org/stories/aamericanized-bbetter-cchinese-abcs-san-gabriel-valley-chinese-restaurants for the original article.

Here’s the Article (I copy and paste these because some sites change the URL over time and I don’t want this to be lost, I’ve had many broken links in the past)

A=Americanized, B=Better, C=Chinese: the ABCs of San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants

Photo by Albert Lu
by Joe Soong, Community Contributor,
March 31, 2011

As a Chinese-American who happens to have many non-Chinese friends, I have been asked many times for recommendations to Chinese restaurants. To help, I have created a tutorial in how to determine if an establishment is a legitimate purveyor of genuine Chinese cuisine.

In Los Angeles County’s restaurant rating system, each establishment is graded on numerous factors, with an “A” being the highest possible grade. However, a different, informal rating system applies to Chinese restaurants. Here’s a summary of the Chinese system that, like the Los Angeles County rating system, also appears as a letter grade in the restaurant’s window:


“A” = Americanized. This is the least desirable rating, where the food establishment focuses too much on superficial attributes such as cleanliness and proper food temperatures. Instead of real Chinese food, it features mundane Americanized entrees such as sweet and sour pork and egg rolls. A real Chinese restaurant does not proudly display an “A” rating.


“B” = Better. This means the restaurant is better than an “A”, but not as good as a “C.”


“C” =Chinese. Real, homegrown Chinese food is served at this establishment. You won’t find reviews for these restaurants on the local TV news.

There are many factors that distinguish a superior “C” restaurant from other inferior Chinese restaurants. They are as follows:

1. The restaurant clientele must be minimally 95 percent Chinese and they will be speaking any one of the numerous Chinese dialects. Don’t worry about feeling out of place. Most patrons will be focused on their food and not on who walks in through the front door.

2. A real Chinese restaurant uses circular tables that can crowd up to 12 people at each table. If you’ve been to a Chinese wedding, you know what I mean. To guarantee equal access for all, the entrees are placed on the round, rotating Lazy Susan in the center of the table.

In contrast, many Americanized Chinese restaurants have long rectangular tables for larger groups. This works well if everyone orders their own entrée (non-Chinese style) or if you don’t mind being bothered by repeated, constant requests to pass entrées around to everyone else.

In inauthentic Chinese restaurants, the wait staff will make pleasant small talk and will periodically check up on you to see how you are doing. This may not be the case in a real Chinese restaurant. So, if you don’t see your waitress again until it’s time for the check, don’t worry, it’s not personal.

3. The wait staff will not be native English speakers and may have difficulty communicating with you. This is a positive sign because it indicates the waiters and waitress were hired to serve a primarily Chinese clientele and the restaurant most likely prepares the food accordingly.

In other words, you will be served real Chinese food. On the down side, because of the language barrier, there is a high likelihood that at least one of your entrees will be a dish you did not order. Enjoy the braised pork spleen.

4. In a restaurant serving true Chinese food, the menu almost seems to be an afterthought, which is a good thing. This means that the food establishment did not spend too much time on it, primarily focusing its efforts on the food. The menu will be a minimal affair, most likely composed of simple, laminated, and possibly food-stained Xerox copies. If the menu resembles a wedding album with a fancy cover, pictures, and possibly designed by a graphic artist, then the restaurant is probably not authentic.

In a real Chinese restaurant, the menu was probably created by the same person who hired the wait staff, ordered the vegetables from the wholesaler, and who looked at you like you were an idiot when you asked him if he could take the chicken out of the Kung Pao Chicken because you are a vegetarian. Remember, in a real Chinese restaurant, the customer is right only some of the time.


5. Item descriptions in a Chinese menu are also telling. In a fake Chinese restaurant, entrées are described in flowery, verbose prose to persuade you to select the item. In an authentic Chinese restaurant the food sells itself. Let’s use barbeque pork buns as an example:

Fake Chinese restaurant: Shanghai steamed buns – Sweet, succulent, Shanghai style barbequed pork in a steamed bun, hot to the touch, but oh-so-tasty in your mouth. A true pearl of the Oriental, from the Great Wall of China to your dinner table – $3.75 each

Real Chinese restaurant: Pork bun – 3 for $2.25

6. The most important factor of all: Don’t worry if the restaurant doesn’t look like your idea of what a restaurant should be. That’s part of the fun and adventure of living in an area with the diversity of Southern California. Try a restaurant you’ve never tried before, order an entrée you’ve never tasted and maybe discover your inner Jonathan Gold. You just might be pleasantly surprised…

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Posted in Food, Travel | 1 Comment »

London Trip Part 1 of ?

Posted by mikenopolis on May 20, 2009

I’m wordy when I type, but you’ll probably get a one word answer from me if you’ve talked to me. This post is only on my airport experience…there will be more to come as I get chances to write.

Ok, I finally got some time to talk about my one week (May 3, 2009 – May 10, 2009) vacation to London, UK. There wasn’t too much planning involved with this trip. A friend (LB) of ours was heading to London because of a work crisis, apparently their accounting department in the UK office was not well trained/educated enough and was still trying to close their 2008 books even though we are five months into 2009! Her company needed to have everything in order because they were about to make presentations to potential investors. Since the company will eventually be sold soon, she may not get to travel as much and invited us to tag along and stay in her hotel room to cut down our travel expense, she’s so sweet! Due to my girlfriend (MC) and I having two mortgages, two car payments and two sets of utility bills, and various investments. International travel is not a luxury we can afford (we can, but we’re smarter than that, with this economy, Save! Save! Save! I was unemployed for about 2 months before; it felt scary dipping into my savings!)

The last time I flew international was over 10 years ago to my “Home Country” of Hong Kong, I needed to renew my British passport and they needed me to be there physically.  (Hong Kong was owned by the U.K. so I had dual citizenship in Hong Kong and England). I got naturalized to a U.S. Citizen when I turned 18…stupid rule considering that I already lived in the U.S. for 94% of my life at that point! Arriving at the airport I felt like a little kid in a candy store because I have this weird fascination and love for airports, I love the smell, the “foreign” people, the planes, and almost everything about it, yes even the stupid people, they are my entertainment and my motivation behind most of my blog posts.

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We had decided to not check any bags in so getting in and out of the airport would be faster and easier. As a typical guy I packed light, just enough clothes for the days I’m there, one power converter and a 5 port power strip, various toiletry and one light jacket. Then my messenger bog, with a folder of travel info and documents, netbook, flashlight, extra batteries for the flashlight and my trusty camera. This may seem like a lot, but everything is neat in two small “luggage”. MC however got stuck at the check-in counter because her carry-on was too big and didn’t fit into their little wire bin that determines the maximum size…. This is when the stupidity started. MC pulled out a jacket from her carry-on and zipped up the expansion partition of the luggage, voilà! It fits, and all is well. Once she got out of there she opened it back up and shoved her jacket back in…..and guess what? it fit in the overhead bin with room to spare!

Old picture from another trip

Old picture from another trip

On to the next annoyance… Security had to be a little bitch and completely take out my netbook from my bag and run it through the x-ray three times, asked me what it was like the idiot that he is, doing this 8 hours a day and you’ve never seen a small laptop? He asked me to turn it on just to prove it. Now I’m standing there with no shoes, no belt, and my $2000 watch is in my shoe, in a basket way down on the other of the conveyor belt thing (I am extremely paranoid about my stuff…explains why I don’t have any pictures of MC and I that were taken “MySpace self-portrait style” because I won’t hand my camera off to strangers…or anyone using a shitty point & shoot).  So now I’m standing there continuously looking to my right to make sure my watch is safe…you know like a nervous terrorist! Back to the stupidity that’s security. When the x-ray security called me over to the side, I had not gone through the metal detector yet,  so after the ordeal, being the safe law abiding citizen that I am, I started to walk back towards the metal detector and the security with the wand told me to go the other way (toward the gates). Ummm excuse me you stupid rent-a-cop, your colleague triple checked my laptop for a bomb, are you sure you don’t want to triple check that these are indeed my testicle and not grenades? I got my belt, watch and shoes from the basket and we headed over to the gate.

While waiting at the gate, I sat behind Rufus Sewell………………. “Who??!?!” you say? That’s what I said, but apparently there were plenty of people who know him and those people did not know the word privacy, common decency, or just STFU! I had to hear all their stupid questions and request for autographs and pictures! Eventually we got on the plane and were on our way across the pond.

More to come…eventually

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