Restaurants in Little Manila in Carson, CA, USA. More details when available.
1. Kim Tar Restaurant B.B.Q., menu now says "Szechwan-Chinese fastfood" (previously Nanay Restaurant)
174 E. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
Steam table: Chinese & some Filipino. Menu: four pages of Chinese. To go, eat in, & delivery.
1/19/01 about 7 p.m. - They added a new steam-table dish: Szechwan pork, their best dish so far. Almost as good as the better Chinese restaurants but with a lot less oil. The tofu, however, this time was the soft type in a bland (tomato?) sauce. Nothing compared to the last, good, spicy version.
12/29/00. I arrived just before 3 p.m.; just in time to try the $4.25 lunch special. Both the $4.25 and the $5.25 specials come with "daily" soup, egg roll or chicken salad, and steamed or fried rice. I ordered chicken salad, steamed rice, and the beef with Szechwan sauce; sometimes called garlic sauce or whatever. This came with egg-flower soup, my least favorite, and I should have asked if there was a choice of soups.
The chicken broth in the soup was good, and I just left the eggs. I'm not a fan of chicken salad, but I'll eat it rather than egg rolls. This was chopped lettuce with strips of white-meat chicken and the usual slightly-sweet dressing. It was OK. The white rice was long grain, cooked correctly, and not sticky. Nicely done. If you prefer a rice bowl, do ask; so few non-traditional places offer them today.
The beef in Szechwan sauce was slightly unusual. Normally, the beef is sliced very thin; this was rather thick, up to almost 3/16 of an inch. But, the beef was mostly tender so it worked. It came with a few black mushrooms and slices of bamboo shoots. The Szechwan sauce was also slightly unusual. You don't usually see minced garlic (more latter) in the sauce, and it tasted like it might have a tad too much bean paste, but it was good. Overall, the meal was good and a step up from their steam-table food. You can find a better version in Lomita, but for Carson it's a good dish and a good value anywhere. I had to take some home.
PS - I've never seen an official recipe for this sauce, but if you like it, try a few of the good Chinese restaurants to learn the flavor, and you should be able to fake it at home. Start with garlic and ginger (I prefer juice or blenderized), dark? soy sauce, yellow or brown bean paste, chile and Szechwan peppers, Shaoxing wine wouldn't hurt, sugar, and maybe vinegar and/or oil. If it's too strong for you, thin with wine or water, and thicken with corn starch. If you need a recipe, try yu-xiang (in Pinyin) sauce in a Szechwan cookbook.
PPS - To spot this dish on a menu, with it's several English names, look at the Chinese names, the left-side character, on the menu. This is easy. Look for a square filled with a cross. Above the square is like the number "7" with a bent top. The square has four short legs. That's the character for fish and perhaps dates to when the sauce was first used with fish.
added 12/23/00 - from 12/14/00, about 8 p.m. - Kim Tar has a new discount plan. You may still find 20% off after 3 p.m. on the menu items. But, the Chinese, steam-table, fast-food items are now mostly 99¢ or less. You can design your own combo, with or without rice or noodles.
I've been checking with them, hoping they'd add new steam-table, fast-food items. They tried spicy eggplant, which I like, but it took me a few days to get there, and they had switched to something else. Tonight they had spicy tofu made with firm tofu which I prefer. The sauce was good and only slightly spicy. A good dish, but more color would help.
The vegetables always look overcooked but are always good. I got the mixed vegetables, which included seven whole mixed mushrooms, in a slightly tasty sauce. Good also.
Still, the only Chinese meat dish I've tried was the orange chicken. Good as usual, slightly tender, in a mild orange sauce. Total for the three items was $2.97 plus tax and, with your own rice and soup, could be enough for two or maybe three.
A few days later I returned and tried the beef and brocoli, also a good dish. The manager tends to give good portions, but his helper doesn't. Always call first to check what's available that day, and expect they could run out.
10/1/00 Update - Returned Friday and Saturday 9/29 and 9/30/00, both after 6 p.m., to try Filipino dishes which are only available on the steam table. About the only item listed all three nights was the pork-rib adobo. So far each time I got the two-item combo with chow mein for the discounted price of $3.03 which included tax.
Friday, 9/29/00 - They were out of pork-rib adobo and, after waiting a while, I got the chow mein and orange chicken - again - and the kung-pao chicken. The kung-pao was mostly chopped water chestnuts, a few green onions, and only a few bits of ok chicken. The sauce was also a problem. My serving didn't contain one of the hot peppers and was mild. Only towards the end did I notice a slight accumulation of heat but no vinegar. A rather bland dish, too little chicken, and lacking the correct flavors. A below average version.
The orange chicken was still above average. I'm starting to like their chow mein which is rather above average and contains more non-overcooked vegetables than you usually see in a combo. They even char a few noodles for an interesting taste, but it can be a touch salty and oily.
Sat, 9/30/00 - Pork Rib Adobo? Pork? - maybe, ribs? - no, adobo? - no. There were four chunks, and at first it looked like too much meat. But the chunks were 90% bone and fat with just a touch of slightly tough meat. The bones looked more like chunks of shoulder-blade bone. The sauce was tasty but contained star anise, several bone chips, and was wasted on this meat. They were out of 'ribs' on Friday so I came back Saturday when they had plenty. A dish to avoid unless you can verify the meat is tender ribs.
Saturday I also tried the dry-cooked green beans. Dry cooking can mean two or more techniques. In this case, first deep frying is used to drive out the water and concentrate the bean flavor. That wilts the green beans. This is usually followed by another form of dry cooking where the sauce is reduced till it dries and sticks to the ingredients - and it makes a mess in your pan. For me it doesn't seems to improve the dish, but perhaps it works better with Chinese long beans rather than with American green beans. This was an unusual preparation and had an interesting sauce with just a touch of heat and bits of other vegetables. Traces of minced pork are sometimes added, but I believe the server said it was beef. The beans looked beyond the usual overcooked stage, but were actually ok. An interesting dish, but for vegetables they don't give you much. Both the 'adobo' and green-bean sauces were good but not authentic and were a tad oily.
9/17/00 - About 8/25/00 they mailed a new menu to the locals and announce a new manager and 20% off all items after 3 p.m. Before 3 p.m. you get a free soda with some combo. Another sign says you get four 'chunks' of fried chicken for $1.00, but I didn't try that. New hours are Mo-Th, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fri & Sat till 10 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Went in 9/16/00, about 6 p.m. to try the two-item combo with rice and/or chow mein, no soup, for $3.50. With three items it would be $4.50. This is fast food off the steam table. With 20% off and tax that came to $3.03. I got all chow mein, orange chicken, and Mongolian beef. The chow mein was ok or slightly better than average, but you know the local, fast food chow mein isn't that good. The orange chicken was nice bits of chicken in slightly too much batter, as usual, in an ok sweet and sour sauce, no heat. Also better than average. The Mongolian beef was slices of tender and a few slices of chewey beef with green and yellow onions in a bland, thin, soy-flavored sauce. No flavor, garlic, or richness that one expects in this dish. The beef would have to get much better before I'd get it again, but the rest was ok.
I got the order to go but eat half of it there, telling the manager I hadn't been happy with the food in the past. After a while he came over and asked how the food was today, and I said ok except for the bland beef. He said it was a new chef. I saved half for the next day.
The new menu has a page of lunch specials at $4.25 (like beef) and others at $5.25 (like seafood). They include rice, egg roll or chicken salad, and soup (but not to go). Also a page of dinner specials from $7.95 to $10.95 with soup, egg roll, wonton, and rice. Also two pages of items from appetizers to a la carte for $2.50 to $11.95, with most items about $7. As before, it's mostly Chinese food, and Filipino food is only available on the steam table. The only Filipino dish I recall was adobo ribs which I didn't try.
Overall - The $3.03 special seems like an ok value if you can find two good items, but the other prices seem rather high for these digs in this area. They didn't even have a waitress at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night.
8/6/99 - It's after 6 p.m. on a Friday night. They have names on the steam-table food, a very good idea. I got the two-item combo with chicken adobo and pork-rib adobo. This comes with fried rice and chow mein, and I forgot to ask if steamed rice was an option. The combo comes with a small soup, and if you don't say anything they give you egg-flower soup which is one of my least favorites. I had called to ask if I could have something else, and the lady said yes. So when I got there she gave me plain chicken broth with a few chopped scallions. This time I wrote it down: she gave me four chunks of pork rib and three chunks of chicken, that's two chunks of thigh and a small leg.
This sounds like a lot of food, in fact I had to ask for a second plate on which to cut the meat. That was the problem. The pork was so tough I almost couldn't cut it with the serrated plasticware knife. I went and asked for metalware and told her why, but she didn't care. In fact the chicken was slightly tough also. When I finished, which didn't take long, the plate was still full. It was all bones, skin, and a little fat with very little meat. I just filled up on the rice, chow mein, and soup which were ok.
How does one cook pork ribs and chicken to make them tough? These guys have the secret. It's too bad cause the adobo sauces were mild but rather good. This place moves into a tie for last place. Maybe the Chinese food is better, but don't bet on it.