Restaurants 1 through 6 in Little Manila in Carson, CA, USA. More details when available.
9/17/00 - Number (12) is in 1st. place, followed by (13) and (16) tied for 2nd., and (14) in 3rd. Number (2 first time) is in 4th. and (4 fast food) in 5th. Numbers (6), (8), and (2 buffet) are tied for 6th. place. Numbers (7), (10), and (4 full service) are in last place. Number (1) was also in last place; the new reviews puts them better than average for the Chinese fast-food, but the one Filipino dish I tried was poor.
9/17/00 - You might want to read them in the order I reviewed them which is numbers (12), (4 fast food), (6), (8), (2 fast food), (7), (10), (1 old place), (4 full service), (2 buffet), (13), (14), (16), and (1 new place).
12/28/00 - Somehow I missed 3, 5, 9, 11, 15, and 17 in the above report. Will fix someday.
Little Manila Restaurant Updates. 9/17/00 - See new review of (1).. 5/11/00 - Iba'n Express (16) moves into a tie for second place. 9/20/99 - Island Foods (15) is open. 9/14/99 - All traces of Sizzling Pinoy restaurant were removed from the Seafood City Supermarket area, but now a worker says it is under construction. No! 9/11/99 - I reviewed Tipanan Filipino Cuisine restaurant (14), and they're in third place. 9/1/99 - A new sign on Palayok (6) says starting today they will be closed every Monday. 8/30/99 - Reviewed another restaurant, Vigan Express (13), which moves into 2nd. place. Also got a good fish fried at Tambuli Market (M6). I went back starting 7/23/99, on the weekends, to review restaurants.
Number (2 buffet) has all you can eat, and (4 full service) and (7) have full service. The rest have steam-table fast food, and maybe order-from-the-menu food. Except at the full-service places, you eat with plastic ware and plastic plates and bowls. They probably all do take out and catering. Most of these restaurants have various free newspapers, either inside or outside, like the markets. However, sometimes they throw them away at night when they close.
9/14/99 - Few of these businesses sell liquor, beer, or wine. Call first if that's important to you.
Just for comparison, one of the best values I found in the Philippines was an eight or ten course Chinese meal for about 80¢. A huge tureen of shark-fin soup was about 50¢. Yes, that was in the 1960's.
10/29/00 - Also, the City of Carson has a short, not-up-to-date nor complete list at carson.csudh.edu/Economic%20Dev/Restaurants2.htm#phillippine (double "l" is their spelling).
Maps. See Walking Tour.
Added 12/28/00 - Till now, I never reviewed (or ate at) Jollibee or Chowking, nor Red Ribbon cause they're chains and serve fast food. I have reviewed all the mom and pa restaurants which I prefer. However, I do now have a few thoughts, not many facts. I haven't tried, nor do I plan to try these.
All are located at:
131 W. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
close to Seafood City Supermarket, northwest corner of Carson St. & Main St.
Jollibee (310-513-1941) is about the largest U.S.-style fast-food chain in the Philippines, with some stores in the U.S. and maybe elsewhere. They serve U.S.-style fast-food items with a Philippine twist. It's mostly burgers (pineapple optional), fried chicken, and pasta with tomato sauce and slices hot dogs. The pasta must be for the kids. Recently they started serving Philippine and U.S.-style breakfast from about 7-11 a.m. I understand most items don't taste the way they would in a U.S. restaurant. If that's a problem, ask them for details, especially concerning the pasta and the Philippine sausage, not my favorite. I think most items are under $3 or $4, but I've never walked into the store.
Chowking (310-835-7100) is about the largest chain of Chinese-style fast-food stores in the Philippines with some in the U.S. This year (2000) they were bought by or merged with the larger Jollibee. Most dishes have Philippine names, sort of a Chinese look, but as with Jollibee, you might want to ask them how the dishes taste. You'll see mostly dishes served over rice or noodles, noodle soups, but they also have dim-sum-style items like filled, steamed buns, and congee: a rice soup for breakfast. I love good Chinese food, but I usually avoid most dim-sum items and congee. Most items may be under $4 or $5. They also make platters to go for up to 16 people.
Red Ribbon Bake Shop (310-542-1991) has about eight stores in California and is mostly a bakery with fancy cakes, breads, and pastries. But, they also serve several snack items which could form a meal. They have a few tables for eat in. Somewhere I heard their name comes from wrapping their boxes with red ribbon, but they may not do that anymore. Their L.A. store on Sunset Bl. also has the fancy coffee drinks for a limited time.
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.
2. Manila Sunrise
21828 S. Main St.
Carson, CA 90745
I went in and asked for a to-go menu, and they said no. I saw a steam table full of food, but I didn't write down any details. I went here a few years ago cause it was reviewed in the Press-Telegram newspaper. Or I think it was this place. The review didn't say anything bad, but I just went to look.
7/31/99 - This is a review of the fast-food combo plate. It's Saturday evening about 6:00 p.m., and I'm back on the job. Combo plates include rice, a small soup and: 1 item for $2.75, 2 items for $3.50, and 3 items for $4.25. They don't have a menu, just a sign on the wall. A few other items range from $1.20 to $6.50. They're open seven days, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., so they probably do breakfast.
I just walked over to the steam table and ask the girl to please tell me what they had. There wasn't anything I'd had before, and anyway I wanted to try something different. I went for the two item combo, still with steamed rice, a small soup, and two items. I went for a pork stew with vegetables and tomatoes and a chicken adobo. Most all these restaurants have had fish, organ meat, combination dishes, etc., but not many vegetables. This place had just a touch of a good-looking vegetable dish, but I wanted to stay with basic pork, chicken, and beef the first time around.
The chicken adobo had a small leg and two nuggets of chopped-up thigh with the bones. This came in something like a cream sauce. I've had about three adobo dishes so far, and none tasted the same. This was very good, and I didn't taste any vinegar. The pork stew was a serving-spoon full of small chopped pork, a few overcooked vegetables, and a very good sauce. The girl said it had tomatoes, and I tasted, for the first time, a hint of heat, maybe from paprika. I have refrained from speculation on seasoning and tastes, cause I don't have a clue. The pork was maybe a quarter fat, but very tender. About half the rice was a hockey puck, but there was enough good stuff, so I didn't say anything. For the first time the soup had just a suggestion of delayed heat. It was a beef broth with vegetables and was very good. It was salty, but remember what I said about salt in the review for Tita Celia (12).
This place moves into second place behind Tita Celia (12). No pickles or other stuff, just minor condiments and water. As the girl described the dishes to me, three Filipino customers were listening also. They do need signs on the food, nobody knows what it is. They did have a few Filipino newspapers, of which a free and a pay one I haven't seen before.
8/8/99 - Unique! They do an all-you-can-eat buffet seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Adults are $4.95, and children are $2.90. I do suggest buffets as a way to check out a restaurant. It was Sunday, just before noon. The other customers were dressed-up, and I assume many were just getting out of the church next door. I like to graze and eat slowly, and I might have been there almost two hours. They had a lot of customers, mostly getting food to go.
For the all-you-can-eat you get everything on the steam table plus steamed rice. They had two soups, rice porridge, a pork shank?, pork adobo, chicken curry, three fish dishes, ox tail in peanut sauce, a couple of vegetable dishes, organ meat in a thick black sauce, roast pork, and latter they had a sliced beef dish. There were probably more dishes which I forgot. The vegetable dishes included things like banana blossoms, bitter melon, and oriental eggplant. A couple of the meat dishes included vegetables also. Of the three fish dishes, two were very small, fried fish, one in a sauce. The other fish dish was poached tails.
I tried almost everything. Of the fish, I only tried the one in sauce, and it was extremely over cooked. I skipped the shank? because it was too large. I do wish they could give you small samples of the big stuff, I just didn't want to waste it. I skipped the chicken meat and just tried the sauce and vegetables; same with the organ meat and ox tail dishes. I went back a few times just to pick out the vegetables which tended to be slightly overcooked.
Good news - bad news. Nothing was bad, but nothing was good either. Nothing was as good as what I got on the first visit. Maybe Sunday is bland-food day. My first visit put them in second place, but this visit would put them very low on the list. The value was good, but I don't care for bland food. However, I still suggest a buffet as a way to check out a restaurant. Maybe, just stop in, and ask for samples. I do remember a Filipino lady getting two huge plates full of food, so someone likes it. PS - I want to thank the girl on the steam table. She remembered me from the last time and asked if I wanted a description of the dishes again. Again, a couple of Filipino customers were listening as she described the dishes. RESTAURANTS - please put name tags on your food.
3. Ted's Burgers, menu says "The best burgers in town."
22000 S. Main St.
Carson, CA 90745
Again, someone recommended this place for breakfast years ago. Two breakfast specials give you 2 eggs, 2 bacon or 2 sausage, and either hash browns and toast or 2 hotcakes for $2.29. Good food and lot's of it, but not very fast cause the place gets packed. Menu says they do breakfast all day. A few patio tables are available in front. They have a drive-through window, on the passenger side. Other menu items from $1.25 to $5.45. Sunday thru Thursday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.