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Restaurants 7 through 17 of Little Manila in Carson, CA, USA. More details when available.

7. Mami King, menu says "Mr. Siopao"
22222 S. Main St., #106
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-830-3828

7/26/99 - To-go menu says they have nine types of noodle soup (mami), four types of non-noodle soup, four types of filled-steamed buns (siopao), four a la carte items, one side order, and two deserts with prices from $1.45 to $4.60. Mon through Fri: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat and Sun: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. This place has sit-down service with waitresses.

8/1/99 - It was Sunday, about noon. It was a warm day, so I didn't want hot soup. Anyway, noodles are better other ways, like even with Italian pasta sauce. If I do have a soup meal, I want something with bold taste. Dough was born to be baked, so I didn't want a steamed bun. I knew I'd have trouble finding something I liked, and I was correct.

I ordered pansit palabok, "a Filipino favorite dish," from the a la carte section. This is thin rice noodles mixed in a thick, yellow sauce with a chicken taste. It was covered with ground, fried pork rind, and there were a few tiny morsels of pork fat. This is the first "constructed" Filipino dish I've seen in this area. It was topped with three, very thin slices of hard-boiled egg and three slices of small, halved shrimp. That's a total of one and a half small shrimp. Chopped scallions added color.

It tasted like salty chicken. After a few seconds it coagulated into a mess, and I left it. This is just a bland starch dish, and at $4.50 it's one of the most expensive I've has in this area. The menu said to allow 15-20 minutes for preparation, but I got mine in about two minutes. Maybe I got the fast-food version. The other customers were eating the noodle soup and/or the steamed buns. Those might be better, and don't go unless you like them. This place moves into last place.

PS - on service. This is the first full-service, Filipino restaurant I've tried in this area. One girl took my order and brought the food. Another girl brought my check and just asked if I wanted to take the leftovers home. It was almost a full plate, and she didn't care. Just like American restaurants. I left a normal tip cause I went in knowing I might not like the food.

8. Manila's Lechon (Manok), menu says "Filipino & Chinese food," but it's mostly Filipino.
118 W. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-513-9867

11/2/00 - Went back maybe 9/00 or 10/00, maybe on a Friday night to try this place again. Asked about caldereta and was shown a dish with no olives and the wrong look, too much tomato. I asked, and the lady said olives were too expensive. Then I asked for mechado, she said they had it, and I asked where. After a while she pointed to the same dish which did look like mechado. I did have a comment for her (no four-letter words), and hope she doesn't try that on another customer. This place came in rather low in the ratings, and stuff like this doesn't help. I didn't eat, and it could be a while before I return.

I think you just pick from the steam table and B.B.Q, and you eat in or to go. They and many others do catering. There is a menu to go, but mostly in Filipino and listing food by the pound. They list breakfast at $3.75, desserts at $1.50 or $1.75, specialties, and combo plates: 1 item at $3.50 or 2 items at $3.99. Catering for 100 is $599.00. I might start with a B.B.Q pork stick at $1.35 or a chicken B.B.Q. (undefined) at $1.55.

7/30/99 - It's Friday night about 7 p.m., and I came over to pick up the free Filipino newspapers which are outside this place on the sidewalk. This time I only saw four papers. By now I know enough to be dangerous, so I go in to order the two-item combo plate for $3.99. I ordered pork adobo and beef mechado and this comes with steamed rice. The lady who came out to help me didn't know what was on the steam table and had to ask someone else. Turned out they weren't on the steam table, and she had to go in the back to get them. All of the other three restaurants I've tried so far give you soup with the combo, so after a while I asked the cashier and she got me a small bowl of "soup with no meat." These prices are a $1 to $1.50 more than I spent last weekend.

The rice and pork were on one plate and the beef was in a bowl. There was a lot of meat, no vegetables, maybe worth the $1. There were about four or five chunks of each, but about a third to a half was fat and stuff I couldn't chew. The beef was warm, but the pork was room temp. It was a warm day, and adobo was a way to preserve meat, so I didn't say anything. Most of the pork was tender, but most of the beef was tough. The adobo sauce was stronger here, I could taste a trace of vinegar. The mechado sauce was good, but not quite as good as Casa Filipina (4). The soup was beef broth with onions and tasted like boiled onions, just fair. There were a couple of condiments on the tables, but I didn't see any help-yourself stuff except water. Since I didn't ask, I'm not even sure if the server gave me everything.

This place has a lot of different kinds of food. Remember there's more food in the back. About half the customers here and elsewhere get food to go. One guy was ordering chicken skin as I left. Compared to the meals I've had at the other local restaurants I'm not sure this is worth $3.99. Tita Celia (12) is still in first place, and I'll put this place as tied for third place.

PS - to help that confused server and new people like me, it would help to put names on the dishes. Many ethnic buffets do it. I think it could increase their business by making the food more user friendly. I'm more likely to try a new dish if I at least know the name.

9. Naga Bakery
124 W. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-835-1336

I just looked in the door, and they had customers.

10. Chow Fun
148 W. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-549-3231

The new Chow Fun (10) with Chinese did open Sunday 7/8/01. They offer fast steam-table food, order-from-the-menu food, and catering. They do food-to-go and have a tables for eat in. Open Sunday-Friday, closed Saturday. Hours are 10a-3p and 4p-8p, but the fast food is gone before 8p.

The fast-food combos come with rice, steamed or fried, and/or chow main noodles, short on vegetables, and 1, 2, and 3 main items. They reduced the combo prices for the grand opening by $1, so 1, 2, and 3 items are $1.99, $2.99, and $3.99. On the first visit only the kung pao beef looked ok. It was actually done in a mild 'garlic sauce,' the typical slightly sweet, non-spicy, not-very-garlicky stuff. It was ok. The steamed rice was ok, but the noodles were broken like something you might feed a child and didn't contain any vegetables, etc. For $1.99, just a snack. P.S. - The steam-table food was at room temperature, and I asked if they could heat it. That seemed to take forever and wasn't much warmer.

The second trip I tried orange chicken and beef and broccoli. The orange chicken was ok, but beef and broccoli were bad. The beef was thick and unchewable, the broccoli was overcooked, and the sauce was like water. The fried rice and noodles were fair.

The menu offers 74 items with appetizers from $1.35-$3.25 and soups from $1-$5.75. Most entrees are from $4.25-$6.50 with a few lower but none may even include rice. Sixteen unusual drinks are 75¢ to $2.50. A sample of their fresh melon? juice was ok. They offer 24 catering trays from $24-$38.

Overall, if you can find a good combo item for $1 off it's ok. Faced with their regular prices I'd go elsewhere.

China King - Closed about 9/2000 and reopened as Chow Fun above.

I did try the BBQ pork combo plate in the last year, and it was ok. Combo plates include fried or steamed rice, chow mein, and one item for $2.70. And, there was enough pork and stuff for the next day. You can order from a menu with items from 40-cents to $3.75. A quart of BBQ pork is $6.50. This place is listed in case you chicken out on Filipino food. 9/1/99 - New sign says hours are Sun - Thu 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.and Fri and Sat 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., seven days.

8/1/99 - This Sunday was a bad day in Little Manila. First I went to Kim Tar Restaurant B.B.Q., but they're closed on Sunday. Then I tried Mami King, and I was still hungry, so I came here about 1 p.m. I got the two-item combo which comes with fried rice, chow mein and two items for $3.50. I forgot to ask for steamed rice, so they give you fried rice. I got a boneless chicken thigh and pork ribs in brown sauce. There was no extra stuff except soy sauce, and I didn't even see any water.

The pork was nine chunks of pork ribs, mostly with the bone. A lot of fat and bone. The chicken was a boneless thigh with the skin which was flattened and fried. The chicken was very greasy, not what I want to eat with my fingers, and chop sticks aren't practical for a whole thigh. There weren't any plastic knives, and when I asked for one I was told they would chop it up for me. I wanted to eat there, but I just took the whole thing home.

It's still in the refrigerator. The fried rice and chow mein were ok. I just tried a couple of better-looking pork chunks, and they were tender. The chicken was dry, overcooked, and greasy. Problem: everything just tasted like soy sauce; it was bland, non-caring cooking. Maybe I didn't make the best choices, but based on having interesting food, these guys are in last place. However, based on having the most bland food for the money, they're about in first place.

8/4/99 - I made two meals out of the leftovers, and it tasted ok. I might have to upgrade their score.

11. Chowking (outside Seafood City Supermarket)
131 W. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone 310-835-7100

9/8/99 - They opened, and the lines are long. Looks like the same food as Mami King, which I didn't like, but I may try it. Most items $3.50 to $3.99 with none higher. At first the sign said Chowling, now it says Chowking. 9/18/99 - Prices went up and now range between $1 and $4.75. The lines are short, and when they discount prices, I might try it.

11.1. Tropical Bakeshop (outside Seafood City Supermarket)
131 W. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-834-2300

9/8/99 - They opened 9/9/99. Hours are seven days, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Grand opening is 9/11/99. Sign says "free coffee everyday," but there are no lids for the containers.

12. Tita Celia, menu says "The pride of Bulacan in Carson"
241 W. Carson St. (northeast corner at Moneta Ave)
Carson, CA 90745
phone: 310-834-6289, closed Sunday

10/21/00 - Their new plan may be to have caldereta (or kaldereta) maybe twice a week, maybe Tuesday and Friday. Call for the most correct info. I did rate Iba'n Express (16) as having the best dish in the area: beef caldereta, so I wanted to try the goat kaldereta here. Sometimes caldereta starting with a 'c' implies beef and kaldereta starting with a 'k' implies goat, but it's always better to ask.

Got here Friday 10/20/00 about 6:30 p.m. for another two-item combo, and the place was full and busy, mostly with to-go business. I got the steamed rice, fish soup, and pork adobo, and they were very good as usual - see below for details. The goat in the kaldereta was very mild with no strange goat taste or smell. The kaldereta had potatoes, mild peppers, and a hot pepper. The sauce was very good with just a hint of heat untill I ate the hot pepper. That I noticed, but it did no damage. I asked the chef why there were no green olives in the kaldereta, and he said cause he ran out.

Here the dishes alway taste good, but another reason I like it is the lean meat. However, tonight was the excepting. The kaldereta had a lot of fat and a bone and with the vegetables provided very little meat. But, what meat there was sure tasted good. The pork adobo was a little fatty for the first time. I did mention the fat to the chef and why I try to avoid fat, and he said to ask for him when I order. Go to Iba'n Express (16) for the beef caldereta or here for the goat kaldereta.


10/19/00 - These guys have about the best pork adobo and beef mechado in the area, and I rated them as the number one restaurant. I returned 10/18/00 about 6 p.m. to try other dishes. I got the two-item combo with "mystic" [more likely bistic or bistek] and "bowl-la-bowl-la" which comes with steamed rice and a small bowl of soup for eat-in. That totaled about $3.50 plus tax, and I ate it there. I'm not sure how to spell these dishes, but that's how they sounded to me.

"Mystic," English name beef steak, is sliced beef and onions stewed in a soy-flavored gravy. One girl said "mystic" might be a mispronunciation of beef steak. "Bowl-la-bowl-la" is medium-sized meat balls stewed in a sweet and sour sauce, and that could be the English name. The sauce was only slightly yellow, not tinted with unnecessary tomato or red coloring like so many of these sauces. There were a few shredded vegetables.

Many Philippine dishes are variations on Chinese dishes. I would guess China was the origin of these dishes. Chinese actually do many stewed dishes, but stews seldom appear in American-Chinese restaurants since they'd rather serve the almost instant stir-fried dishes. If you want to try a variation on a Chinese stew, you may find it in a Philippine restaurant.

The beef steak was very tender and mostly lean. The soy-flavored gravy was ok but not inspired. The meat balls were good, but the sweet and sour sauce had the typical American taste. I'd rate the ingredients as good but the sauces as average. However, I personally don't care for any version of either sauce and might not get either again. The steamed rice was good. For soup they had both chicken and fish, and I got the fish. It was sour, probably flavored with bitter melon which I didn't see, and was good. The overall grade for most people would be good.

--- initial report follows ------------------------

They do have a menu to-go, mostly in Filipino. Combo plates with rice and soup: 1 item at $2.50, 2 items at $3.50, and 3 items at $5.25. Menu also lists breakfast with no price, short orders mostly at $3.50, and catering items up to $95. Hours are listed as 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Sunday.

7/23/99 - I went here on Friday, about 8 p.m. for a one-item combo plate at $2.50. You get one item with steamed, white, slightly sticky rice, and a small bowl of soup. I checked out the steam table and asked the girl what she thought I might like. She told me about pork adobo, beef mechado, and something else, and I picked the pork. This was chunks of pork stewed in vinegar and other stuff. The pork came out very tender and tasty, and I didn't even notice the vinegar. And the sauce was great also, very rich. At this price I was afraid the meat would be very fatty or tough, but it wasn't. I don't remember seeing any fat from the outside, and there was only a little fat on the inside. I appreciate that. I forget to count how many chunks of pork I got, but I would guess about six, and that made a good meal. The soup was beef broth with chunks of vegetables and was very good also. This was a very good meal, and afterwards I went over and thanked them. This type of food holds up very well on a steam table. They don't have air conditioning, so you might want to sit by the fan. PS - These places tend to rotate dishes, so if you want something specific, it's better to call first and check.

A note on salt. On their own, the pork sauce was a little salty and the soup was rather salty compared to the way I cook. Perhaps the salt concentrated from sitting on the steam table, perhaps that's the way customers want it, or perhaps it's like the Chinese "rice-pushing" dishes. In southern China (except at banquets) rice is the meal, and the other dishes are eaten in small quantities to help "push down" the rice. So "rice-pushing" dishes tend to be overly tasty and perhaps salty to overcome the bland, steamed rice.

13. Vigan Express
21720 S. Vermont Ave., #114 (southeast corner of Carson and Vermont)
Torrance, CA 90502 (in L.A. strip, a block west of Carson)
phone 310-212-7828 (had web site, but not now)

8/29/99, Sunday - About last Saturday, around 6:00 p.m. I was cruising through this shopping center, found this place, and went in for a menu. They were out of steam-table fast food. I went back yesterday same time, and they were closed. They only have a menu for catering, and it lists an unreadable web site URL which is no more. They say they are open seven days, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but call first. A sign on the wall lists breakfast at $3 and combo plates with rice and soup. For to-go, 1 item at $2.50, 2 items at $3.40, and 3 items at $4.90. Eat in is 10-cents less.

I called first today, and went back for a one-item combo. On the phone it sounded like lots of stuff, but there wasn't that much on the steam table. I did bypass a display case of fish, and maybe other things were in the back. I went for pork adobo which comes with fluffy white rice and a small bowl of soup. This may be the only place that offers two soup. They had a chicken and bitter melon soup, which I got, and also a fish soup. This is a small room with about three tables. The room was warm, so for the first time I asked for the food to go.

The pork was about eight chunks, larger chunks than other fast-food places. The pork was very tender and tasty. It was maybe a quarter fat, but there was more good pork than I got in the other fast-food places. The rice was a little over cooked, and at first fluffy, but as it cooled it started sticking. Bitter melon is bitter. Most people have never tasted anything like it. I wouldn't want it every month or even every year, but give it a try. The soup was good.

This tasted very good, with lots of pork. The fat and overcooked rice keeps them out of first place. I don't want to have a tie for second so, based on the quantity of pork, this restaurant moves into second place.

14. Tipanan Filipino Cuisine
Carson Western Center (south east corner of Carson St. and Western Ave.)
1648 W. Carson St., Unit F
Torrance, CA 90501
phone 310-782-6855

I tried to go 9/3/99, Friday about 6:30 p.m., but they were closing for the Labor Day weekend. Think the sign said they were closed till Tuesday. Normal hours are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. They don't have a menu to go. Combo plates with steamed rice and a small soup and 1 item for $2.78, 2 items for $3.50, and 3 items for $4.50. This is towards the back of a shopping center at the southeast corner of Carson St. and Western Ave. It's in the second shopping strip east of Western Ave., which places it in the L.A. strip, just east of Torrance. There was a Japanese Go school a few doors away a few years ago.

I got there 9/10/99, about 12:30 p.m. I asked what they had, and she showed me pork chunks and pork ribs and other stuff. I got both pork dishes, and one was an adobo, but I forgot which. I didn't have time to eat it, I just took a bite of everything and finished the soup, and put it in the refrigerator at work.

I heated it up tonight. That one chunk of pork I tasted needed more cooking to become more tender. I mixed the meats and sauces together and microwaved them for five minutes. I put a few drops of water in a bowl with the rice and microwaved that for about 3 minutes. I cut Chinese broccoli stems in one-eight to three-sixteenth inch thick diagonals, mixed them with oyster sauce and hot sauce, and microwaved them for 5 to 6 minutes. There's still a little crunch left.

I had to ask about soup. Maybe they don't automatically give you soup. It was plain chicken broth, but good. For lunch I just took one bite of the chunks and ribs, and I wanted that chunk of pork to be a little more tender. There were nine larger chunks of pork, and when I heated them, they were tender. The pork ribs were in a tasty sauce with green peppers, but the chunk sauce was rather plain. There was some fat and bone, but lots of good tasting meat. The rice was good. I asked about pickles, and she gave me a real one from a jar.

I'll forget about the not-so-tender-pork chunk. Maybe it was just me. This place deserve to be in the top three, so I'll put them in third place. Third place because these guys give you a little more pork than at second place Vigan Express (13) but for a $1.00 more.

15. Island Foods (or Island Food Restaurant)
330 E. Carson St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone 310-830-3773

9/25/99 - Saturday about noon I went over for a look. They say it's Samoan and Hawaiian food. Steam table a la carte items from $1 to $3, but today's lunch specials were $10 and $12 for ordinary food. I told them their prices were much too high for the area, and I could get lunch with soup, rice, and one item for $2.50 on Main St. I bet they'll be out of business in a few months unless they lower their prices. PS - I was the only customer/looker.

9/20/99 - I called today, and they've been open for about three weeks. They were closed today, Monday, but they answered the phone. I'll try the food or at least check the menu. Hours are unstable but given as Tue - Thu 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fri 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sat and Sun 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Monday, and always call first. At 7 a.m. on Sat and Sun they do breakfast.

Original info - They're closed for remodeling, may open mid 9/99 with Hawaiian food, maybe some Filipino dishes. It's back from the street, behind a fence, and it's very hard to find. They have a tall sign, but it's blocked by a tree. Call for directions, or walk a few blocks to the east of Main St. It's just west of an auto repair center which is painted pink. There are only a few parking spaces inside the fence, it might be easier to park elsewhere.

16. Iba'n Express
21620 S. Figueroa St.
Carson, CA 90745
phone 310-328-4590

5/10/00 Tried a new restaurant in Little Manila on Saturday, 4/29/00, about 1 p.m. Got a two-item combo for about $4.00 with steamed rice and a small container of soup. The two items were beef caldereta (some spell it kaldereta) and pork adobo. I'll put them in a tie for second place among the restaurants, but that might change since I don't want a tie for second place.

The meat was very tender. The beef caldereta with a few green olives was the best dish I've had in the area. Just a little fat. Its taste was very close to what I want for my Hungarian beef goulash. Heck, I'll just find a recipe for this. The pork adobo didn't taste that good the first day compared to the beef caldereta. It was much better the next day, as with many of these dishes, but was just a little too fatty for me. The soup had two ok chunks of beef and a few vegetables and was good. The rice was fluffier than normal. No pickles or other extras. I got it to go and made three meals out of it.

This is on the Northeast corner of Carson St. and Figueroa, next to the Tokyo Bowl, just East of the 110 Harbor freeway, and two blocks West of Main St. Hours Monday - Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Sunday. PS - For the past few months the Tokyo Bowl does 'you buy, we fry' fresh fish in addition to the Monday - Friday buffet.

17. Tokyo Bowl
21616 S. Figueroa St. (northeast corner of Carson St. & Figueroa St., just EAST of 110 Harbor Freeway, with parking lot.)
Carson, CA 90745
phone 310-782-9938
hours: phone to verify; breakfast 7:30-11 a.m., lunch specials 11 a.m.-3 p.m., open till 8 or 9 p.m., seven days.

9/23/00 Looks like dishes, prices, and hours could be variable. Call first to verify this information.

A new sign says "Oriental Cuisine - Japanese - Chinese - Filipino." It's Friday 9/22/00 just before 7 p.m., and it's dark and drizzling in L.A. I'm here for the steam-table Filipino dishes. Tonight they have beef mechado with potato and pork adobo which I tried and crispy, roast pork which I didn't. The other steam-table items look Chinese or generic. I got the two-item combo which comes with rice and/or chow mein and a small soup. I got all chow mein and wait a few minutes since they were all out.

Even the fresh chow mein was oily, with just a trace of vegetables, and was slightly below average. The pork adobo and beef mechado were mostly tender chunks of meat and looked like a lot of food. But, the beef was maybe one-third fat and unchewables and the pork was maybe one-quarter fat. Both meat dishes were a bit oily and slightly bland for my taste. The adobo was slightly above average, but the mechado was slightly below average. I was offered chicken broth, received egg flower (which I don't like), and got a vegetable broth with bits of chicken which was far below average.

I don't recall any help-yourself condiments or water. I ate it there, except for a few noodles, fat, and unchewables and watched the rain.

History - With a name like Tokyo Bowl, you'd assume they started with Japanese food. But, the first few times I went a few years ago was to see their all-you-can-eat buffet. It was mostly Chinese, maybe some Japanese, but don't remember any Filipino items. It never looked good enough to eat; I just went to look. Maybe a year ago they stopped the buffet, started "$1" and up Chinese food, became a mini fish market, served fish plates, and started "you buy we fry" fish.

Maybe a month ago they put up the "Oriental Cuisine - Japanese - Chinese - Filipino" sign. They have two printed menus, old and new, and inside and outside signs which don't agree on content or price. At least 53 items don't have a price and may not be available every day. The steam-table food is mostly Chinese, Filipino, and generic items for the combos. One and two item combos are $2.75 and $3.75 or $4.29. I pointed at the $3.75 price and got that price. Five or six Filipino breakfasts are $3.25 and $4.25 with free coffee from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Fish plates for lunch and dinner range between $3.99 and $6.99. Other to-go orders include food by the pint and larger orders of fish from $2.75 to $9.99. The newer printed menu doesn't say "and fish market" nor does it offer the larger fish orders.

Overall - The decor is slightly above average, today's food was slightly below average, and as in most places you'll eat with plastic ware. You can find better food at lower prices. The fish plates may be an ok deal if you like fried fish and fries. The main reason to come here could be if your group wants an assortment of oriental food and fish plates in one restaurant.Overall Score for this area is slightly better than average, but this food places them below the top several restaurants. Remember, Iba'n Express (16) is next door, and they're tied for second place for their Filipino food.

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