I am a Cantonese Cafe addict; that is my comfort food. I can grab a menu from any Cantonese cafes and just order down the menu from breakfast to dinner. So it's important for me to have that one go-to restaurant whenever I want this stuff. Actually I have like five go-to restaurants when it comes to Cantonese cafes, alternating depending on the deals and quality they currently have. The thing about Cantonese cafes in Los Angeles, more like in the San Gabriel Valley is that the consistency of quality is, well, inconsistent. One day I may find a certain restaurant to be my favorite because the portions are great, the quality is good and the price is cheap. The next month suddenly without warning, they would either jack up the price, or decrease the portion size, or the quality deteriorated. I am then forced to go with one of my five other main choices or even the half a dozen other second choices.
Right now, my Cantonese cafe of choice is U2 Cafe.
It's actually my entire family's Cantonese cafe of choice. Just within the first two weeks alone this year, I had already visited the cafe three times; this post is a compilation of the different visits. The other ones on my current list are JR Cafe, Face Cafe and Garden Cafe. I do have a few other ones I occasionally visit, but these are the ones I most frequent.
(U2 Cafe - Lor Sung Soup)
(U2 Cafe - Cod Cream Chowder)
The Lor Sung however is my preferred soup. It is a tomato based soup with lots of vegetables and beef inside. My Dad knows how to make this really well, but we generally don't make it since it's usually made in a huge quantity. The soup served at U2 is average. Fortunately I have yet to taste it to be too salty, though sometimes it can border being too sour from the tomato sauce they use. The consistency does waiver in Cantonese cafes; it's in its nature.
(U2 Cafe - Lemon Iced Tea)
(U2 Cafe - Red Bean Ice)
Generally speaking I order lemon iced tea with no sugar. It's been a little over two years since I started to decrease and remove sugar from most of my drinks. Most Cantonese cafe are realizing the trend for lower sugar so they usually put a different colored straw into the cup. At U2 I still had to remind them at every refill. Initially I started off with half sugar, which gradually became sugar on the side so I have control. Finally I took the plunge to no sugar for my lemon iced tea and relied purely on the juice from the lemon to sweeten the tea. On occasion we may end up ordering a red bean ice, which is pretty much the only other drink I would order from a Cantonese cafe. Generally speaking the other drinks aren't the best quality around, since their drink bars are generally staffed with waiters who were given a crash course in mixology. I basically only trust drinking their milk tea or their lemon iced tea.
(U2 Cafe - Singaporean Fried Rice Noodles)
I'm a huge fan of rice noodles, and the Singaporean fried rice noodle is a must order on my list at any Cantonese cafes. Of course I can't be ordering this dish every single time since I do enjoy various other dishes. The Singaporean fried rice noodle is curry based and can be semi-spicy depending on who's making it. It is fried with shrimp, sprouts, chasu and green onions, along with the occasional bell peppers and even chilly peppers. U2's version today was on the slightly spicier side where I almost had a little difficulty eating. They added a bit too much chilly peppers in it for my taste. Still I love the dish more then I hate how they can just ruin it by changing the spiciness of it.
(U2 Cafe - Seafood Chow Fun - Burnt)
(U2 Cafe - Seafood Chow Fun with Bad Shrimps)
We ordered the beef version at one of the meals, but this time my parents opted to go for the seafood version instead. Unfortunately today was just not U2's day. The first plate they served us was burnt. I could smell and taste the burnt in the chow fun and it is no good. We told the waitress who knows us pretty well since we've been coming back so often. She was very friendly and took it back for us to remake. A short while later, she brought back out a second plate of it. It wasn't burnt, but the shrimp were bad. It boggled our minds since the shrimp in the Singaporean rice noodles were not bad, and I would assume, correctly so when we asked the waitress about it, that they were from the same batch of shrimps. Our only answer is that the shrimp on the bottom of the batch went bad while the top were still good most likely because the refrigerator was not at the correct temperature. I hope for their sake no one from the health department is reading this. The waitress was kind enough to offer to take it back again, but we decided to just pick out the shrimp and eat the rest. It was too much trouble by then.
(U2 Cafe - Black Pepper Beef Udon)
A good alternative to the beef chow fun, especially for me since I don't really like chow fun, is their black pepper beef udon. Again this plate can be ordered with seafood in place of the beef, which is true for half the dishes on the menu. A lot of Chinese food is simply replace one main ingredient with another and you got yourself another dish. This was actually ordered at a different meal here at U2 a week prior to the burnt chow fun/spoiled shrimp experience. For me the flavor to the dish was good. I could use a little bit more black pepper. The main thing I miss is a sizzling plate to serve it on. Many other Cantonese cafes serve this dish on a hot sizzling plate, which I had always been infatuated with as a child. If you do bring a child, just make sure the plate is kept far out of their reach, cause it is extremely hot.
(U2 Cafe - Baked Pork Chop Rice)
Occasionally I would opt out of something Chinese and go with something more western. Most often I would order a chicken, steak or pork chop with black pepper, mushroom, garlic or onion sauce. In fact I just had that on Martin Luther King Jr. day when I went back to U2 but forgot to take a picture. The one thing I absolutely would recommend anyone to try at U2 is their pork chop and their chicken steak. That is the true gem of this restaurant. There are three dishes that I would order for the pork chop. One, the chicken and pork chop steak combination with the sauce of your choice. Two, the pork chop over rice noodle soup that is generally served at afternoon tea time between 3pm to 5pm. Three, the baked pork chop rice.
The pork chop I believe were briefly deep fried and then baked over fried rice with a rich tomato sauce with just a little bit of cheese. They do not overload the dish with cheese since cheese isn't all too popular in the Asian population. But the little bit of cheddar then use does give it that added flavor that's needed to balance the tomato sauce. The pork chops are slightly crispy but still juicy and never over cooked. I have never had an overcooked pork chop at U2 cafe, and I think they do pork chops better then any of the other cafes around. It's also nice that they use fried rice instead of steamed rice as the base. It added to the flavors of the dish tremendously. This is one of the best made dish at U2.
(U2 Cafe - Salty Fish and Chicken Fried Rice)
Speaking of fried rice, the salty fish and chicken fried rice is one of my family's favorite. It's generally the dish we order when we can't decide what we want. That's the problem with have hundreds of items on a menu. This time they did this dish correctly. I was actually able to smell the salty fish when it came out and I could definitely taste it. The salty fish adds an edge to the flavor of the dish more than salt would do. It's almost likely having that grainy little bites of salt without being overwhelmed by the saltiness of the salt. It was one of those rare times where the dish was actually semi-well made. It wasn't the best though I have ever had. The salty fish was still in very small chunks, which mostly is because they can be a little more costly than other ingredients.
|(U2 Cafe - Chicken Salad)|
The salad really is nothing special as far as salad goes. But for a salad at a Cantonese cafe, it's better than your normal cut. Most salads at a Cantonese cafe uses iceberg lettuce. I always wonder if they actually ever visited a supermarket sometimes and saw that there are other vegetables aside from this dreadful one. But nonetheless it is what makes it Cantonese. They added a little bit of cucumbers and tomatoes to enhance the flavor, which is more rare than you would think for a Cantonese restaurant. I had once ordered a salad which I had to pay for with purely iceberg lettuce at a Cantonese cafe. The chicken however was very well made. I believe they make it the same way they make the chicken steak, briefly deep fried and well seasoned. That made the salad actually worthwhile, and one of the better salads I had at a Cantonese cafe. But if you are looking for good salads to eat, I suggest you go elsewhere. You won't find it in most Chinese restaurants.
(U2 Cafe - Soy Sauce Chicken)
|(U2 Cafe - Duck and Wonton Noodle Soup)|
Despite having a lot of issues with the consistency of the food, I still return. It's just because I'm an addict for Cantonese Cafe. I'm actually addicted to the environment. It's easy to visit with a friend, order some food and a bottomless cup of ice tea, and spend a good two or three hours chatting without any pressure or discomfort. Sitting at a Starbucks for hours going through two or three cups of coffee would easily cost ten dollars. With that same amount of money, I could get decent drinks for the afternoon and some good chow to go with it.
I'm sure I will fluctuate again in the future between which Cantonese cafe I would go to as my primary hub. One thing for sure I would never quit Cantonese cafe as my comfort food cafe.