Modern Thai in Montebello

Working in the San Gabriel Valley, specifically West Covina, has definitely expanded my dining palette.

Even on the weekends, I find myself craving Japanese or Thai food, and one day I finally had to search for a Thai restaurant in my city of Montebello.

I’ve shopped in this shopping center plenty of times, my bank is even nearby, but I never really paid attention to Modern Thai next to the post office and CVS in the Montebello Plaza Shopping Center before.

I found about it online (go figure) and dragged my boyfriend in on a night when he wasn’t in the mood for cooking.

This would have been my boyfriend’s first time trying Thai food but I, on the other hand, had plenty to compare it to.

To get a good comparison, I ordered the Tom Kha Gai soup ($5 for bowl), a spicy coconut cream soup with chicken and mushroom, and the Chicken Pad Thai ($8) noodles.

We also ordered the Spicy Basil dish with beef stir-fried with chili garlic sauce and basil leaves ($8), and a side of steamed jasmine white rice ($1).

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The first thing that caught me off guard was the way all the chicken was cut. It’s like they tried to slice them any way they could to use every part of the chicken. They were good size portions but they were a little dry in the noodle dish.

The soup was spicier than I’m used to but very tasty with big pieces of mushroom.

The Pad Thai was not spicy and a little disappointing. It didn’t have as much flavor as other Pad Thai I have tasted and the chicken didn’t help much.

The best dish was the Spicy Basil. It had the right amount of spice and meat and I actually scooped up some of the sauce to mix in to the Pad Thai.

I went back another time for take-out and thought I would try a starter this time.

36343-MODERNTHAI_mtb1-thumb-200x150-36342.jpgI ordered the calamari wonder ($7), which is pretty much fried calamari with sweet and sour sauce, to start with, and King’s Curry ($9) for a main dish.

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The calamari reminded me of popcorn shrimp from its size and the fried batter. They were decent but heavier on the grease and not on the flavor. The sauce didn’t help much.

The King’s Curry is shrimp and green beans sauteed in a sweet and spicy King’s curry sauce.

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The amount of shrimp in the dish was perfect and they were perfectly cooked. The green beans were a perfect combination with the shrimp and the spicy sauce brought it all together. This has been my favorite dish here so far.

The Thai iced tea ($2.50) is also one of my favorites. It doesn’t have that coffee taste and is not too sweet.

The restaurant is at 2557 Via Campo in Montebello. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Lunch specials and catering is available, as well as free delivery within three miles. For to-go orders, call 626-724-9245.

Dining on a budget: Banana Bay in Rowland Heights

By Maritza Velazquez

In Rowland Heights, there’s no shortage of great Asian cuisine.

Banana Bay is no exception. This popular restaurant has a huge menu, with so many offerings that anybody with a liking for Thai flavors is sure to find something. For me, it was difficult enough choosing just one dish.

That’s the beauty of eating with others. An acquaintance and I shared three courses, with more than enough left over to take home. For an appetizer, we ordered the Hand Rolls ($5.95), which had a great mix of tofu, sausage, crab, cucumber and bean sprouts. Wrapped in raw egg roll skin, it was topped with a very sweet peanut-based sauce.

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Although I enjoyed the mixture inside of the Hand Rolls, especially the Chinese sausage, the sauce that smothered the two huge rolls didn’t do a lot for the dish. I think it would have been much better without their “special sauce.”

The soup came out next. The Seven Sea soup ($13.95), served in a boiling hot pot, is a treat for any seafood lover. It has scallops, shrimp, king crab legs, squid, mussels, tender white fish and baby clams, all in a very spicy broth with lemon grass and lime juice.

With chunks of dried chili, this one is not for those with sensitive taste buds.

For the entree, I ordered the Continental Fried Rice ($7.95), a simple dish with fried rice and fried chicken topped off with a fried egg and a sweet and sour dipping sauce. Although this tasted like the least authentic Thai dish of the three, the chicken was both tender and flavorful. And the sweet and sour sauce made the perfect compliment.

The total came out to about $32, but three could have easily enjoyed this meal. There are some great entrees, though, that run under $6, and some that reach $15. 

The service here varies, as you’ll find if you decide to take a trip to Rowland Heights. I’ve been here several times, and my recent venture was definitely the most pleasant.

Although the server made no attempt to say hello or make conversation as he took our drink orders, at least we didn’t have to wait 15 minutes before a server came at all (yes, that has happened here a few times before).

Despite this, the atmosphere is fun, and the dining room big enough to accommodate large parties.

Banana Bay is at 18230 Colima Road, Rowland Heights. For more information, call (626) 839-5511.

Dining on a budget: Chang Thai Bistro in Monrovia

By Lafayette C. Hight Jr.

I love soups – during all seasons of the year – but for me, especially during autumn and winter, there’s nothing more satisfying than a boiling pot of the good stuff on a cool afternoon or evening.

My top three soups of all time are: 1. Fil Gumbo. And I’ve never found an incarnation that tops our family’s more than 80-year-old recipe. 2. Clam Chowder. It’s gotta be New England Style. And 3. Thai-style Tom Kha soup, or one of it’s many variations.

I opted for the latter as an appetizer at Chang Thai Bistro in Monrovia, where it goes by the name Tom Kah Gai and is available with chicken, shrimp, vegetable or tofu.

About a quart of the soup arrived shortly – I chose chicken – which is an entire meal in itself for someone dining alone, but still makes a decent appetizer when split among as many as four.

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Carrots, chili peppers, lemongrass, lime leaves and mushrooms all simmered in coconut milk never tasted so good.

Next I had the stir-fried Heavenly Pepper Garlic Chicken dish.

Now, for me, it usually takes about 13 cloves of garlic in a recipe before things get heavenly. Sadly, I didn’t really taste much garlic. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good. It was, in fact, a very tasty dish with a slightly tangy flavor, and served with lots of crunchy cabbage. My expectations from the title, however, had me expecting a Stinking Rose or Versailles Cuban Food kind of experience.

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Finally, I had the opportunity to taste the Chicken Pad Thai, which was definitely up my alley, because it came from the kitchen exactly at the degree of spiciness that I love. Somehow, the chicken in the Pad Thai was super-juicy – much more than the other chicken dish and the soup – which is a conundrum I can’t exactly get my head around, but I’ll take it gladly.

Chang Thai Bistro is located at 614 S Myrtle Ave., in Monrovia. For information call (626) 357-9658 or visit changthaibistro.com.

Dining on a budget: Krua Thai in West Covina

By Maritza Velazquez

The Hong Kong Plaza in West Covina is home to a plethora of Asian cuisine.

Whether your preference is Korean, Chinese, Indonesian or Thai, there’s a little something for everyone.

In the corner of this huge Asian mega center is Krua Thai, one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley.

Since my last review pointed to a less than mediocre Thai experience, I thought I’d present readers with a great alternative.

Krua Thai offers more authentic cuisine and a very expansive menu at reasonable prices.

Most times I visit Krua (which is at least once a week), I order my favorite dish, the Pad Kee Mao. But you must be a spicy food lover to handle this plate. I love foods that tickle my taste buds, but this one really sets them on fire. If you’re a little sensitive to spicy food, you can order the dish medium or mild.

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It includes thick flat rice noodles, mint leaves, dried red chili, large slices of onion and tomato and choice of ground beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp. The cost of this hefty helping is $6.25.

Before this dish was served though, I ordered the Tom Kha Kai, a coconut-based soup with delicious mushrooms, chicken, lime juice and fresh chili. This one’s got a little bit of a spicy kick too, and runs $7.25. It comes in a big fire pot and I found can serve up to eight people.

Krua Thai also offers great menu items, featuring appetizers, salads, soups, noodles and rice dishes. Most are reasonably priced, between $6-$8.

You might also want to try the Pad Thai, a very popular Thai dish. It was voted “Best Pad Thai” by L.A. Weekly in 2004.

Although my latest visit was pleasant, I have found that great service at Krua Thai isn’t always the case. In past visits, it’s taken much too long to order, get drink refills or get the bill.

In my experience, I’ve learned that you must grab the servers’ attention. But the staff here is usually very polite and friendly.

And for all you night owls, Krua is open until 3:30 a.m. daily. It is located at 935 S. Glendora Ave. in West Covina. For more information, call (626) 480-0116.

Dining on a budget – Orchid Thai Cuisine

By Kevin Felt

Orchid Thai Cuisine in Arcadia wouldn’t be out of place in the trendy malls dotting the landscape of modern Bangkok.

As we thumbed through the long menu, filled with traditional Thai foods and a limited selection of Chinese-influenced dishes, we gazed at the comfortable modern decor and baby blue ceiling, augmented with wispy clouds and twinkling star lights, which would be right at home in the trendier parts of Bangkok.

The annotated menu includes more than 100 items with helpful descriptions, ranging from Satay Chicken, Papaya Salad and Jungle Curry to Panang, Pad Thai and Nam Khao Tod.

For most of the a la carte curries and main dishes on the menu, you can chose between beef, chicken, pork or tofu for $7.95, shrimp or squid for $9.95, or fish or scallops for $12.95. Most lunch specials, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, cost $5.95.

The generously sized $7.95 a la carte plate of Spicy Orchid Crispy Chicken was especially tantalizing. Small chunks of chicken were stir-fried to the perfect crispness in a tasty garlic glaze with slivers of carrot, green onion and cashews.

Though the menu labels the dish as spicy, the friendly waiter’s warnings convinced me to try a medium version. Although it did little to sizzle my admittedly high-tolerance palate, the dish, atop 50-cent sticky white rice, was delicious.
 
Next was the $7.95 Pad-See-Ewe with tofu.

Thin, inch-wide rice noodles were pan-fried in a sweet soy sauce with egg, firm tofu and Chinese broccoli to create the slightly sweet, slightly salty dish, served on a large platter. It was good, but slightly bland for my tastes.
 
As an added surprise, as we boxed up our leftovers, the waiter delivered small cups of dessert.

Every day, the restaurant provides patrons with a different Thai dessert, he explained. Today’s specialty was a surprisingly tasty soup of chewy green tapioca balls, corn kernels, coconut shavings and iced sweetened milk.

It will definitely be worth another visit to try the Eggplant with Basil Leaves or the Green Curry.

Orchid Thai is at 1311 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia.

Dining on a budget: Start with the specials

Dining at a new restaurant can be confusing, even overwhelming. With more than 100 different items on most menus, ordering the right dish is like picking the winning lottery number or guessing the exact number of jelly beans in a candy jar.

The problem gets worse when youre trying a new cuisine. The dishes use new flavors, different ingredients and are sometimes in a foreign language.

Offering popular yet simple dishes, Rosie Thai Food in Covina is an excellent introduction to Thai food, especially if youre not familiar with the cuisine.

First, try all-day specials. Youll find familiar Asian dishes, such as Kung Pao chicken and teriyaki chicken, as well as classic Thai favorites like pad Thai and spicy beef with mint.

For $5.95, the all-day specials come with rice and salad, and during lunch, a small cup of soup. For a few extra dollars, the specials include more exciting dishes, such as stuffed chicken wings, shrimp sauteed with black pepper and garlic, and Thai barbecue spareribs.

Keep in mind that Thai food expertly combines sweet and savory flavors, so the beef and broccoli stir fry at Rosie will taste very different than at a Chinese restaurant. The combination of the two flavors creates dishes that will make you hunger for more but not weigh you down.

Once youve graduated from the specials menu, I highly recommend dining family style and ordering more authentic Thai dishes from the second half of the menu. Not only is the food delicious and flavorful, but its also very affordable.

One of my favorites is panang curry with chicken, a sweet and savory coconut-based curry. I also like the Tom Kha Gai soup, which includes coconut milk, lemongrass, straw mushrooms and various herbs. Both sweet and savory, the soup is light enough as a starter or can be ordered as an entree. On a cold night, its especially satisfying.

If you enjoy spicy food, the hot mint leaves and chili paste with chicken is a highly addictive stir fry dish. However, you may want to keep a large glass of ice water or milk close by.

Rosie Thai Food is at 474 E. San Bernardino Road in Covina. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays. For more information, call (626) 339-4935.

By Esther Chou

Today’s lunch: Rosie Thai

Rosie Thai is one of my favorite local Thai restaurants. It’s close. It’s cheap. And it’s not bad. Recently, I’ve noticed the quality of the food has gone downhill, especially in their curries and pad thai. The prices have also gone up. I used to go to Rosie’s about once every two weeks, sometimes once a week. Now, I go there about once or twice a month. It’s the food. If the food is bad, people won’t come back, no matter how great it was in the past.

Today, I had the BBQ chicken. It was OK.
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My friend had the ginger chicken:
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Rosie Thai
474 E San Bernardino Rd
Covina, CA 91723
(626) 339-1547
(626) 339-4935

What did you have for lunch today?

What did you have for lunch?

I had a large plate of pad thai from Chant Thai Cuisine in Irwindale. For less than $7 (not including tax), you get a generous portion of pad thai, side salad, two fried wontons (no filling) and rice. It’s a carb explosion! The dish was pretty good, except my chicken was a bit dry.

Chant Thai Cuisine
15714 Arrow Hwy (just west of Irwindale Ave)
Baldwin Park, CA
(626) 338-1378

(Google says it’s in Baldwin Park, but I think the area is Irwindale)