In the greater Los Angeles area, the Hong Kong cafe is a staple of the Chinese dining scene. It’s a particular subset of restaurant characterized by their mostly Cantonese-speaking staff and a menu that almost always features puffy egg waffles, seafood porridge, honey walnut shrimp coated in mayonnaise, filet mignon cubes lathered with black pepper, and crispy egg noodles slathered with seafood. The Hong Kong-style milk tea is the quintessential beverage—a black tea drenched in condensed milk.
The Hong Kong cafe (known as cha chaan teng in Cantonese, which translates to “tea restaurant”) dates back to the 1950s, when British influence was at an all-time high. During this period, Hong Kong cuisine became infused with Western influences.
It’s hard to define the Hong Kong cafe in specific terms; the food options vary widely. Yet, in the greater Los Angeles area, these establishments are often late-night eateries and tend to have plush diner booths.
Henry’s Cuisine is one of the latest of this category to pop up. Located in Alhambra, off of Valley Boulevard, the owners are Henry Tu and Henry Chau. Tu is the former proprietor of Tasty Garden in Arcadia, a fact that I was delighted to learn, as I grew up on Tasty Garden as a kid. The egg fried rice, deep-fried green beans, and filet mignon cubes were my staples. My friends and I would almost always finish dinner off with egg waffles.
Tu has been in Los Angeles for 31 years and is a veteran restaurateur at this point, with over eight concepts under his belt. He opened up Henry’s with the goal of creating a one-stop shop for all Asian-inclined taste buds. He shies away from calling it a Hong Kong diner. The menu is of a much higher-caliber than the typical diner, and touches on popular categories like Sichuan, Singaporean, Thai, and, of course, Cantonese. The prices are also a couple dollars higher than the typical diner, but for a good reason.
“When people want cheap prices, the quality really goes down,” Tu says. “This time, I wanted to focus on quality, and that means higher prices. It’s all about finding that balance.”
When I paid the restaurant a visit, I immediately ordered my go-to: the filet mignon cubes. It’s a take on Vietnamese shaking beef (thit bo luc lac) and is a constant at nearly every Cantonese cafe. Henry’s rendition did not disappoint. The secret is in the Maggi sauce; Tu stresses that they use Maggi sauce from France. This dish is best eaten ladled over piping-hot white rice.
Here’s the recipe:
Filet Mignon Cubes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Henry's Cuisine: 301 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801