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風風亭 foo foo tei monterey park: foo biters

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Every now and then, someone will suggest I try Foo Foo Tei, a pair of low-profile ramen shops in Hacienda Heights and Monterey Park. Admittedly, my attention is usually diverted elsewhere, for the consensus among dyed-in-the-wool food snobs is that the San Gabriel Valley is great for Chinese cuisine while “real” ramen exists more or less only in the South Bay. Like Ajisen, there’s always been something a bit too “Chinesey” about Foo Foo Tei; the Monterey Park outlet is tucked behind a stairwell in an institutionally old-school strip mall that has housed such area landmarks as the original Diho Supermarket and now, that over-fluffed temple of dim sum dining, New Concept/Elite Restaurant.

As it turns out, the two Foos are not related at all, or at least no longer related, depending on whom you talk to. Apparently, the Hacienda Heights branch is the Japanese original, and the Monterey Park iteration a cheap Chinese knock-off. I don’t know the full history, but rumors of animosity between the two shops swirl like pink in a slice of naruto. Thanks largely to the comments below, I had to investigate further. One thing’s for certain: Foo Foo Tei Monterey Park serves a far inferior product to Foo Foo Tei Hacienda Heights.

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Judging by taste and presentation, this branch may well be the cheap clone, although they did have me going at first. With a subtle sweetness all its own, the traditional clear soup shio ramen could have made its case as a distant relative to Santouka’s hearty brew - which would have been a considerable achievement for an inauspicious little joint in the heart of Monterey Park. Granted, the ramen wasn’t anywhere near as memorable as anything found in the best local shops, but when I sampled it for the first time, over a year ago, that spark of potential was there, and I had vowed to return.

Instead, a recent trip deflated all of my fleeting expectations. The very same shio ramen was grotesquely marred by an incongruous amount of bok choy and flavorless, if soft and relatively fatty chashu. The noodles were as generic as ever, and any trace of sweet shellfish subtlety had vanished into a a flat, salty stock that tasted as if it had come out of a can. Adding a bit of minced garlic to the proceedings did little but overwhelm a historically delicate type of ramen, not that my order could have been made much worse.

Similarly, the gyoza were an anachronistic wonder, not for being particularly tasty, but simply because they had been delivered under a vast web of limp brown char which was neither particularly flavorful nor gloriously crispy; it was as though someone had tried to graft a batch of potstickers onto a thin crepe skin. All would have been forgivable; the presentation was a clever conceit in and of itself, but when I began pouring my little dish of dipping sauce, I noticed a dead bug inside the vinegar bottle just chilling out like a tequila worm. Shudder.

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I presume someone will eventually step up to tell me that I ordered the wrong thing at the wrong branch - the most popular ramen on the menu is a thick soup nan chatte ramen that is their stab at tonkotsu. As the Hacienda Heights location is the apparent original and under different ownership, I’ll be sure to sample it there. But I shouldn’t have to. The rumor is that there’s a sign in Chinese posted here which actually advises people not to go to the other branch. Such pettiness counfounds me, and regardless of the back story, any restaurant that shamelessly clones its competitor right down to the logo and menu should be run out of town, plain and simple.

foo foo tei's clear soup shio ramen was sweetly reminiscent of santouka, a couple of years back. but judging by a recent visit, it could all have been my imagination.2
anytime a shop sources the same boring square-cut yellow ramen noodles from mutual trading or whomever is the current importer in vogue, i give them roughly the same basic score. it's not like foo foo tei changes it up all that much.4
bok choy? it happens. thankfully, not too often. hmm, maybe i should try the tomato beef ramen next time?3
if i wanted crepe, i'd go elsewhere. 3.5
foo foo tei in monterey park has an ugly red counter and green striped awning outside. one point for the chopstick and napkin boxes and the fortune cats gratuitously stationed around the counter.1
gahhhhh. quality ramen in the west SGV is apparently too much to ask for.0.5

750 S Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91755

(626) 588-2010



ugh, i feel partially vindicated.  but i would still want to know if people feel grossed out or explain the “half-n-half” in the broth.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/12 at 02:21 AM

Owner of Montery park Foo Foo Tei is Chinese and he basically stealed name of Foo Foo Tei from original owner.  Why can’t he have pride in Chinese foods !!  Everyone knows that Chinese foods is great.
He’s been sued by original Japanese owner BUT he never gave up because of greed and money. If you felt taste is no good at Montery Park, you are right. He stealed this place from original owner after few weeks of training, so looks might be the same, BUT not taste.
What an idiot.  It is so sad that people like him who still has dark age mentality still exist and cheat customers who believe they are eating real Foo Foo Tei, but they are not.
You needs to go to Hacienda Height location if you wants real one.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/12 at 05:51 PM

Why does the comment above sound like it was written by the Hacienda Foo Foo Tei’s owner?  wink

But seriously, bok choy and ramen?

Posted by edjusted on 01/12 at 09:05 PM

Never been to the MP location but there’s a reason for Hacienda Heights being #2 on my list. You definitely have to go to that one! The gyoza is the best, even with that flaky brown stuff. It’s just the flour from the bottom of the pan. And all the workers are Japanese!

Posted by keizo on 01/13 at 07:43 PM

The story that Nojoke posted is essentially true.  The Monterey Park shop is not restaurant that everyone loves, but a pretender to the name.  You reviewed “Joe’s Discount Ramen Shop” with Foo Foo Tei’s name on the building.

Keizo is mostly correct, but there are Chinese waitress, since the customers are mostly Chinese.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/15 at 12:55 PM

Thanks Nojoke and Danny. Because of you two, I just paid a visit to the Hacienda Heights Foo Foo Tei, and a review will be coming shortly. As for this write-up, I’ve amended it a bit…

Posted by rameniac on 01/15 at 04:10 PM

Just to clearfy, I’m not owner of Foo Foo Tei at Hacienda Height. I’m just regular customer going there, and heard about what Montery Park owner did.
I’m sorry if I said too much about Montery Park owner, but what really upset me most is owner of Hacienda Height worked very hard to bring Foo Foo Tei name to this level, and because of good kind heart and wanted to help owner of Montery Park, decided to give him partnership and he turned back against him to throw him out is not right.
And yes, it’s original owner who first opened Montery Park Foo Foo Tei with his own money, not current Montery Park owner.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/17 at 12:47 PM

Yep I’m posting this twice. Hope you don’t mind. Well what nojoke is saying is true.

“Hey. If you want to know what really happened with the whole FOO FOO TEI incident, I’ll tell you. Well apparently the original owner started a new branch in Monterey Park, even sent in all their workers to start it up. It was really popular for a while, till they hired on their new manager (JERRY). He had bought into the franchise and was partial owner. He then proceeded to fire off all of the Japanese workers and replaced them with Chinese workers INCLUDING the chefs and even began to change the menu. Obviously the owner wasn’t happy about this. And before you know it the manager took the store on the case that they were under a “verbal agreement” that he could take full ownership when he had only a partial, if that, share in the franchise. All I know is that the original owner is now suing the manager. So you must be wondering how I know? Well, let’s just say I have a FRIEND who works at FOO FOO TEI.. ; )”

So basically that’s what happened.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/27 at 02:34 AM

wow that really pisses me off. but thanks SPY! that’s just so scheisty. now i know never to go to foo foo mpk again.

Posted by rameniac on 03/27 at 04:03 PM

I just recently went to the MPK Foo Foo Tei and it was terrible.  The soup base was watery and flavorless, the noodles were noneventful…could have been something instant, and the chili powder was not the Japanese chili powder found in ramen shops.  I thought something was up when I first walked in.  I should have walked out before ordering.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/26 at 01:18 PM

MP Foo Foo Tei recently changed it’s name to Nan Cha Tei. Lost the lawsuit or settlement?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/03 at 03:51 PM

Thanks Spy, your story sounds more likely since I remember going there and the ramen was pretty good while crushing on the cute Japanese waitress…but this was like 4 or 5 years ago. Its closed down now though.

Posted by bill on 09/14 at 09:09 AM
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