Tuesday, April 15

Food bites: Almansor Court Sunday brunch and Lee Kam Kee

This past weekend I experienced two contradictions: a new oldie and an not-often visited standby. How so, you ask? Let's start with the new oldie first.

A new discovery: Almansor Court Sunday Brunch

The new oldie in question is the Sunday Brunch at the Almansor Court banquet center by the golf course. It's new to me, but as some fellow Alhambrans can tell you, it's been around for years and years. My family and I went there this past Sunday to celebrate my mom's birthday. Going there was like a step back in time, with mimosas and colored napkins and patrons dressed up in their Sunday best. This is what you see upon entering the foyer:

The buffet is spread out into a few different rooms, which is visually interesting but confusing for my parents, who couldn't find everything they wanted because of it. Choices range from traditional breakfast (custom omelettes, hash browns, bacon) to Mexican offerings (do-it-yourself tacos, enchiladas, and menudo) to seafood (oysters and king crab).

Extensive variation is obviously their strength here. Where else can you put a chicken crepe next to your unagi sushi that's already sitting next to a barbecue chicken wing? Evidence is here on my plate:

I do wish that the seating area wasn't quite so far from the food, and that the seafood was fresher. For the price, it's not that bad. I would say that the breakfast exceeded my expectations but that the rest of the food was just satisfactory.

Hong Kong-style Vietnamese: Lee Kam Kee

In this case, the not-often-visited standby is Lee Kam Kee, a Vietnamese restaurant located on the far west end of Valley Blvd. It's not your typical Vietnamese restaurant, with a nice interior and beautiful plateware. My mom informed me that the owner is from Hong Kong, and so the food is catered to a Hong Kong palate. A quick look around the restaurant confirmed this: almost all the patrons spoke Cantonese, and nearly all of the waiters too.

We go there for the canh chua, a sour soup filled with catfish or shrimp, pineapple, tomato, bean sprouts, and some spongy-looking green stalk. It's slightly sweeter here than at other, more heavily Vietnamese places, but is still good. This time we also had a shrimp and pork papaya salad with nuoc mam and some lemongrass pork chops.

My mom thought that the nuoc mam needed to be a bit more sour as did the soup. I find that's a theme here, to tone down the loud notes of Vietnamese cooking to appeal to the Chinese clientele. Most people who eat at Vietnamese restaurants (myself included) don't really care if the plates match or if the ambiance is any good, which are two key things here. It's not a bad thing to know its clientele, and that's probably why I don't fault it as much as I would another restaurant serving Vietnamese food.

Almansor Court Sunday Brunch
700 S. Almansor St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 570-4600
10am-2pm every Sunday

Lee Kam Kee
2505 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803
11am-9:45pm, closed Tuesdays

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