“I live here now.”
It’s a phrase muttered frequently these days, perhaps when one finally finds the exact right water temperature in the shower, climbs into a bed with clean sheets, or walks into a West Elm for the first time. The intention, of course, is never to actually take up residence - it’s an admission of joy, and an effective way to keep tabs on those tiny moments in the day that make us the happiest.
We’ve caught ourselves saying it several times at Yang’s Kitchen. A meal at this tiny Taiwanese cafe in Alhambra isn’t just a few moments of happiness though, it’s a non-stop collection of them, a greatest-hits meal featuring some of the most interesting and exciting Taiwanese food we’ve ever eaten in LA.
It doesn’t take long for Yang’s Kitchen to win you over. In fact, it’ll probably happen the moment you walk in. For all the legendary restaurants inside Alhambra city limits, the downtown area skews generic - complete with an Applebee’s, a Burlington Coat Factory, and plenty of fro-yo. Yang’s is a respite from all of that. The casual, order-at-the-counter space feels like a cafe you’d find on the top floor of a high-end bookstore. The kind of place where you sit down to peruse the book you just bought, and end up spending all afternoon there because you were so comfortable you forgot to leave. At Yang’s, though, you’ll be doing a lot more eating than reading.
If you’re going for the first time, we recommend wrangling at least two or three friends to join you. This isn’t to say the menu is large, it’s just that you’re going to want to eat everything on it. Your first order of business needs to be the braised pork rice. This is a dish you can find on almost any Taiwanese menu in town, and yet, you won’t find one even half as memorable as Yang’s. The pork itself is braised in both onion and apple, giving it a slightly sweet quality that pairs perfectly with the savory soy egg and fermented mustard-green relish that comes on top. On subsequent visits (because there will be subsequent visits) you’ll tell yourself to branch out and order something new, but this dish will end up on your table every single time. Don’t fight it.
From there, concentrate on the scallion pancakes. We fully endorse ordering a plain version with butter and scallions so you can appreciate this dish in its simplest form, but the real move is to order it as a wrap instead. We love the chicken, which comes dressed in a heavy shiso pesto aioli and is basically the freshest chicken salad on the planet, but it’s the beef version that you won’t be able to stop talking about. Topped with ponzu pico de gallo, pickled carrots and onions, and fermented hot sauce, there’s no shortage of components in play here, but they all work. The heat cuts through the brininess of the vegetables, and the salt from the ponzu soaks into the beef, assuring it doesn’t get overpowered by anything.
By the time the pork strozzapreti - a parmesan-covered bowl of wheat pasta that would be a highlight on any Italian menu in town - hits the table, you’re going to be well into your third “I live here now.” Only you’re not saying it to your friends or even yourself at this point, you’re checking Zillow, wonder exactly what your options are.
You can find this dish in almost any Taiwanese restaurant in LA, but this is far and away the best version we’ve eaten. Slightly sweet braised pork, soy egg, and fermented mustard-green relish - it’s a remarkably simple dish, but one you’ll be thinking about for several days afterwards.
Not the best sesame cold noodles we’ve even eaten, but this is a dish that’s made it onto our table every time we’ve gone to Yang’s. Chewy wheat noodles in an absurdly refreshing sesame sauce all topped with cucumbers, peanuts, pickled carrots, and cilantro. When LA’s next heat wave inevitably hits, protect yourself with this.
The fact there’s a kale salad on Yang’s menu at all is noteworthy - the fact that it’s better than most you’ll find in West Hollywood proves this place knows exactly what they’re doing.
You might be hesitant to order a parmesan-covered pasta at Taiwanese cafe, but unlike your decision to skip the Charlie’s Angels reboot, don’t listen to your gut. This perfectly cooked bowl of pasta is one of the best things on Yang’s menu, and because it contains the same pork and fermented relish as the rice bowl, it ties in seamlessly with the rest of your meal.
This is a dish you’ll see on over half the tables at Yang’s, and while it’s definitely solid, there are better versions around town. Unless you’re really in the mood for a hot bowl of soup, skip this en lieu of other dishes.
Packed with ponzu pico de gallo, pickled vegetables, and fermented hot sauce, this beef wrap is our favorite thing at Yang’s - and one of the most memorable bites of food we’ve had in a long time. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s all balanced out perfectly by the flaky, roti-like scallion pancake that it comes wrapped in.