Chinese…and Italian…in Alhambra? But is it any good?? Why, yes. Yes it is.
Simple rule of thumb: when a place is gonna make you wait in line to get its grub, you best bring the thunder.
Second rule of thumb: when you go to a place that’s going to make you wait to get said thunder, maybe you shouldn’t do it when it’s a 102 degrees outside.
Guess which rule I violated?
Good news for me is, I was a party of one that particular this lunchtime afternoon. And since getting in here is gonna be tight, maybe it’s best that it’s just me.
Now, I’m not 100% sure about the history of the Savoy Kitchen. I’m not even 10% sure, so what follows is just a guess. I mean, it’s not every day you encounter a Chinese-Italian fusion.
Probably the Savoy Kitchen was a popular Italian Place from back in the day. The Neighborhood started to change, and the Italian-American family who owns it sells to a Chinese-American Family. Well, the place is still popular, so the original Savoy menu items, the Pizzas, the Pastas stay on the menu. But the neighborhood is still changing, more and more Chinese are moving into the Alhambra area all the time, along with a bunch of really good, really first rate Chinese places. Well, if you’re the Chinese-American owners, what do you do? Well, you split the difference. You start adding in more and more Chinese items to the menu to keep the neighborhood demographic happy, and…you keep selling your pizzas and pastas. You add a twist here and there, but for the most part, you’ve got things humming along.
So even though you might look on Urbanspoon and see this listed as a Chinese-Italian place, it really isn’t. It’s a Restaurant in which part of the menu is very Italian and the other part of their menu is very Chinese. The twain do not meet. At no point is someone in the kitchen trying to reinvent the wheel.
But when you go there today, most of the clientele are Chinese-American, and as I said, they will wait in line to get their hands on this stuff.
Savoy Kitchen is downright tiny. Cramped even. There may be at most seven tables inside the Air Conditioned cool of the restaurant. There are maybe a half dozen more outside. You can pretty much guess where I was going to spend my time today.
Savoy has a menu, of course, but it also has it’s menu up on the wall like you would at an Old School Italian joint. There’s a counter right near the kitchen. That’s where I wound up. It was close-quarters, but I was able to enjoy my food.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: I came for the Hainanese Chicken Rice, and I left happy. Reading the online version of the menu, I thought was basic Chicken Rice. It is, just the name has changed. It’s basically poached chicken on a bed of rice, which you can adjust with chiles and sauces to your taste.
Chicken Rice is one of the great meals in Asia. It’s one of the great tunable meals, much like Pho in that regard.
No, I know Chicken Rice and Pho aren’t the same. It just that both meals require a fair amount of delicious work on your part to make it your own.
If you go to Singapore and get Chicken Rice, you will have total strangers bothering you and telling you how to do it their way. (Bourdain is charmed by this. Me, not so much). Still, you look at it, and wonder what the hell is the big deal? It’s a lukewarm hunk of chicken, dumped on plain white rice. How can it generate such love?
Then you bite into it, then you mix it up with the various chilies and sauces, and you start to wonder how you lived without it. The Hainanese Chicken Rice is poached in Chicken Broth (which is popular enough for it to be its own menu item). And the chili sauces. One looked like minced ginger in oil. Another was a soy mixture, and a third a straight head orange and red blend of something…well, that something had the biggest, happiest kick.
Mixing two or three of the chilies together creates it’s own magical medley of tastes. It’s been who knows how long I’ve had this meal, and all these days later, I’m still thinking about this meal.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: A couple of things. One, Savoy Kitchen is a cash only establishment. So hit the ATM before going in.
Two, this is the only place I’ve seen that charges more for the dark meat than for the white meat. Two bucks more, so…know that before going in.
Three, when I got the Hainanese Chicken Rice, I got it with a side salad. It only costs a dollar more, and the Salad is good, but you’re not getting a salad on the side, you’re getting Salad instead of chicken, and at the end of the day, you’re gonna want more Chicken.
PARKING: For basically a bunch of side street parking, you’re not bad off. I came at Lunch an parked one door door from the restaurant. There are no meters, and there sure as hell no Valet. Basically, it’s street parking or bust.
138 E. Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 308-9535
Monday-Saturday: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm