HomeCommunity NewsFormer San Marino High School Students Open Alhambra Eatery

Former San Marino High School Students Open Alhambra Eatery

2008 San Marino High School graduates Maggie Ho and Chris Yang at their Alhambra restaurant. Kamala Kirk Photo

When Maggie Ho and Chris Yang began dating as students at San Marino High School, eating out was their favorite pastime—so it came as no surprise when the couple opened a restaurant together years later. This past August, Yang’s Kitchen opened its doors in Alhambra, quickly becoming a favorite among diners with its menu that features Yang’s unique take on traditional Asian cuisine.

“We’re not cooking authentic Chinese or Taiwanese food,” Yang said. “We’re cooking food that’s authentic to us. I love cooking because it’s an opportunity to experiment and see how flavors can change. There are so many different cultures in Maggie’s and my upbringing. Her parents are from Taiwan and mine are from China and Vietnam. We grew up eating a lot of authentic Asian food when our parents cooked or took us out to restaurants, and we were also exposed to American food and other cuisines in Los Angeles. We were influenced by a mix of all of those things and at the end of the day, this is authentic to us.”

Added Ho, “When Chris and I were first dating, social media was just starting to get big. I would always take pictures of everything that he cooked and use the hashtag #yangskitchen on my Instagram. Anytime friends came over to eat his food, they started calling it Yang’s Kitchen too, so the name just stuck.”

After the couple graduated from the University of California San Diego and moved back to the San Gabriel Valley, Ho went to work in the accounting department for a start-up while Yang got his feet wet in the restaurant industry by starting out as a stage at The Spice Table in Little Tokyo, where he washed vegetables and performed various duties while working his way up in the kitchen.

It was during a five-month back packing adventure to Asia where Ho and Yang became inspired by the different dishes, flavors and culinary traditions that they encountered during their travels to countries such as China, Japan and Mongolia. After returning to the United States, Yang returned to the restaurant business to gain more experience and worked his way up to the role of Sous-Chef at Cassia in Santa Monica, but the goal of owning a restaurant had been firmly planted in his and Ho’s minds.

When they were finally ready to open the restaurant, Ho and Yang partnered with seasoned chef Joseph Marcos and an investor with real estate holdings in Alhambra—including the former Mosaic Lizard Theatre, which they spent almost two years transforming into the bright and open contemporary space that is now Yang’s Kitchen.

“We were inspired by the Japanese Nordic minimalism design trend,” Yang explained. “Our investor introduced us to a local carpenter, William Stranger, who did all of the wood finishes for a unique touch. All of the pottery wash and made by Los Angeles ceramicist Yuko Yenser. We tried to keep everything local, just like our food.”

Ho handles all of the restaurant’s front-of-house operations, which including accounting, administrative work and managing employees, while Yang oversees all kitchen affairs and creates the recipes. The menu features a variety of Asian dishes that will sound familiar to diners, such as scallion pancakes, but they all have Yang’s personal twist added to them.

“Our top seller is our beef noodle soup,” Yang said. “This dish is common all over Asian and it’s something that was very comforting to Meg and me when we grew up, so we wanted to recreate that. For our version we use local grass-fed beef and house made wheat noodles. We don’t want to make an exact copy of what they’re doing in China or Taiwan, because they’re using ingredients that are local and fresh to them. Since we don’t have the same ingredients here, it wouldn’t taste as good, so we try to find ingredients that are local and fresh to us.”

Another curve ball on the menu is the pork strozzapreti, which features a base that is inspired by traditional Taiwanese pork gravy. The pasta noodles are a custom blend made by local pasta maker Semolina Artisanal Pasta and  sourced with whole wheat from Pasadena-based flour mill, Grist & Toll. Other highlights include the braised pork rice and chicken or beef scallion pancake wrap. For dessert, customers are treated to soft serve from Straus Family Creamery, a family-owned business in Northern California.

“It’s very high-quality,” Yang pointed out. “The soft serve is inspired by our travels to Japan, where you can get milk soft serve. It’s different from vanilla—it has more of a pure, natural milk flavor.”

Another thing that sets Yang’s Kitchen apart is the emphasis it places on sourcing local, sustainable and organic ingredients to reduce its environmental footprint. Everything—including the stocks, noodles and dough—is made from scratch by Yang.

“We try to make our dishes a little healthier so that our customers feel good after eating,” Yang said. We try not to use products that have a lot of preservatives or are heavily processed because that stuff adds up over time and you don’t feel good after eating it. A lot of thought and hard work goes into our food.”

Yang’s Kitchen is located at 112 West Main Street in Alhambra and is open Wednesday – Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit yangskitchenla.com.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]