Table at Third & Fairfax is a weekly dining column in 2023 where Food and Drink editor Patricia Kelly Yeo will eat her way through the Original Farmers Market. Each column will drop on Thursday for a week-by-week recap of her journey through the classic L.A. tourist attraction. Last week, Kelly (re)visited Michelina and Local Ice.
I really wish Noodle Art was opening before I finish this column, but this doesn’t appear to be the case on my 49th visit to the Original Farmers Market. With a few exceptions, restaurants tend to avoid opening over the holidays; everyone, including food writers like me, are typically checked out from the usual hustle and bustle, meaning a decreased chance of press coverage. The stall remains vacant on my quick walk through the West Patio. On the upside, a holiday pop-up shop of some kind appears to be filling the vacant market space next to Singapore’s Banana Leaf, though it hasn’t opened yet.
Hopes dashed, I head to China Depot (est. 1948), my next best option, where I order a chicken chow mein entrée (approximately $20) that arrives suspiciously fast. The thick noodles are seasoned with little more than salt and a splash of soy sauce. The broccoli chunks are huge, as are the dry strips of chicken. Other than that, the chow mein also contains a little bit of cabbage. The only thing that gives the plate a hint of life is the miniscule portion of sambal I’ve given on the side.
Recently, I’ve been visiting a few different Cantonese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, where less Americanized versions of this dish can be found. For crispy chow mein, I love the version at Tam’s Noodle House in San Gabriel; they also offer a filet mignon udon stir-fry that’s bouncy and delightful. There’s also a whole slate of excellent noodle dishes at Chef Tony Dim Sum, an upscale dim sum joint with locations in Monterey Park and Arcadia. None of these are remotely similar to China Depot’s version of chicken chow mein, which lacks that QQ texture beloved across East Asian cuisine, as well as any depth of flavor.
Even compared to China Depot’s other cafeteria-style options, this entrée is downright disappointing. On my visit, I eat as much of the chow mein as I can to feel somewhat full before abandoning the rest. In the next two weeks, I’ll be recapping my favorite vendors and dishes at the market, getting a few last meals in and reflecting on the end of this column.
Meals from Table at Third & Fairfax fall into three categories: Skip It, Worth Trying and Must Have.
Vendor: China Depot
Order: Chicken chow mein
Verdict: Skip It. Bland and full of overcooked chicken, this is a total miss.