Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Half and Half- Monterey Park

Half and Half.

Milk. Delish cold (occasionally foamy or warm) goodness from our moo cow friends, it can be flavoured or drunk straight, even added to other liquid goodness like tea or coffee. But the moo cow delight we speak of today is not actually half and half (the American name for half milk, half cream coffee creamer used to take that burnt taste off work coffee) but the name of an Chinese drink place that had just recently propagated their 3rd location in Rowland Heights, CA. (Recently named as one of the top places to live in the US for median household incomes. Go figure.)

It’s original two locations are both in more central SGV, the yellow tinted San Gabriel Valley. Both original locations are small, elongated in a strange long sideways hurdle. Trafficked by the young and trendy, with no less namebrand bags, cute flats and Ugg boots than a stroll through Bloomingdales, two things had been advised to us before we went to try the place. Skip the tea, (supposedly the origin of the name is the way their milk tea is created- half tea, half milk) it tasted not much more special than any other chain location. And beware the wait.

And boy was there a wait. Our first trek to H&H was at 8:30 at night, where we pulled up in front of the San Gabriel location. Snugged in a the middle of a tetris game shaped plaza with minimal parking, we hadn’t even made it all the way into the plaza before we noticed the packed crowd, blocking any view into the café. Time to try location number two. Located in a slightly bigger plaza in Monterey Park, which at least had subterranean parking, we hadn’t noticed a huge crowd from the front and were excited, that is up until we opened the door and walked in. It turns out the restaurant was long and skinny and completely packed with people all the way front and back, the ones towards the front all holding receipt tickets waiting for their order and the back line, which stretched to the back door, waiting to order and get a ticket. We joined the line, behind a group of identical Asian barbies with Channel bags, full make-up and who looked like they would have been more in place at a club than at a drink place. Was this place only a hyped up expensive hangout?

Deftly getting a menu from the front, we examined the options. There were blended drinks, teas and milks, even some small snacks, much the same offerings of drink places of the type. What was different was a section titled “Ice Milk”. Add-ins differentiated the milk drinks, with options like coffee jelly, egg pudding, strawberry and caramel flavouring, and honey flavoured boba. We decided to order three different drinks and take it back home to try, seeing as there were two tiny tables only and even had we gotten a seat, it would have been impossible to hold a conversation or drink without touching shoulders and elbows to others.

Milk with Caramel, Pudding and Honey Boba was my personal favourite for the day. The pudding was fresh and firm, not underdone. The caramel gave the strong enough flavor you need to keep the milk from becoming just …well, milk. The honey boba was delicious, squishy and bouncy, not old and hard in anyway, and sweet with the more aromatic sweet of honey rather than just normal boba. Wonderfully light but flavourful.

Milk with Caramel, Coffee Jelly and Honey Boba was a bit sharper with Coffee Jelly (which looks like a dark, semi-opaque pudding). It was good as well and for those who enjoy the taste of coffee, it gives enough, especially with the caramel adding the near-burnt hit of sweetness that was a bit more…masculine?

Milk with Strawberry, Pudding and Honey Boba is great for anyone who wants something more light hearted and sweet. Playfully sweet with its strawberry milk flavor and creamy pink colour, the pudding and boba just made it more rounded. It was the sweetest of the three drinks.

Priced at about $4 for a regular cup, which I found was an excellent size or you can upgrade to a huge large cup for 98 cents more, a good deal if you’re sharing. The drinks come uniquely served in a wide fat cup and a boba straw. The wait for the drink was nearly unbearable though. After standing in line for 10 minutes to order, we then sat about waiting another 20 minutes for the drinks to be made. All in all, 30 minutes for three drinks that required no heating or extensive processing. The good news though was we saw that they have a To-Go menu and took phone orders. You would still have to line up to pay but saved on the rest of the wait. Definitely a recommended course of action.

On a side note, we tried the newest location in Rowland Heights as well. It’s parking lot was strangely located, behind the café and hard to turn into from the main street Colima, but its location was a tad bit wider than the other two. Still a trendy young crowd, but the line and the wait was considerably shorter by about 10 minutes total. The taste was pretty similar although I thought it was a little lighter in taste than the first time I got it. Perhaps it was my imagination. Regardless, you’ll definitely see me back to order again and perhaps next time I’ll try the milk teas that give the place its name.

Tip to the wise, all three locations are cash only and if you wish to use the restroom, there’s a key to ask for from the staff. Enjoy!

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