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Organic Chinese food: tough sell or lucrative niche? [video chat]

March 08, 2013|By Frank Shyong | Los Angeles Times

Jonathan Tam's new organic health-food restaurant in Monterey Park is an incongruous slice of Santa Monica chic in one of the San Gabriel Valley's most Chinese neighborhoods.

At Farm Cuisine, diners nosh on salads and miso-glazed salmon against a backdrop of artfully overturned vegetable crates and hip chalkboard menus.

LIVE DISCUSSION: Join us here at 4 p.m.

Tam has entered a crowded, highly competitive market where restaurants compete on taste and price rather than presentation or healthfulness. Industry publication Chinese Restaurant News lists more than 500 Chinese restaurants with a 626 area code. The total for adjacent area codes 909 and 818, by comparison, is just 161.

But recent market research from Mintel Group Ltd. says organic Chinese food could be a lucrative niche market. A January dining survey found that Asian Americans are the ethnic group most interested in restaurants using sustainable and organic ingredients.

The survey also found that Asian Americans value authenticity more highly than any other ethnic group.

Farm Cuisine, a new Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park that uses organic ingredients, is trying to strike that balance.

Times reporter Frank Shyong and consumer columnist David Lazarus will talk with Farm Cuisine restaurateur Jonathan Tam in a live video discussion at 4 p.m. Join in on the conversation.

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