Chop Suey Cafe not quite ready for prime time
It's probably true that you should wait until a restaurant has been open a while before trying it out, but we threw caution to the winds and ate at Chop Suey Cafe tonight. It's located in the historic Far East cafe building at 347 East First St. in Little Tokyo. The original wood booth dividers are still there and they haven't done much to the main room -- plain tables and old wood chairs, nothing much in the way of decor. There's a nice little divey bar in the back, and tables on the alley-ish patio as well. They seem to be aiming for the late night crowd with lots of small plates, a smattering of old favorites like orange chicken and sweet and sour pork, and some assorted dishes like an Asian burger and Thai beef salad. I had the Asian burger which was fine -- smallish, but that's ok with me, with garlic fries and a hint of chiles in the meat. My friend ordered the special chow mein which we were surprised to see comes fried to a crisp in a large hard patty which was impossible to pry apart with chopsticks. We told the waitress it was impossible to eat like that, and a manager or someone came out and said that was how it was supposed to be but she would take it off the bill so we could order something else. He tried the sweet and sour pork which was inoffensive but nothing you would ever feel like having again. I guess there is a version of chow mein that is fried in a patty, but I think the sauce is supposed to soften it or something. This version couldn't possibly be the way it's supposed to be served, as the noodles seemed practically uncooked and way too chewy, not to mention cold and greasy.
The bar looked fun but the main room is large and off-putting with large fluorescent light fixtures -- perhaps this will become a popular late night spot eventually but there wasn't much that would make me want to go back.
When chow mein is fried and prepared in the form of a "bird's nest" (or what you described as a "hard patty"), the server will usually break it apart with tongs. And, yes, normally the stir-fried veggies/meat and sauce that garnish the chow mein will soften it a bit.
From what I understand the chef/cook for this place is still in Paraguay . . .