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May 10, 2007 03:44 PM

Best Chinese in Chinatown?

It seems like the best Chinese food is found in the SGV, but any good options for when I'm buying cheap clothes in Chinatown? Thanks for the help.

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  1. I like Mayflower on Spring St. Cash only.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl

      I love Mayflower. Everything was tasty and so darn cheap! Total hole in the wall though....

      1. re: hch_nguyen

        What do you all recommend from Mayflower? Thanks!

        1. re: Liquid Sky

          I recommend lobster or crab in garlic sauce, deep fried whole fish or steamed whole fish in ginger and soy, and sauteed spinach topped with crab and sauce. Enjoy!

        2. re: hch_nguyen

          We ate there yesterday - my first trip to LA Chinatown, and I loved it. We ordered about 8 dishes and were impressed with the quality, the flavor, the immense portions, the low price and the fun lack-of-ambiance ambiance.

          We are western-hemisphere natives and stuck to more familiar-to-us dishes (asparagus and scallops, peking duck, veg fried rice, pan fried noodles with shrimp, spicy eggplant, a beautiful beef dish) but there is plenty of stuff on the menu like congee with pork kidneys, pork blood dishes, whole fried fish, fish maw? What is fish maw? so people who want a real Chinese variety can enjoy that, too.

          It was just so blessedly better than anything we get out here in the boonies that I am wishing I could go there every week.

      2. I do not know if it's open for lunch but Full House on Hill Street.

        Also Kim Chuy restaurant at 727 N. Broadway has really good Chiu Chow style noodle soup.

        1 Reply
        1. re: yum4fun

          I love Kim chuy... been going there for over 10 years. Still the best seafood pan fried noodles with gravy I've had til this day.

        2. Go to Hop Li on Alpine Street, you won't be disappointed.

          21 Replies
              1. re: phant0omx

                What do you order at Hop Li? I heard that they are best for seafood.

                1. re: Liquid Sky

                  You can't go wrong with:

                  Hop Li Chicken or Shrimp (like orange/sweet and pungent-style, but when they're "on" it's sublime)

                  Stir fried shrimp or calamari with spicy salt

                  Any crab dish

                  Sauteed pea sprouts

                  Chinese brocccoli in oyster sauce

                  Any seafood on their specials board

                  We usually stick to the above, plus specials, but always find the food fresh, hot and tasty.

                  Ask for Joe the waiter, he's the best!

                  Please, do try and report back to us!!

                  GK in SO

                      1. re: JAB

                        Ditto on Joe, although the rest of the staff is always very pleasant. I have never been treated rudely by anyone at Hop Li but Joe has personality (I feel myself drifting off into a song).

                    1. re: Liquid Sky

                      BBQ pork fried rice
                      Beef chow fun with black bean sauce
                      Any fish with the black bean sauce is good too
                      Hot and sour soup
                      We also often ask for "sichuan shrimp", but NOT the one on the menu. The kitchen makes this version with just diced red chile peppers and garlic, so it's dry, not saucy. OMG is it good with steamed rice, and really spicy.

                    2. re: phant0omx

                      Oh those shrimp dishes and anything with hot peppers. Hop Li is the best.

                  1. re: GK in SO

                    Hop Li - thumbs way down.

                    I think there must be a big misunderstanding about what makes good Chinese food. Maybe there is no good Chinese food to be had in Chinatown, if a place like this is recommended (and seconded).

                    I don't even know where to begin. First off - no Chinese people. Considering the neighborhood, that wasn't too surprising, but still, not a great sign. We ordered rock cod filet with black bean sauce and asparagus chicken, which seemed like two of the safest bets possible.

                    The chicken came out in 10 minutes. It had a bland generic brown sauce with canned mushrooms, 1/2-inch slices of jalapenos swimming around with enormous chunks of asparagus. The sauce had some sliced ginger but was basically chung king.

                    The fish, which took about 25 minutes was almost certainly tilapia, not rock cod. This was a muddy-tasting fish, and pretty mealy. I couldn't eat it. It was in bland sauce that hinted vaguely of black bean, but was more just a darker, saltier version of the chicken (I do love it when the waiter lets you order basically the same thing twice) with big pieces of raw bell pepper and onions. Wow. Now THAT was worth the drive. The Tsing-Tao was a highlight.

                    Look, if your idea of good Chinese food is Yang Chow, then fine, but please - this is not Chinese food, and maybe a disclaimer saying you're actually suggesting the best Americanized-bland-canned-etc. would be in order?

                    Sadly, we passed a place on Broadway in the 2-story mall that advertised Chiu Chow cuisine and had some good-looking dishes in the window. I think I'm too annoyed to return. And now, I officially have given up on Chinese food in Chinatown.

                    1. re: cant talk...eating

                      Now I don't even know where to begin. First off - "no Chinese people." Bull! I have eaten maybe five times at Hop Li and each time it was with friends who are Chinese-American (First, second and third generation Americans). I learned about the place from a man who is Asian American and he and his family has been going there for decades. It has been known in his comunity as a place to gather in very large groups for a good meal. In fact maybe you did not see them because they take-up entire rooms. Did you notice the seperate rooms that can be cut off? Second, I live in SGV and each time I drive by the crapy places with a that big RED "C" rating on the window it freaks me out. Now, that might be "Real" mainland stuff but no thanks. Third, your food sounds like the stuff I got from a place called Hpo Li in Arcadia but never at the place in LA. Bottom line -- Hop Li in LA is good chow.

                      1. re: JeetJet

                        Hop Li in Chinatown is usually crowded with Asians. Why? Because the food is great. Lousy wine list but they let me bring my own in and they charge a whopping $1 for each glass they put on the table. Not for each glass you drink. What I'm trying to say is $1 for each person who asks for a wine glass.

                      2. re: cant talk...eating

                        I agree with JeetJet. First, I have been going to HL for over 20 years, and each time there is several-to-many Chinese people eating there, often in large groups in the big dining room (not in the small ones when you first enter). Second, we were first referred there by a friend of my sister, who is Chinese and whose family used to own and operate a Chinese restaurant!! I think they know good food.

                        With HL (as with many places with a large, varied menu with many main ingredients) there are some dishes that are not so great, that's why I stick to the dishes I mentioned in my previous post, but I'll also try specials + something that looks good as the waiters bring it to another diner!

                        Cant talk, give HL another try, but stick to what's recommended here and in previous posts on CH about HL.

                        GK in SO

                        1. re: GK in SO

                          Ok, ok, I'll try again, this time alone, and after a cooling-off period, not on a Monday, etc. Btw, I too grew up in the SGV near Las Tunas and Mission, and am back there all the time (and I won't frequent "C"-rated places). And, I didn't find the menu that varied at all. It was a classic American Chinese restaurant, beef section, poultry section, chef specials section that were sizzling versions of the former sections, walnut shrimp, on and on.

                          I was trying to order what seemed would be hard to mess up, and look, even with the rubbery chicken, canned stuff, and cheap fish, it wasn't vile. They had exactly one special, fish filet w/ eggplant. I don't like that combo, so I went w/ the black bean sauce b/c it was listed as spicy. The SO has a shrimp allergy, so went w/ chicken.

                          Again, I'm not saying that Hop Li is a 'bad' restaurant in the way that something like a Denny's is bad. The big hunks of raw onions were indeed fresh - they just didn't strike me as refined or artful in the least, just clumsy and cloying. And, it's just pretty much what every Chinese take-out in L.A. serves, except there are table cloths. I've been baffled by raves about my local take-out on this board (Chyn King on W. 3rd), which is why I suggest we may be talking past each other here. Or, maybe I ordered the wrong thing - or two of the wrong things - and I can accept that.

                          1. re: cant talk...eating

                            lol this is a great little debate.

                            hop li sucks. and can't talk...eating i think really nailed it on the head. there's nothing artful about it - it's just poorly chopped stuff thrown together in a wok... "pretty much what every Chinese take-out in L.A. serves".

                            funny thing is, people always seem to think that just because (insert ethnic) restaurant is patronized by (same ethnic) people, that automatically gives it cred or makes it good. while that can generally point one in the right direction, with chinese food i'll argue that it's often very misleading. ESPECIALLY in chinatown.

                            my grandfather has been a chinatown mainstay for the last 70+ years, and his two favorite restaurants? Good Taste/Jade Wok on College (aka "Godawful") and Mayflower, until after it moved across chinatown. his motto has always been "i don't care how it tastes. just fill me up!"

                            my point: i think a large part of the community there - namely, elderly chinese residents and their visiting offspring - just patronize restaurants that are convenient/cheap/closest to them, places that have been around a long time that they simply stick with out of habit, none of which, regrettably, are actually any good these days.

                            1. re: rameniac

                              I grew up in Chinatown, my family still lives there, and the only times I've been to Hop Li was for office lunches when I was outvoted and/or the boss was picking up the bill. It's not awful food, but given the choice, I have never opted for Hop Li.

                              The Chinese food in Chinatown has been in serious decline for a very long time. Remember when Sam Woo on Broadway was decent? The last time I was there, I brought along a friend for a convenient but decent meal. Wow, I was kinda embarrassed by how terrible the food was. You could tell all kinds of liberties were taken in order to keep the cost low. I understand that generally the restaurants can only compete by offering cheap Chinese food at an acceptable taste level, but a few them really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

                              Phoenix Inn was the one place I considered to be halfway decent in Chinatown, but I haven't been there years so I'm not sure what it's like anymore.

                              1. re: tdonline

                                So sad to hear that! I moved here from NYC over a year ago. And even though Manhattan's Chinatown has its hits and misses, there are a few places there that are always good. I wish I could find the same in LA's Chinatown, but no luck so far...

                                1. re: Liquid Sky

                                  unfortunately being an LA native who lives in NYC, tdonline is right, LA ctown is not good at all anymore (it was decent when i was a kid)...that said you're lucky enough to have the SGV which blows NYC ctown out of the water and is even better than flushing

                              2. re: rameniac

                                Maybe you are just ordering teh wrong dishes. I defy you to find a better lobster in ginger and green onion sauce. Their Peking duck is excellent, not a signature dish, but excellent. They serve it traditional with skin and bread and then stir fry the meat. The szechuan green beans are fabulous.

                              3. re: cant talk...eating

                                also for what it's worth i do like the "americanized" yang chow, if only for a lack of other options in the area. at least their brown sauce is a little more concentrated and less bland lol.

                                1. re: rameniac

                                  I guess HL isn't what I remember it as. I honestly haven't frequented it in years. The last spot in chinatown I used to go to often was Hoy King, 207 ord st., up the street from Phillipes.

                                  I think you should give them a try. And they do have chinese people dine there. Several toisan people when I used to go.

                        2. Two weeks ago, a friend suggested that we have dinner at Yang Chow. I really enjoyed the food.

                          Yang Chow
                          819 N. Broadway

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: Rodeline

                            I am a huge Yang Chow fan and have posted about how happy their spicy wonton soup and eggplant in garlic sauce, to say nothing of the slippery shrimp, always make me. But I'm not sure it is a good place for a solo diner -- no real lunch combo specials, and best dishes there are better shared by a large table.

                            1. re: nosh

                              Yang Chow is good for Americanized Chinese food--there are rarely any Asians eating there. More authentic ones are Hop Li, Mayflower, CBS behind Philippes, and maybe even Empress Pavilion(haven't been in years).

                              1. re: cfylong

                                Another good one is Golden City, across the street from Full House on Hill. A Cantonese restaurant, I remember their clams with black bean sauce, yang chow fried rice, and steamed fish as surprisingly good!

                                1. re: cfylong

                                  lol that explains why i never see any chinese people in there. but for some reason i do like yang chow much better than anything else in chinatown. can't stand that "subtle" cantonese flavoring. plus yang chow opens late (at least it's open for DINNER, unlike 90% of the restaurants in the area).

                                  1. re: rameniac

                                    The service at Yang Chow is a little better and it's nicer appointed. I'm not sure if Cantonese food is all that subtle, but the flavor of the dishes and even some of the dishes themselves do not appeal to the Chinese palate. It's a little like Italians like their pasta al dente and their marinara sauce more vinegary, whereas Americans like their Italian pasta cooked more and the sauce sweeter.

                                    1. re: cfylong

                                      i grew up eating cantonese food in monterey park and chinatown - places like hop li, nbc, etc. as a kid i was always the one that wanted to go to mcdonald's, but my parents would be all over chinese family-style like there was no tomorrow. color me banana... to be honest, "subtle" canto-cooking is really my way of saying it's blaaaand.

                                      it wasn't even until more savory mainland chinese places started popping up in recent years (chung king, hunan, etc.) that i realized, "hey, chinese food can be good after all!" sadly, there's nothing of that sort in chinatown, at least none that i'm aware of.

                                  2. re: cfylong

                                    Empress Pavilion is terrific for dim sum (which I think they serve every day from 10 to 2 or so) -- it's as close as you can get to a Hong Kong dim sum experience without actually going to HK, as far as I'm concerned. They are also terrific for dinner; go with J. Gold's recommendation and make at least one dish the garlic crab.

                                      1. re: ozhead

                                        The last time I was at Empress Pavilion was for a wedding banquet. The food really sucked. No flavor and some dishes were cold. Thats not something that should happen for an occasion such as a wedding banquet. I would assume since lots of money was paid for it it would be terrific, but they fail at it.

                                        1. re: ozhead

                                          i actually like empress pavillion... i got ur back ozhead! hahah even though we may be committing CH blasphemy.... hahahah... swim against the crowd!!!! =)

                                          i was just there recently and i i enjoyed their sticky rice... it wasn't dry.. it was nice and moist. i also enjoyed their shrimp and scallops har gow. they also had this meatball that i enjoyed as well.

                                          BUT, my one caveat is that this place is crazy crowded.... SO if you want the empress pavillion dimsum without the crowd, i recommend going next door to the empress pavillion express and ordering the dimsum there. they have a full menu and they serve everything that they serve in the restaurant. you just have to ask for an order sheet and you can specify what you want to order....

                                          we're going to stick to this route because it was so crazy crowded that i wasn't able to enjoy my dim sum as much... i'm more used to smaller places, and so i became a bit claustrophobic during the meal and had to go outside so i could breathe.... and i felt better....

                                          despite my little episode, hahahah, i thought the food was pretty good, and i enjoy dim sum both in norcal and socal =)

                                          1. re: kinipela

                                            the EP take out place has been a great stand by for me. Take it home fire up the steamer and put the kettle on. Beats the drive to SGV and my tea's better.

                                            1. re: corydon

                                              I want to take my parents to EP when they come to visit.

                                              Is it equally a zoo on weekdays??

                                              1. re: Liquid Sky

                                                okay so i've never gone on a weekday, but i talked to someone who is in between jobs and has gone.. she says the menu isn't as vast as on the weekends, but you don't have to wait an hour just to be seated... so i guess that means it's not as crazy... if you get claustrophobiic like me, i would probably check myself ahead of time just to see if you can handle the crowd.. but i know that could be difficult if it's hard to get away from work.... =)

                                                and i usually don't get that claustrophobic (i'll go to huge clubs and stuff), but that weekend that i went was way too overwhelming.... i think because i wasn't prepared for it... actually no, i wouldn't want my restaurant that crowded....

                                          2. re: ozhead

                                            politely disagree...ive eaten there a million times especially when i was younger and my family used to go there, its gone downhilll and its not even close to as good as HK dim sum (like REALLY far away)...also went there for a banquet about a year ago and that was very mediocre

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              Empress is definitely my go-to spot for Chinatown dim sum.

                                    1. Can some please give me the address for Mayflower. I never heard of the restaurant before and I will love to try it this weekend.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Timabruin

                                        685 N. Spring

                                        I found it with google.

                                        1. re: cjla

                                          Actually they moved next door to 679 N. Spring, the old Mon Kee location. They opened up a Vietnamese noodle restaurant in the old 685 location.