Chinatown favorites for NY transplant
Hi, living in Venice and finding the Chinese food here a little odd. Gonna give Chinatown a try. Looking for soup dumplings a lå Joe's Shanghai in New York or anything off the menu from New Green Bo. I know Los Angeles has to have the real deal, so looking forward to hearing your tips. Also if anyone knows good places on the westside I'm all ears. Thanks
Speaking as a born and raised New Jersey guy, welcome to the wildly differently world of LA Chinese food.
First let me summarize a few inconsistencies in terminology as far as what you're used to hearing on the east coast. Out here, "lo mein" is called "chow mein" and what you think of as chow mein back in NY actually doesn't exist out here (or perhaps you might find some representation of it as chop suey somewhere). But the actual definiton of chow is "fried" and mien is "noodles" so LA's version is really a more accurate representation of the form!
Great eggrolls as we know and love them, alas, are all but impossible to find. There are plenty of weak, bland, spring roll style concoctions to be had, and even some weird batter coated deep fried meatballs that some places pass off as eggrolls (like Canton Kitchen in Mar Vista... so weird) but none of them are what we think of when we crave a real eggroll with duck sauce and spicy mustard. The best ones that I (as well as fellow "back east" guys Das Ubergeek and Professor Salt) have been able to find have been pale and expensive approximations of those ubiquitous rolls of deliciousness you can find everywhere back home. The closest I've found in LA are the "New York Style Eggrolls" they sell at Genghis Cohen, on the northeast corner of Fairfax and Melrose... they are pricey at about $5 for 2 and a little bland, but they serve the duck sauce and hot mustard with it automatically, without your even asking, which in and of itself is a small miracle. That hardly ever happens out here (I know it sounds blasphemous but it is quite common for Chinese joints out here to serve ketchup as an eggroll sauce). If you want to find a place that feels like some of the divey Chinese joints your're used to back home, try Paul's Kitchen on San Pedro in downtown LA. The food isn't much like it is back home, but the feeling of the place is very much like what we're used to, and you can get that red tinged barbecue pork in the wonton soup which again is a small miracle in this land where the inexplicable salad-in-a-soupbowl-"wor wonton" rules the roost.
Now, on to your actual questions. I have been to Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown and quite honestly found their soup dumplings to be quite thick, heavy and greasy... maybe it is because I began eating them out here, where the skins tend to be quite thin, and the soup inside tends to be light and not too greasy (especially the ones at Din Tai Fung, whose skin is resilient but somehow ever so delicate and transluscent... more on that below).
My favorites out here are as one other poster mentioned the ones at Mei Long Village (on Valley in San Gabriel), which also specializes in this outstanding, succulent "pork pump" which is like the most profoundly luscious barbecued pork you've ever tasted (it's the stewed meaty ankle of the pig). We also love the Shanghai style rice cakes as well as the lion's head meatball, all Shanghai specialties. But really, just ask for suggestions on their specialties--- they're really friendly and I've never had a bad dish there. Just please don't order the beef and broccoli. (Oh and by the way, the restaurants out here don't call them soup dumplings... they're generally called "juicy pork dumplings" or "xiao long bao" (XLB) out here. Just look for the word "juicy" in the dumpling description and you'll know you've got the right thing.)
My favorite XLB however are at Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese restaurant chain with restaurants all over China, Japan, Korea and one lonely outpost here. Their pan fried green beans are spectacular, as are the spicy beef noodle soup and the pan fried rice cakes. Again, it's hard to not order a winning dish at this place. Now just to confuse you a bit, they do advertise "soup dumplings" here, but they only serve them in extremely limited quantities on the weekends. Din Tai Fung's version of a "soup dumpling" is actually a tray of minature XLB (think maybe 2cm wide), served alongside a rather bland bowl of clear chicken broth. In order to order them, you need to arrive at 10:00am on Saturday or Sunday, wait in line for 30 minutes until they open, and hope you're one of the first people to order it because they usually sell out of them after the first wave. And honestly, they're not worth all that extra trouble.
If I may throw in a few other favorites.... the beef roll (chinese burrito) at Noodle Express 101 on Valley, the beef soup with hand pulled belt noodles at Malan in Hacienda Heights (you watch them make your noodles before your eyes), China Islamic on Garvey in Rosemead for their dough sliced noodles in lamb soup, and Mon Land Hot Pot just off Valley in San Gabriel.
Welcome to the wide world of Chinese food in Los Angeles. Keep reading here and prepare to have your eyes widened!
If you venture into the San Gabriel Valley for some of the best authentic Chinese food in the world, you may want to bring a Mandarin-speaking guest with you as some of the best restaurants speak very limited English. Check the threads on Chinese food and you'll find a lot of places to eat, but you'll probably have to expand your repetoire of Chinese food beyond New York City.
You'll find the real deal alright, but not on the westside and not in Chinatown. (Although if you're looking for Chinese food that tastes more like it does in New York, these areas might be better suited.)
Soup Dumplings, I second WHills recs.
If you're interested in a good Sichuan place try Chungking on San Gabriel in San Gabriel.
Best Beijing Duck: Lu Din Gee in San Gabriel.
Hunan: Hunan's on Valley in Alhambra.
There are just too many places to mention here.
You can also just drive around Monterey Park/Alhambra and try any restaurant you see overflowing with customers.
Skip Chinatown and head out to the San Gabriel Valley. That's where the best Chinese food is at.
BEST SOUP DUMPLINGS:
Mei Long Village or JJ on Valley Blvd/New Ave in San Gabriel in the same plaza
Din Tai Fung in Arcadia on Baldwin by Duarte
888 in Rosemead off of Valley Blvd
Ocean Star on Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park
Sea Harbour on Rosemead Blvd in Rosemead
Do a search, depending what kind of Chinese cuisine you want, but definitely head out to San Gabriel Valley (Valley Blvd) for the real good Chinese food.