Any passable Chinese on the West Side
Hi. New to LA from Philadelphia this week. Can anyone recommend a passable Chinese (preferably Szechuan) restaurant on the west side? I'm staying in Century City for the next couple of weeks and I need to satisfy my Asian addiction! Also looking for good Vietnamese, Thai and non-sushi Japanese...
Hop Li Seafood (Cantonese) is very close to Century City and more than passable.
10974 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone: (310) 441-3708
Head to west to National Blvd. between Pico and Olympic and there's a large selection of Japanese restaurants- (non-sushi too). You could spend the week there saitsfying your addiction.
Many on this board disparage any westside Chinese as being inauthentic, Americanized, and vastly inferior to the wealth of regional Chinese available in the San Gabriel Valley. I am a dissenter, believing that if you are careful, the Chinese you can get on the westside is far superior to what is available in most of the rest of the country.
In my searches, I have come to favor Hu's as the best on the westside. If going for dinner, start with their spicy dumplings and be sure to order the kung pao shrimp. If stopping in for lunch, my favorites are the twice-cooked pork (I order mine w/o tofu) or the kung pao chicken. The lunch combo starts with a vegie hot'n'sour soup (which I spice up with some hot chili oil and soy) and also a small plate of Chinese chicken salad. They are a bit tough to find the first time -- go west to Overland, make a left and go south just past the 10 freeway on and offramps, and then make a left on National. National will curve around to the right, and just at a strange four-way intersection Hu's will be on the corner on the right.
The only westside dim sum is at VIP Seafood, which is on the second floor of the minimall on the N/W corner of Wilshire at Barrington. For specials on roast duck or lobster, try Hop Woo on the S/W corner of Olympic and Sepulveda. It has one side doing steam-table takeout and seating on the other -- beware, service can be a bit offputting for an Anglo newcomer. For a "healthier" option, some like Chang's, which is on the west side of San Vicente Blvd. in Brentwood.
For Thai, my favorite is Thai Boom, which is on the north side of Venice Blvd. about midway between Overland and Sepulveda. A couple of months ago, there was some positive buzz on the board about Emporium Thai, on the west side of Westwood Blvd. between Ohio and Wilshire. My favorite casual, nonchain restaurant in Westwood Village just south of UCLA is Thai House, on Gayley across from the Whole Foods Market. Quiet, good service, real glassware, and pretty good food for very moderate prices for that neighborhood.
There's no doubt that the selection as well as prices are superior in the inland area (Monterey Park, Alhambra, etc.) in terms of ethnic Asian fare compared to the paucity on the Westside.
I'd still say you can do pretty well with the selections above. (I haven't been to Hu's, though.)
The dim sum at VIP harbor is not bad at all. It's a bit pricey ($15-$20 per person, vs $8-12 at inland places with better selection), but they defintely have almost all the "key" dim sum items. Good ambience, and a fun group outing on the Westside. Parking's valet but cheap ($1-2 with validation) right in front.
One place that I've found is pretty "ethnic" is Hop Woo on Pico (I think.) I've been underwhelmed by the standard menu, but I did go with some Taiwanese friends, who promptly picked specials off the wall (they're written in Chinese) which were as good as the stuff I had growing up in New York city Chinatown. If you can go with someone who can read the Chinese menu, you'll definitely experience some legit ethnic fare that you may love - or may find too "different" for your taste. Prices here are excellent as well - rarely over $12/dish, with most $8-$12, even for specials. Ambience and service, is substandard - as I expected. (I do get a bit suspicious when I walk into a Chinese restaurant that looks like a museum or a high-end spa - shades of PF Chang...ugh)
One local favorite that's actually pretty good for noodles that most Americans can enjoy (meaning not-too-hardcore-ethnic), is Mr. Noodle in Westwood. I've found it very enjoyable (not spectacular), and inexpensive, at about $7-$10 for some large plates with a casual format and pretty decent service. Wouldn't go there for a special occasion, but for a quick fix if you're in the neighborhood, it's a pretty good pick.
Please report back when you get to Hu's -- I think you'll like the place. But if you have native friends and an adventuresome taste, you might discover some of the stuff I see the staff eating or the little pickled or otherwise spiced vegetables I notice being given to some tables...
Hop Woo is on Olympic and Sepulveda, not Pico. Your experience mirrors my impressions -- while I was begrudgingly given my pork in garlic sauce, the table across the way was being served some fascinating dishes, quite fragrant, a couple of which I couldn't even attempt to label.
Agree with your description of VIP for dim sum -- competent, they have the shu mai and the buns and the potstickers, a bit more expensive but not much -- to my surprise, there was quite a crowd waiting on a Saturday shortly after noon when we were leaving after eating at 11.
Disagree about Mr. Noodle -- has too much of a dorm-complex cafeteria vibe for me. It does have the benefit that a customer can order a plate with rice or noodles, a protein, and some vegies and sauce and have a single-serving meal for less than $10. Actually, in looking back at your post above, we don't disagree all that much...just that I'd either eat with a friend or two and share dishes at Thai House, or save a couple of bucks and grab burgers, fries, and a drink at In-n-Out or Tommy's or get a burrito at Jose Bernstein's.
There is significantly better Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai food to be had elsewhere in this massive metropolis of ours [respectively, the San Gabriel Valley, the Garden Grove/Westminster section of Orange County, and Thai Town in Hollywood], but you are very close to some of the best Japanese food.
For "non-Sushi Japanese", check out the many, many threads on this board about the 2 blocks of Sawtelle Blvd. just north of Olympic--notably:
Sawtelle Kitchen, Blue Marlin, Hurry Curry, and Curry House for "yoshoku" (Japanese-style western) cooking;
Mizu 212 for shabu-shabu;
Yashima for soba and udon noodles;
Chabuya and Ramen-ya (the latter is on Olympic 4 blocks west of Sawtelle) for ramen noodles;
Orris and 2117 for refined western food with a Japanese sensibility.
For something more traditionally Japanese you might like Torafuku, on Pico just west of the Westside Pavilion shopping center. It's a little expensive but they have utterly outstanding rice (it sounds trivial but it is anything but) and a widely varied menu to go with it.
I fourth Hop Li in a strip mall on the corner of Olympic and Sepulveda for quite good Cantonese Chinese on the Westside. My meal there a month ago was off menu and ordered ahead of time and it was as good as any served up in San Gabriel. Just to give you a sense of what is feasible off menu... we had roast pork with crispy skin, fish belly and chicken feet soup, fried squab, rice with preserved meats hot pot, steamed fish, etc. With 12 dishes for 10 people (no alcohol) it came to about $300 including tip. We were all delighted to have been so well fed.
I haven't looked for Vietnamese or Thai on the Westside but for non-sushi Japanese I like Yabu on Pico just east of Bundy. Their soba and udon are good as are their daily specials on the board. And of course up and down Sawtelle as someone has noted are several other good Japanese restaurants but their menus tend to have a narrower focus or are much more pricey than Yabu.
There is another ok Hop Li on Santa Monica.
11901 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles - (310) 268-2463
It's not that we don't like Chinese restaurants on the westside. But they do prepare dishes a little differently due to the demographics. Most dishes are either way too sweet or not as true to its original form. Also dishes that are not ordered too often tend to taste a little off. Try salted fish with diced chicken fried rice at Hop Li. One of the most blend dish I have tasted at a Chinese restaurant.
For example, go to Hop Li and try ordering Won Ton Lau Mee (Won ton with dried noodles). This dish turned out to be chow mein, which is totally different if you had ordered it from Sam Woo.
The only reason I would eat at a Chinese restaurant in westside is when I am dead exhausted to drive to east LA.
Not sure how folks feel about this place, but I kind of like Shanghai Grill on Wilshire just east of Beverly Dr. (Beverly Hills). It's certainly a throw-back (I think I saw egg foo young on the menu, for example), but we gotten fresh, tasty food w/ low msg levels, great service, and stiff drinks. Only a couple pet peeves - I think they may put Chinese mustard in the shredded pork dish, and they inexplicably use generic white mushrooms in the won ton soup - I mean, who does THAT? Also, they had pretty decent pork bao the last time was there, in case you're craving it.
You're not going to find actual Szechuan food west of Alhambra, I'm afraid, and for non-sushi Japanese, I'd recommend Ita-cho (Beverly Blvd.) as my top pick. Maybe Le Saigon on Santa Monica near Barrington for Vietnamese (more of a lunch spot). I haven't found good Thai on the Westside, sorry, but Talesai (Olympic near Doheny), though overpriced, is probably my favorite. That should give you some choices, good luck!