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Dec 13, 2008 05:12 PM

NEW YORKER in LA 4 Nites Best Chinese? Mexican?

Hi. My partner and I are from NYC. We will be in LA for 4 nights after Christmas. Will be staying in West Hollywood. We really do not know much about LA, we visited once for a few days 15 years ago, which means pre internet and pre GPS. Will have a car. We really wanna hit as much as we can, but I definitely want some real authentic Mexican, not Tex Mex burritos or tacos, real Mexican foood. Then, also Chinese (Hong kong, Cantonese, Sichian, Shanghai etc.) I want to places for lunch or dinner that you know are good because the place should be filled with Mexican patrons or Chinese patrons....not interested in fancy decor, but real food. Also, best place for DIM SUM. I suppose I need at least one recommendation for Chinatown. Also, any other places you guys think would be a MUST EAT AT place...any cuisine...we like it all. Since we will be staying in West Hollywood (The Chamberlain Hotel Westmount Dr near Santa Monica Dr abd La Cieniga.) would appreciate ANY tips eating or otherwise...oh, and budget, for Chinese and Mexican $25 each and under. Would also like to take a native LA-er, my brother in law, out ti dinner, a thank you dinner, so any suggestions? He eats mainly fish and vegs, but we are omnivores. For this restaurant, then $50 each and under since it should be special. Boy, thats a lot of info I am asking for..good Chinese, Good Mexican, Good eats in West Hollywood and a good fancy rest. for a native LAer. And any other must see or dos or eats. Thanks guys...JOHN

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  1. You will get detractors and recommendations for many newer, more innovative and probably more expensive places but my favorite traditional cart dim sum for the price is Ocean Star at 145 N Atlantic Blvd just north of Garvey in Monterey Park. Get there by 10:30 on Sunday but take your time ordering as items come out in waves. If you must get dim sum in China Town, I suggest CBS at 700 N Spring Street. They have their own parking with an unofficial attendant who can be very helpful. They have take out as well including dim sum, bbq duck and pork. It is gritty but it is authentic. For great pot stickers, hand cut noodle soup, scallion pancakes and more, I love Mandarin Noodle Deli at 9537 Las Tunas east of San Gabriel Blvd. Also, Mei Long Village for many things. I have to go pick up pizza now so do a search for Mei Long Village in San Gabriel on Valley to find out more but others will pick up where I left off. Have Fun!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Fru

      Hi. Thanks so much for the reply. I did read somewhere the Monterey Park is a city with many recent Asian immigrants. I really dont know the LA are at all, if you had to guess, about how long would it take to drive from West Hollywood to Monterey Park? Also, if I went there for dinner instead of dim sum, would you recommend the same restaurant? Thanks so much!!! JOHN

      1. re: ToughNewYorker

        Well, for dinner, I would tell you to check out Newport Seafood House 835 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626) 289-5998. If there is room in your wallet, check out the fresh lobster specials. From WL to MP especially on a Sunday morning is very doable. You are taking the 10 Freeway east, I would say about 20 miles. If you do a Map Quest or Google Maps, you can get the mileage and directions.

        1. re: Fru

          Newport Seafood has moved a few blocks east to 518 W. Las Tunas Dr. The new restaurant is far better decorated than the previous version.

        2. re: ToughNewYorker

          Depends on the time of day. From West Hollywood to Monterey Park can take 20 minutes, or it can take an hour plus. If you eat late-ish dinners, traffic usually clears decently by 7:00 or 7:30 PM. On the weekends it's a total crapshoot.

          FWIW, many of the XLB (xiaolongbao -- what you know as soup dumplings) places are very different to Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown and Midtown East. I actually like Joe's better, but it's a personal preference -- the skins are thinner here and the dumplings tend to be smaller.

          1. re: ToughNewYorker

            From West Hollywood to the general San Gabriel Valley area (where Monterey Park is located) would be about 30 minutes under normal driving conditions.

            I think Fru has some good recs for you folks. But to be honest, one could recommend hundreds of places in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) that you'd probably find appealing. Just about any rec in SGV will fit your criterion of being surrounded by patrons of the local ethnicity. I personally feel that if you are truly seeking out some great experiences in Chinese cuisines, you ought to consider making at least a whole day outing to the SGV. To take in only one meal would be tragic. You could easily do dim sum for breakfast - most open at 10AM. Lunch can be had just about anywhere. And dinner is even more wide open. The most difficult part is to pare down your choices...

            As for dim sum, most would find places like Ocean Star to be perfectly acceptable. It's big, frenetic and loud. this is the classic dim sum palace where you choose from the carts - your eyes and nose will be your guide. I used to regularly go here up until a few years ago. We just found it to be too crowded and frantic. We also felt the food didn't appeal to us as much any more.

            If you ask folks who tend to focus more on the food and are willing to pay a bit more for it, the menu-driven places like Sea Harbour and Elite tend to get a big thumbs-up. Another place that started this menu trend in the area is MIssion 261. Of the three, Mission 261 has the best ambiance. The building's architecture has a California mission-like feel to it - evidently it used to be a California/Mexican restaurant in a previous iteration. And its address is 261 (261 S. Mission Drive); thus, the name. Both Sea Harbour and Elite sit tied a very distant second in the ambiance department. However, both get higher marks for the food. Both places have their fans. If I had to choose one over the other, I couldn't - I like both equally well for different reasons. But you'd probably find Elite to be closer to West Hollywood. As good either of my personal two favorites are, I would guess that the two of you would have a hard time spending more than $50 on a very memorable dim sum meal (unless you have the appetite of a college linebacker).

            While the dim sum "admission price" for many dim sum places can be very easy on the pocketbook, many would feel that the opposite is true for their dinner menus. Being strongly driven by live seafood, the typical dinner could easily run over $100/per. If you're into seafood, and if Chinese (mainly Cantonese) cuisine is high on the list, then it's more than worth it. You will find the quality to be superb and the quantity of food will again outweigh the average appetite.

            Dumpling places have become very popular. These places tend to be very basic in their accommodations but superb in their execution. Here's a recent thread you might find valuable:


            Many heavy-hitters on Chinese cuisine have chimed in on this thread. A couple others you might seek out on Chinese cuisines are posters Chandvkl and Das Ubergeek. I personally like 101 Noodle Express, but Noodle House, Luscious Dumplings and Dumpling 10053 are all excellent as well.

            Mei Long Village is one of our favorite stops in the Valley as well. The menu is primarily Shanghainese and most dishes are well-executed. Aside form the xiao long bao and other dumpling-like goods, we like their jade shrimp, their pork "pump," steamed fish, and okra w/ dried shrimp. While I find personally find the flavor of their xlb to be better than Din Tai Fung, my last visit there (around late September) was a little disappointing. The xlb, while still flavorful, were stuck to the parcment paper and couldn't be removed without tearing the skin, thereby releasing the precious soup - small quibble.

            I hope you folks enjoy your stay. The odds are that you will be greeted with great weather the week after Christmas. The skies should be clear, the air crisp (by LA standards), and the traffic somewhat muted...

        3. Scroll through your top Mexican food choices here:

          1. As far as Chinese food is concerned, skip Chinatown since the food isn't any better than New York Chinatown. Rather you should concentrate on the San Gabriel Valley which is a large suburban Chinatown many times the size of Manhattan Chinatown or any other urban Chinatown, that encompasses several separate cities including Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, Temple City, Arcadia and Rosemead, as well as the more eastern Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights. For dim sum I think you'd most be interested in a more modern style of dim sum that has hit Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto from overseas, but which has bypassed Manhattan and Flushing. This is the menu based, modern and delicate form of dim sum. Leading practitioners which you can search for on this board include Elite in Monterey Park, Sea Harbour in Rosemead, Mission 261 in San Gabriel, King Hua in Alhambra and Happy Harbor in Rowland Heights. All of these places also do a good job at dinner time, and once again bring a modern and creative flair to Hong Kong/Cantonese cuisine that you find in Asia and the above named North American cities, but not New York City. The San Gabriel Valley is east of downtown L.A. so take the Hollywood or Santa Monica Freeways east and catch the San Bernardino Freeway into the San Gabriel Valley. Travel times for you will vary greatly depending upon the day of the week and time of day.

            25 Replies
            1. re: Chandavkl

              Again, many of the more "modern" dim sum restaurants are not cart style but rather you order from a menu and they will be more expensive.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Well, it isn't the fact that you order from a menu that means they're more expensive -- Elite and Mission 261 are just more expensive in general than NBC and 888 and Ocean Star.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Maybe the absolute prices are higher, but the quality is several times better at Elite or Sea Harbour.

                    So based on a quality to price ratio, I think Sea Harbour, Elite, etc. are actually cheaper than 888, Ocean Star, etc.

                    McDonald's is cheaper than Father's Office, but you tend to get what you pay for.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I didn't say it was worse value (lower quality:price ratio), I said it was more expensive. Which it is. The OP listed price as a consideration. :-P

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Exactly what I was trying to convey!

              1. re: Chandavkl

                What he said. The San Gabriel Valley is the physical size of Manhattan and it's hugely Asian. If anyone recommends Chinese in Hollywood, West Hollywood or anywhere on the Westside, I can guarantee you'll be disappointed given your request for places where Chinese people eat.

                If you want push-cart dim sum, go to 888 on Valley Blvd. near Delta Ave. in Rosemead, but the best dim sum is actually menu-order at the aforementioned Elite, Sea Harbour. Mission 261 is OK but Elite is better.

                There is noplace in LA like Grand Sichuan in Flushing or Szechwan Gourmet in Midtown. Sichuan is the one Chinese cuisine that New York really clearly does better (besides, of course, cheap delivery egg rolls, hahaha).

                Try Giang Nan restaurant, in the back of a minimall on Garfield Ave. between Garvey Ave. and the 10 freeway in Monterey Park. It has excellent Jiangsu cuisine -- the chicken with chestnuts (really) is truly excellent, as is the the house pork. Make sure that if they don't give you celery with sesame oil ("jade celery") that you ask for some, because it truly does cut the richness of the "red-cooked" sauce.

                As for Mexican, my recommendation is to take a drive to -- wait for it -- the San Gabriel Valley and go to Babita, which is on San Gabriel Blvd. in San Gabriel, between the 10 freeway and Valley Blvd. It's a tiny place and it looks like an absolute hellhole from the outside, but step inside and feast on great Mexican food -- their beef cheeks are insanely good, and I like the panuchos (thicker tortillas with shredded pork and pickled red onion). You'll be pushing the $25 limit if you order two courses each, but not by much. They have wine and beer only, no hard liquor.

                For very good Mexican seafood with interesting sauces (try huitlacoche sauce), go to the original branch of La Serenata de Garibaldi, on First Street in Boyle Heights, right where the 5, 10, 60 and 101 freeways all intersect (you will definitely, definitely need the GPS, because they're constructing the light rail through there). Again, no hard liquor, so don't order the margaritas, but the seafood is fantastic, and the flan is second to none.

                Another possibility is to go on a taco truck crawl -- see Bandini's Taco Hunt blog for details. If you even spend $10 each you'll be stuffed to the gills.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Geek, I wouldn't say that Babita looks like "an absolute hellhole from the outside." It's certainly a modest little house but not frightening, as absolute hellholes must be under current California law. For frightening, let's send this New Yorker to Bahooka, if we want something in the same vicinity that begins with "Ba..."

                  Getting back to Babita, I also endorse their delicious food (except for the guisado meats -- in the chiles en nogada, for example, which are much better with ground meat, as at La Casita in Bell) and add to Das Ubergeek's list the tequila-cured salmon sope. (See the detailed description with picture at Exile Kiss: The dish is fantastic and fabulous -- better than anything ever produced or even conceived by any Tokyo sushi house in the last 100 years! Well, OK, I may be going overboard slightly, but it is much better than the ubiquitous ground tequila-cured salmon tacos at Tito's, Taco Bell's, and similar places.

                  After Chinese and Mexican food in the San Gabriel Valley, you might also want to stop by Fosselman's Ice Cream in Alhambra. Excellent versions of all the usual flavors in addition to some not-so-usual. (See: ) My favorite there is a decadent shake with two scoops cookies 'n cream, one scoop espresso ice cream. They should call it Buzzy Crunch.

                  1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                  Fosselman's Ice Cream Co
                  1824 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

                  1. re: sbritchky

                    Perhaps it's that both times I've been to Babita in the last six months, there's been graffiti on the building. And, of course, I can't believe we missed out the absolutely SUBLIME chiles en nogada currently in season at Babita...

                    1. re: sbritchky

                      Babita looks like a crackhouse.

                      Bahooka just looks out of place.

                    2. re: Das Ubergeek

                      "There is noplace in LA like Grand Sichuan in Flushing or Szechwan Gourmet in Midtown. Sichuan is the one Chinese cuisine that New York really clearly does better (besides, of course, cheap delivery egg rolls, hahaha)."

                      I'm not really sure about that. Shufeng Garden in Rowland Heights does delicious Sichuan and I like it much more than the Grand Sichuans in New York. The chile braised carp and pepper chicken (tasty chicken bits in a mound of red pepper) are very good. Their water boiled beef is excellent and there's a bunch of little side dishes that they do very well (eg. spicy beef tendon, tongue, pickled cucumbers, etc). There's also a rich soup of free range chicken, gingo nuts, pigs feet, and tripe that's not spicy but delicious. But Rowland Heights would probably be out of reach for the OP.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        It gets shouted down a lot on this board, but the Chung King on 1000 S. San Gabriel is leagues better than NYC's Grand Sichuan, Wu Liang Ye or the stinky Flushing food courts.

                        1. re: condiment

                          I guess I don't agree that Chung King is better than the grandes dames in New York, but Chung King is good -- just not revelatory.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            I don't even think Chung King is very good, much less revelatory.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Hi ipsedixit / Das Ubergeek,

                              Since we're on the topic, what's your favorite Sichuan in L.A.? :) With the winter coming on, it's a great time for some heat. :)

                              1. re: exilekiss

                                My vote goes to Chongqing in Hacienda Heights (which is NOT the same place as Chung King). It is also called Mr. Swiss, so you must be very careful to get the Sichuan menu and not the Crappy American Panda Type menu, and you may need to be quite firm with the waitstaff.

                                I will tell you that it pales in comparison to the New York Sichuan places. Sichuan is a hole in the otherwise revelatory LA Chinese scene.

                                1. re: exilekiss

                                  Shufeng in Rowland Heights, followed by a distant second would be Manie's.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    We need a new #2 since Manie's is now Happiness, also a Sichuan style restauraunt.

                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                      No big loss, I suppose.

                                      Recently, Manie's had strayed to being more Taiwanese than Sichuan anyway.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        this is unbelievable to me! is chung king on 1000 s. san gabriel really controversial on this board? I thought it was considered the best szechuan in the city (certainly by The One Jonathon Gold!)

                                        1. re: echoparkdirt

                                          The point I was making is that while it's good, I find that the best Sichuan in this city is not as good as the best Sichuan in New York.

                                          Happily, though, I think the GENERAL state of Chinese food is better here than anywhere else in Anglo North America save possibly Vancouver, and the Sichuan is still quite good, so I'm happy. :-)

                                          1. re: echoparkdirt


                                            If you like Chung King, great.

                                            But don't consider Chung King great simply because a restaurant critic says it's great.

                                            Trust your own tastebuds and come to your own conclusions.

                                            If you like Chung KIng independent of what anyone else says, great. Go and enjoy it often.

                                            But don't do it because of some other person is making you believe it.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Hear hear, ipse!!

                                              By the way, this thread is past its prime (I'm sure the OP has come and gone by now...)

                          2. re: Das Ubergeek

                            To piggyback on DU's post about taco trucks, here are some recent and very relevant threads to your requests. The vast majority of these eateries are very informal, frequented mainly by their locals, and have excellent food. The one exception that comes immediately to mind is Monte Alban, which is a Oaxacan restaurant in West LA. As good as it is, its location is not so heavily ethnically fortified, but is excellent, and is frequented by patrons of all walks. This thread is picking up speed - you folks have your homework cut out for you... :)


                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              I won't add any more to the Dim Sum recs - all (most) listed by everyone are good IMHO. One small addition - i fyou have been to and like the liquid filled soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in NYC, ( I would recommend checking out Din Tai Fung dumpling house in Arcadia. Even just to swing by (early) and get some dumplings to go.

                          3. If you are staying in a hotel, I suggest you change it to downtown. Then you are a fairly close drive to SGV and the westside.

                            IMO Babita is hand's-down the best Mexican restaurant in L.A. county. The Chiles en Nogada are wonderful, but also try the intensely hot habanero shrimp.

                            I'm a Sea Harbour fan for dim sum. For Chinese at dinner, I defer to the other experts who've weighed in. For "dumplings" I love Noodle House on Garvey in M.P, but have been meaning to try Kingburg and Dean Sin World, recommended from another thread.

                            Enjoy your stay regardless of where you end up. Chances are it will be great weather!