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authentic Chinese food in the West L.A. area

l
Lois Mills Jan 11, 2009 12:45 PM

My brother and sister-in-law live in Marina Del Rey and are looking for real NY quality Cantonese and Sezuchan food, especially egg drop soup. They don't need exotic or gourmet, just decent.

  1. n
    nosh Jan 11, 2009 11:22 PM

    Yep, we've had this discussion before. There are Chinese restaurants in the SGV that are regional, authentic, and blow those in Chinatown or the westside away. But I live in Westwood, love Chinese food, often dine solo for lunch, and hate to drive.

    The best I've found, by far, over the years, is Hu's. Their lunch combos are generous, tasty, and a good value. I like the hot'n'sour soup, spiced up with some hot chili oil and soy. Then a small Chinese chicken salad. Then either the kung pao chicken or the twice-cooked pork (without tofu), or the eggplant if I'm sharing. I leave satiated, happy, and out for less than $10 including a good tip.

    For dim sum, the only place on the westside is VIP Seafood. Cart service, nice place, decent food. Nothing surprising or extraordinary, but I can get my shrimp and shu mai and potstickers and be happy. Prices aren't bad, though I do try to avoid the ripoff valet parking in that lot.

    Everywhere else I try, and I've pretty much tried everywhere else, makes me wish I were at Hu's. The new Hop Li on Santa Monica Blvd. (the former JR Seafood) is bland, small-portioned, and fills plates with onion and green pepper. The older Hop Li on Pico is better -- there, at least, I look at what the neighboring tables are eating and wish I'd ordered that. Jin Jiang is mediocre and a ripoff. Some on this board like Hop Woo, on Sepulveda at Olympic. I've had a couple of decent dishes there, but the service makes me feel unwelcome, and the parking during lunch with their takeout section is a mess. Cheng Du (the former Chung King) on Pico is perhaps my favorite alternative, very inexpensive with big portions. I like their hot'n'sour soup and the shredded pork with broccoli a la Cheng Du or their Mongolian Beef. I tried Soy Bean on Wilshire last month and liked the service and the plating, but the vegies were undercooked and the flavor was muted even with a bunch of spice added. California Wok on Wilshire is sorta nice and professes to be healthy; I just haven't found a dish to like there yet. The place in Westwood Village on Lindbrook is bad, and the one on Westwood Blvd., Scallions, is quite pricey. I've tried Little Hong Kong Cafe on Sawtelle a couple of times -- it has some potential, but I haven't stumbled upon a really favorite dish yet. And plates that are $6.95 elsewhere are $9.95 there. But if you know what to order there, please advise.

    Of course, wherever you go things vary from dish to dish. Even at Hu's, when I've gotten bored and sampled the sweet'n'sour shrimp (bready, insipid) or shrimp chop suey (how can shrimp that taste so good in kung pao taste so off?) I've been sorely disappointed.

    One final note -- How can a Chinese restaurant not have chili oil? No, I don't want that red paste. I want the thin, extremely hot clean chili oil that comes from roasting those little hot chilis. I need it, crave it. No excuse to not have it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nosh
      b
      Bert Jan 11, 2009 11:51 PM

      Actually, there is a perfectly fine excuse. Only certain regions of China use or serve chili oil (generally northern, shanghainese type places). cantonese places don't use it... they have chili sauce or paste... and the kind you'll get will vary from restaurant to restaurant (some will just be mashed up chilis in oil, others will have black beans and/or garlic, etc).

      but if you want plain chili oil, i wouldn't expect it except at certain northern chinese place

      1. re: nosh
        ipsedixit Jan 12, 2009 07:20 AM

        Not every Chinese cuisine uses chili oil; in fact, I would say the majority do not.

        Do you expect every Japanese restaurant to have wasabi? Certainly not if you are dining at a izakaya (e.g. Yakitori-ya or Robatayaki).

        1. re: nosh
          a_and_w Jan 12, 2009 09:22 AM

          Mongolian beef is the dish to get at Little Hong Kong. While the plates are more expensive than most, they're also larger -- closer to full orders at other places. Of course, it's not enough to justify the price difference completely -- I would say Little Hong Kong overpriced by about a dollar.

        2. Das Ubergeek Jan 11, 2009 07:01 PM

          Okay, here's the deal (I am trying to head off a million angry posts here).

          Are you looking for New York-style Chinese food (i.e., egg rolls, shrimp in lobster sauce, pepper steak, General Tso's chicken, egg drop soup)?

          Or are you looking for Cantonese food as she are eaten in Guangzhou (formerly Canton)?

          If the former, Mao's Kitchen might be the place to go, or Genghis Cohen.

          If the latter, there are many, many excellent Cantonese seafood houses, but none of them are in Westside, widely regarded as the Atacama Desert of authentic (meaning how people in China eat) Chinese food. They are, for the most part, all in Monterey Park and east from there -- not even really in Chinatown.

          Can you be more precise about dishes you're hoping to eat?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Das Ubergeek
            westsidegal Jan 11, 2009 11:35 PM

            fwiw, speaking as an ex-brooklynite, mao's kitchen serves chinese-inspired california food, nothing at mao's resembles ny chinese food to me.
            that said, i really like the food at mao's and it is on my regular rotation.

            1. re: westsidegal
              Das Ubergeek Jan 12, 2009 07:50 AM

              I grew up in New Jersey and lived in Manhattan. Short of Genghis Cohen, the only other "New York style" Chinese food place I can think of is New Moon, which is a nice sit-down place and is in Montrose, which is not the Westside.

              Mao's can scratch the itch... for a time.

          2. monku Jan 11, 2009 05:48 PM

            Hop Li in WLA should do the trick until they can get further east. Its more than decent.
            http://www.hoplirestaurant.com/wla.html

            1. y
              yogachik Jan 11, 2009 02:59 PM

              They need to travel to San Gabriel Valley -- do a search here on the many long threads on the subject. There is good egg drop soup at Hu's, though, which is in Palms. Also Hong Kong Cafe on Sawtelle.

              1. c
                ceviche Jan 11, 2009 01:38 PM

                judging from what i've read on the boards, i suspect you're going to get a lot of angry posts about how "authentic" and "NY" are incompatible terms when applied to chinese food.

                that being said, i really like the lunch specials at Fu's Palace on Pico near Robertson. it's more of the cantonese-american style, though. probably not what they necessarily serve in NY, but decent nonetheless.

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