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CHINATOWN- is there anything worth it?

So a close friend is DJ'ing at Mountain Bar in Chinatown on his birthday this Saturday, and i'd like to take him out for chinese, but it has to be chinatown. Is anything worth it?

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  1. I like the former Sam Woo, current Hong Kong BBQ - I think it's the best of the Chinatown options. The scallops in XO sauce are especially good, as is the deep fried pork chop (but watch for bones!)

    Sam Woo Bar-B-Que Restaurant
    803 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    1. For a birthday dinner, I would opt for CBS for Chinese seafood.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ogawak

        Yang Chow
        Slippery Shrimp is worth the trip

      2. I like Yum Cha Cafe on Broadway.

        1. Well here comes the one man band again. Hop Li on Alpine St. in Chinatown has some of the best food around. Fresh stir fried lobster in ginger and green onion sauce is a personal favorite when my 18 1/2 year old daughter lets me get close enough to get some.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Hughlipton

            Hughlipton , is it better than the Hop Li(s) in West L.A? I've found the Hop Li on Pico Blvd to be not too great.

            1. re: bophisto

              the one downtown is much better than the two outposts on the westside.

              1. re: wilafur

                I absolutely agree with Wilafur. I don't know why the quality should not be the same but it just isn't. The one downtown though is the closest I can find to the wonderful Chinese Restaurants in San Francisoco in the avenues.

                1. re: Hughlipton

                  i want to blame it on "dumbing down" for the westside populace. ;-)

                  1. re: Hughlipton

                    It's the La Serenata symptom. Downtown = great; Westside = appalling.

            2. I'm tired of the Chinatown bashing. Yes, there are more authentic regional specialties available in the SGV, but our Chinatown is better than 99.9% of the Chinese food available in the rest of the country. My vote, and my best memories, goes to Yang Chow on the west side of Broadway north of Alpine (parking in the back or across the street). Yes, the dish to get there is the slippery shrimp -- crisp, delicate, sweet with a tinge of hot. Start with the spicy wonton soup (from the specialties page of the menu) and other strong dishes are the fried dumplings, the green beans or eggplant with garlic sauce, the Yang Chow lamb, and the noodles with peanut sauce and shredded chicken. Hop Li and Chinese Friends are both good, but if I had one meal in Chinatown I'd much rather get the food and service and elan of Yang Chow rather than saving a buck or two on the pretenders. I love Yang Chow -- I emerge happy and wellfed there for less than $20 per person with leftovers, it is dependable and honors reservations. I wish they'd serve dishes in sequence rather than all at once, but they are my longtime favorite in Chinatown.

              14 Replies
              1. re: nosh

                All I've ever heard about Yang Chow is about the shrimp, which wasn't enough to get me in there. But you said the magic word - lamb! I'm adding this to my what-to-try-next list.

                I agree, sometimes the Chinatown bashing can be a bit harsh.

                1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                  Famous Yang Chow Slippery Shrimp recipe. Story is the chef prepared the shrimp and it slipped off the plate....history was made. Sound similar to the Phillippe's French dip sandwich creation?


                  Yang Chow Restaurant
                  819 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                  Yang Chow Restaurant
                  3777 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                  Yang Chow
                  6443 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Woodland Hills, CA 91303

                2. re: nosh

                  Have you tried the Yang Chow on Topanga Canyon Blvd in the West Valley? Does it compare at all to the China Town one?

                  1. re: bophisto

                    The valley location is good, just a notch below the Chinatown location.

                  2. re: nosh

                    FWIW, I don't think the Chinatown bashing goes so far as to say the food is bad. It's just that the SGV, arguably home to the best Chinese food in the world outside of Asia, is just 10 minutes away.

                    1. re: nosh

                      Hi, Nosh. Thanks for your Yang Chow recommendation. We went 2 weeks ago and throught the food was excellent. We ordered everything you suggested. We're getting take-out from there tomorrow and wondered if you have a chicken dish you recommend. Thanks.

                      1. re: mocro

                        mocro, Very glad to hear that you enjoyed Yang Chow. Yep, it isn't "authentic" or cutting edge regional cuisine, but it is very tasty, fun, and I always leave well-fed and happy. Many people love the cold chicken in sesame noodles with peanut butter sauce -- a dish that is ideal for takeout because it holds up well. Their kung pao chicken is not my favorite item there -- too bland -- and I also try to avoid their orange or tangerine chicken because it would be fried and too close to the extraordinary slippery shrimp. Anyway, I'm a week too late in responding anyway, but I'm glad that with all of the Yang Chow and Chinatown bashers you had a good experience.

                      2. re: nosh

                        Thanks Nosh. I'm with you. Yes, you can be taken to the heights of Chinese food nirvana in the SGV, I get it, we get it, everyone gets it and bows in awe of the amazing discerning palates that populate this board. But sometimes because of time, geography, convenience, the phases of the moon, whatever, ya gotta go to Chinatown. And it's those times that you'd like some earnest advice on the actual geographic location that you posted about. And it's nice when someone responds in a non-snarky manner instead of making you feel like you'd asked about the best menu items from the steam tray at the 99 cent Chinese joint at the outlet mall in Topeka. There are gradations and there are grey areas and you are absolutely right, LA's chinatown is not a Godless foodie hellhole just because the SGV is better.

                        Sorry, I know you posted this months ago, but I just had to rant as someone who digs the authentic and the transformative as much as the next 'hound, but sometimes... sheesh! Gonna go to Hop Li right now, and it's gonna be fantastic! Tomorrow, SGV dim sum,and that's gonna be a religious experience. Both meals will make me VERY happy.

                        1. re: PinotPlease

                          You know, I really like Yang Chow.

                          Is it the best Chinese out there? No. But every time I go, I have a good time. The slippery shrimp are good. The scallops with Chinese greens are awesome. The green beans (dry-fried) are excellent. The soups are usually pretty good.

                          I avoid the noodles -- talk about an oil slick -- but I never go away unhappy, and while the service is not exactly fawning, it's better than the phlegm-hock-and-give-me-patience shtick so common in the SGV.

                          Am I gonna go there to eat when the SGV is closer? Nah. But now and again the Gold Line beckons.

                          1. re: PinotPlease

                            That is a silly excuse, geography shows that there is much better food 5 miles in any direction of Chinatown. Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo etc....

                            I have been to Yang Chow many times, and the deep fried pork chop is damn good. But everything else is just okay, certainly not worth the price.

                            1. re: A5 KOBE

                              Five miles can be a long way in LA. If you don't like Chinatown then that's fine but it certainly is not some culinary wasteland. It's just overshadowed -- and I'll tell you that from, say, Burbank (speaking of culinary wastelands...) to Chinatown for a weeknight dinner is much more palatable than, say, Burbank to Monterey Park. I know from painful experience exactly how long it can take to get from the 5/110 to the 10/Garfield.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Yeah I was just saying in general, like Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, K-Town, etc...

                                Plus if I was coming from Burbank I would definitely take 210/Rosemead and just go to that Yang Chow. But hell, then you might as well go to SGV then. HAHAHA

                            2. re: PinotPlease

                              I work downtown but I probably go to the SGV 20 times for lunch for every time I go to Chinatown. That having been said, sometimes Chinatown is right (Golden City, J. R. Bistro, even Hong Kong f.k.a. Sam Woo), like Saturday nights when traffic on the 5 and 10 are horrid and you once you get to Monterey Park or San Gabriel you'll have to wait for a table.

                          2. Yang Chow is very good and I don't even like chinese food all that much- the slippery shrimp, the green long beans and the sizzling rice soup are my faves there.

                            27 Replies
                            1. re: sheila1

                              Yang Chow, whether you like it or not, is a Chinatown institution.

                              Most people who enjoy San Gabriel Valley-style Chinese generally avoid the NYC-style Yang Chow fare, but hey, different strokes for different folks....

                              1. re: J.L.

                                And you will rarely see a Chinese person eating there.

                                1. re: monku

                                  this is just flat out not true.

                                  1. re: humara

                                    I said "rarely".
                                    I've been there maybe a 1/2 dozen times and I look around to see what kind of people are eating there, do you?

                                    1. re: monku

                                      On a Fri/Sat night, there will be maybe one Chinese person in there, and odds are it is the picture of Yao Ming hanging on the wall.

                                      Monku is right, just look around.

                                      1. re: A5 KOBE

                                        If it was a picture of Yao Ming "not" in a Houston Rockets uniform, then it was his dad that was there.......that's who left a picture of Yao at Paul's Kitchen downtown.

                              2. re: sheila1

                                "Yang Chow is very good and I don't even like chinese food all that much"


                                There's a very good reason for that. It's because Yang Chow isn't chinese food.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Oh boy! Is there some substance underneath that comment? Is it that in its ingredients or preparation or presentation that the food is actually more like another cuisine? Is it that the food is objectively deficient in some way which renders it outside the sphere? Or do you just not care for it? Your all heat, no light smarm isn't helpful without some elaboration.

                                  1. re: Public_Offender

                                    Stick around Chowhound long enough and you'll figure out what she means.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Public_Offender

                                      The food at Yang Chow is tasty enough -- stir fry dishes with lots of gooey, sticky sauces and deep fried meats and over cooked veggies and pedestrian seafood entrees. If that's your idea of good food, more power to you.

                                      BUT, it ain't Chinese food.

                                      Even the owner of Yang Chow says he doesn't market his menu to Chinese tastes (he says, smartly enough, that there's enough of those places in Chinatown), and what he aims is to capture that segment of the market that is too intimidated to try a more authentic place where the menu is populated with things like chicken stomach, fish maw, abalone, etc.

                                      Again, nothing intrinsically wrong with Yang Chow, but the stuff it's serving up definitely does not embody the quiddity of Chinese cuisine -- no matter how loosely you interpret the phrase "Chinese cuisine".

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I agree. A few years ago the LA Times obtained and printed Yang Chow's recpe for slippery shrimp. One of the ingredients listed is ketchup. That was an obvious indication that, however tasty the shrimp, it's not really an authentic Chinese dish.

                                          1. re: Sam D.

                                            American ketchup is an ingredient in several Chinese recipes.
                                            Like: hot braised shrimp, sweet & sour, char sui, tomatoe beef chow mein to name a few.

                                            1. re: Sam D.

                                              If by authentic you mean with hundreds of years of tradition, then, no, tomato-based ketchup isn't an authentic Chinese ingredient. But if your view of authentic is foods that would be similarly used in kitchens and restaurants in the home country today, then ketchup is not really that foreign.

                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                              Yang Chow is what I like to call "White People" chinese food if that makes any sense.

                                              1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                Wow, A5 Kobe - usually I let these things go, but that comment could really be perceived as offensive. I mean, what if you were to substitute another color for "white" in the comment you made?

                                                Political correctness aside, I'm of the mindset that food doesn't have to be "authentic" to taste good. I've never been to Yang Chow, so I can't vouch for the quality. But I will say that as a girl who went to elementary school in Chinatown, sometimes "Chinese American" food really hits the spot.

                                                1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                  If you went to Castelar there's a good chance you're Chinese? You probably never went to Yang Chow because Chinese people rarely go there to eat. I'd call it "fancy" Chinese American, doesn't really hit the spot for me, just the wallet.

                                                  I went once because my SO convinced me I had to try the "Slippery Shrimp" their signature dish. We were the only Chinese people in the restaurant and maybe out of coincidence they seated us by a front window table.

                                                  Maybe "White People" Chinese food is incorrect, not offensive.....when I looked around there was every ethnic group in there except Chinese.

                                                  1. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                    Sorry but it is a known fact that this kind of food was marketed for "Caucasians" generally for "Western" taste.

                                                    SO technically it is correct.

                                                    And I have eaten there, the deep fried pork chop is pretty good, just not Chinese.

                                                    1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                      I too have eaten at Yang Chow. I can see that it has its fans but I was not impressed. Especially with all of the other great spots around. Its a matter of choice. When in Chinatown I prefer to eat in a spot that has food prepared in a style, taste and presentation that I cannot find in other parts of town. For me Yang Chow is kinda of generic in its offering and offers food for the less adventuresome in my opinion. I had the slippery shrimp as I have heard about it before.. Kinda of reminded me of the flavor of Panda Express Orange Chicken.. Just like the subtle nuances of other flavors like Sam Woo's ( new name now ). I like to walk around and let my nose make the selection even if the rating scale says otherwide. Once read somewhere A= Anglo B= Best C= Chinese..

                                                      1. re: Foodandwine

                                                        No no no


                                                        Mr Taster

                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                          Mr. Taster, Thanks for the correction :) I stand corrected. But it seems so true to me...

                                                          1. re: Foodandwine

                                                            The lower the rating, the more flavorful the food will be!!! LOLOL

                                                    2. re: Vaya Con Carne

                                                      What? Like, "Yang Chow is what I like to call 'Blue People' chinese food"?

                                                      I don't get it.

                                                      1. re: Bjartmarr

                                                        my parents emigrated to the midwest from southern china, and i grew up to comments like: "i love chinese food, especially lemon chicken." so i coined the term: "tourist chinese food".

                                                        with parking being the pain that it is, i avoid chinatown for the most part., but another branch of the family that's lived in bunker hill since the mid 70's swears by Hop Li and i understand why. but i've probably eaten as often at Won Kok since i moved to LA 20 years ago - but usually when I'm with non-chinese friends.

                                                        1. re: barryc

                                                          My favorite quote, from Ohio:

                                                          "Japanese food? No, I don't think we have any of that. Wait, is that like Chinese food?"

                                                          Umm...yes, yes, that's exactly like Chinese food. Thanks so much for your help.

                                            3. Chinese Friends, CBS, and Full House are all pretty good; even Empress Pav still hits some high points, though is really variable, nay, inconsistent. BTW, "House Special Sweet/Pungent Shrimp" at Chinese Friends is, IMHO, better than Yang Chow's thingy...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                                                I like Chinese Friends. I was first taken there over twenty years ago, when I first hit L.A. I appreciate their easy parking in the lot just north above them, and the bare-table, plastic plate casualness of the place. I've often dropped in for lunch. And sometimes things click and it is surprisingly good. But dish for dish and for the overall meal, Yang Chow is a level above Chinese Friends or the Chinatown branch of Hop Li in the other direction. Yang Chow's slippery shrimp is the superior dish -- more delicate, bigger shrimp than Friends and spicier than the Hop Li imitation. Tableclothes at Yang Chow vs. linoleum tabletops at Friends. A buck or two cheaper at Friends, but a higher level of service at Yang Chow. The spicy won ton soup, lamb, eggplant, and green beans at Yang Chow are all really good dishes.

                                              2. I used to love the Plum Tree Inn. However, ever since they moved over to North Broadway, it doesn't seem quite the same. Any thoughts?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: omakase

                                                  That location has been bad luck for several restaurants that have been there previously.

                                                2. ABC Seafood has been offering 2.99 per lb lobster special which is cheap!!!

                                                  ABC Seafood
                                                  708 New High St
                                                  Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: geetergrim

                                                    It's cheap indeed, but is it good?

                                                    1. re: geetergrim

                                                      The 'lunch special' menu at ABC is really good. They have real yummy authentic Cantonese dishes dirt cheap like Hom Yee Yuk Biang: Salty Fish Steamed Pork Hash. Great deal!

                                                      1. re: geetergrim

                                                        I was surprised the dim sum wasn't bad. Order off the picture menu and they bring it quick and hot.

                                                      2. I LOVE the Empress Pavilion for dim sum. Up on Broadway in the Bamboo shopping center. Authentic. cheap, wonderful. Get there before 2, as they run out of food.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: FoodKitCat

                                                          sorry but Empress Pavillion has terrible dim sum....they really fell off a cliff over the years (i used to eat there a long time ago when i was a kid)

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            they're not terrible. they've become mediocre for dim sum, which is too bad as there is excellent yumcha food available elsewhere.

                                                            panda express is terrible. And sorry folks, I think yang chow is about at that level too.

                                                          2. re: FoodKitCat

                                                            negative. empress pavilion used to be good eons ago but it's pretty damn mediocre nowadays.

                                                          3. my vote: nothing worth it. it's depressingly inferior to SGV, which isn't that far away.

                                                            1. Foo CHow but just for the fujian dishes. If you don't know, ask the waitstaff. e.g. chicken in red rice wine lees sauce,

                                                              empress for dinner. When they have boned quail on the menu (new years, an chun qu gu - in mandarin) it's GREAT. Also, order in advance for a large party andget the special winter melon soup in a buck rogers space ship type server. Love that dish.

                                                              Full hOuse is fine for late night dining. Tie-ban iron skillet dishes, the dishes made with the live shrimp (get salt and pepper), juk/zhou/xifan/porridge dishes, noodles are fine, pea shoots (doumiao) all fine. Soups good, even the wonton selection is fine. minced squab with lettuce cups are passable.

                                                              Mandarin deli in teh food center on broadway has passable jiaozi. Not open late.

                                                              and the other places for cantonese noodles at cheap prices are perfectly fine.

                                                              yes sgv has more. But chinatown still beats most things on teh west side or in the valley outside of north reseda blvd.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Jerome

                                                                Mandarin Deli has been gone for some time. I now have to make the drive out to MP for my beef noodle soup and pan fried dumpling fix.

                                                              2. No one ever mentioned Golden City on Broadway which has been there since time began. It may have changed hands several times but the food IMO is still good and reasonable. Parking is still free in the Bamboo Plaza structure but beware street parking on weekdays. They recently raised the street meter parking to $2 an hour.

                                                                1. Sam Woos is the best. Try the spicy fried squid, salted asparagus, and green with black mushrooms. Not too expensive and very friendly wait staff. The portions are large enough for 2 or 3. There is parking just down the street and it costs about 2.50 if you are eating in the area.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Chili

                                                                    It's "Sam Woo"... just the same way that it's "Spago", not "Spagos".

                                                                    But with Sam Woo, it's very important to give the correctly spelled name, because there are so many knockoffs. There probably is a "Sam Woos" somewhere in greater L.A... probably near "Sun Woo", "Sam Wu", and "Sum Foo".


                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    Sam Woo Bar-B-Que Restaurant
                                                                    803 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      Except as the first response at the top of the thread points out, it's the "former" Sam Woo now.

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        It is now Hong Kong BBQ
                                                                        Same owners same workers.

                                                                        Sam Woo Bar-B-Que Restaurant
                                                                        803 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                          Ha, ha. The first time I saw the name Sam Woo I thought it was owned by a guy named Sam. Later I found out that it meant "Three Harmonies". So much for that. The food is good though but every Sam Woo is different, especially the one in Las Vegas. Prices are sky high. I believe every restaurant is it's own franchise?

                                                                          1. re: Clinton

                                                                            There are restaurant reviews floating around talking about Sam the man. Originally all branches were owned by different members of the same extended family. Not sure if that's still the model, particularly since some of the stores (Hong Kong BBQ, Sum Wu and San Woo Express in Chinatown, Yeung Kee in Rowland Heights) have undergone name changes.