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Chinatown.. need new place

Years ago we were regulars at Fortune, for the last few years we have been regulars at Mayflower. We used to love the hand scribbled specials' signs all over the walls. But ever since they took over the old Monkee spot we have been getting less and less impressed to the point we want a new hole in the wall in Chinatown.

We are familiar with Empress, ABC, CBS and Yangchow. You need not mention them unless something has changed in the last few years.

A friend mentioned JR Bistro in the old Fortune spot. Any thoughts..

Thank you all and happy holidaze!

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  1. For a Chinatown hole-in-the-wall I like Won Kok for their chow fun and mein., along with bao's.

    JR Bistro would be worth a try. The owner used to run Oriental Seafood Inn and JR's, both in West LA,, which were the best WLA had to offer for Cantonese food. Personally I don't know why he chose to operate in Chinatown, but his food was always pretty god.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ogawak

      2nd Won Kok for fish fillet chown fun and baked bao.

      1. re: JAB

        I'm 3rding Won Kok, but I haven't eaten there since college-days, nearly 20 years ago. They -were- open nice and late, a real greasy spoon. Best Hong Kong style chow mein I had in LA.
        Hope they are still good, I should try and hit them up next time i'm in town!

        1. re: Honeychan

          Doesn't look like they've cleaned the place for 20 years and explains why it's greasy.
          Only reason I go there is I'm desparate and they got free parking. Only other good thing about Won Kok is you can get dim sum there day and night.

          Otherwise you're better off with Hong Kong BBQ (formerly Sam Woo BBQ) on Broadway a block away and the chow mein and noodle dishes are done much better.

      2. re: Ogawak

        I loved J.R. Seafood in W. L.A. and went regularly. It was always crowded, but 1 day it was empty. We asked the mgr. or waiter who said the owner had gambling debts and couldn't keep up the restaurant. I loved the dim sum at J. R.'s and look forward to JR Bistro. It must be less expensive for the owner in Chinatown.

      3. I'd recommend JR Bistro. It's clean, simple, and has an extensive lunch special menu. The servers are all usually helpful and polite.

        1 Reply
        1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

          JR Bistro is my pick for late night Chinatown restaurants ... They are open to 1 am and parking after 10 pm is plentiful and free.

        2. Another vote for J.R. Bistro. Also, the lunch specials over at Hoy King on Ord aren't bad. Also used to like Golden City on Hill near Empress Pavilion, but the last time we went the food was prepared differently so I'm a little leery.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl

            I, too, am a big fan of JR Bistro. Very pleasant atmosphere with excellent lunch specials. I especially like their scrambled egg shrimp.

            1. re: Chandavkl

              I second Hoy King. Really good food and great prices for lunch specials.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                Based on intelligence and field testing, scratch Golden City, but replace it with Master Chef. Master Chef seems to be the rising star in Chinatown, with big crowds and good food.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  Can you be more specific about your intelligence and testing? I've been going to Golden City for years and think it's still one of the better places in Chinatown. I haven't been there in several months, but I've always thought their tofu dishes rival places like Elite in SGV, and light years better than anything I've had in NYC, including the many places I've tried in Flushing. As I've mentioned in the past, I get off-menu items recommended by the manager, and it's always been really tasty stuff.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    I went when it first opened and the food was like average and somewhAt on the salty side. Prefer Hop Li or Full House.
                    I scratched Golden City after they remodeled.

                    1. re: monku

                      Went last night (for only the second time) and definitely not overly salty. Restaurant was pretty full even at 9pm. Mostly Chinese customers despite the presence of egg foo young and chop suey on the menu. Isn't the "Master Chef" the former chef at Full House?

                      As to Golden City, we were regular for years but noticed this past fall a slight slippage. Then a few weeks ago not only was there a drastic dropoff, but our favorite dish (house special tofu) didn't even look the same, so we haven't been back since. When I mentioned this to a relative he said they had stopped going to Golden City earlier this year, too. Support staff seems to be the same, but something was definitely going on in the kitchen.

                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        Monday night and MC is almost full...unbelievable.
                        Seems like it was 3 years ago when they opened?...that was the last time I was there.
                        I'll have to check it out again. What did you order ?

                        1. re: monku

                          Actually Master Chef opened up early last year. The seafood tofu hotpot was excellent. I also liked the corn sauce fish fillet. Need to go back to explore the menu.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            According to ipsedixit, real Chinese restaurants don't serve Chop Suey

                            I'll give them another shot on your word.

                2. May Flower has lost my business with poor service. I like the owners Mr. & Mrs. Ha (the son is clueless...you want something only speak to Mrs. Ha, she runs the show), but the service is just downright bad. I joke with my family when we go there you have to ask for something three times before you get it, like chopsticks, water...you name it. Sure enough after the 3rd request you might get what you want. They don't even make stuff like roast duck or Chinese fried chicken on the premises...they go out to get it. I know because I've seen one of the waitresses "shopping" around several times and going back to the May Flower with to-go orders.

                  Literally a hole-in-the-wall check out the old May Flower location which is Zen Mei Bistro. Believe one of the old May Flower cooks bought the place from the May Flower owners. They do a good job with most dishes and the prices are cheap and the service is good. They do a brisk take out business with the locals. They got a $9.99 house special lobster that's good and you order $20 or more and you get a free choice of egg rolls, vegetable dish and something else which escapes me (used to be fried shrimp-but no longer).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: monku

                    Yeah, Zen Mei hasn't arrived in the last couple of years as the OP wanted, but imo it's the epitome of Chinatown hole-in-the-wall. Although most of the locals seem to order seafood, I absolutely love their eggplant and beef rib hot pot. When alone, I get the house special (or seafood) congee. To give you an idea of their prices, you'll need to go with two dining companions in order to break the $20 barrier for the free dish.

                    Won Kok is excellent, if you're drunk and it's 1:30 in the morning.

                  2. Hong Kong BBQ (formerly Sam Woo) on Broadway is good and I'd say comparable in price to May Flower and the food, service and cleanliness is better.

                    Hong Kong BBQ
                    803 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

                    1. Full House Seafood - open late and fine as long as you order a whole fish. All else is suspect.

                      Master Chef - like Full House above but replace 'a whole fish' with 'anything deep fried'

                      Won Kok - my new late night fave. The secret is that the dim sum is not on the menu It must be ordered at the counter. It's not spectacular but when I want a dirty dumpling at 2:00am.... well.... it's spectacular.

                      Zeb Mei - lobster is great (for the $) but the menu is a minefield of hits and misses. I ordered their mu shu for carry out and got four pre-wrapped mu shu burritos. not skinny like i would have made them myself. hey hounds, is that an LA-thing or just a zen mei specific abberration?

                      Also, during he daylight hours there are a host of excellent banh mi spots. Nam Thai truck on Alpine and Spring is best but the roast pork banh mi at Lien Hoa is also excellent. LA Sandwich is respectable and the cheapest around at $2.25 a pop. All these places are much better than Lee's Sandwiches in the SGV (which seems to get undeserved props on this board)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                        RE: Chinatown banh mi

                        I don't think Lee's actually all that well regarded on this board. Ask anyone with a real recommendation for banh mi on this board and Lee's is likely to not even be considered in say the top five places in SGV. That being said I've had the sandwiches from LA Sandwich and I'd actually prefer Lee's. I have yet to try the truck. My favorite place is actually closed down at the moment because they performed unlicensed repairs/upgrades...

                        1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                          I've found most of what I've had at Full House to be fine.

                          . . and Hounds? Where's the love for Chinese Friends? A true hole in the wall for 30 years or so, and I think they were makin' their "House Special Shrimp" BEFORE Yang Chow decided to make "Slippery Shrimp", which is similar, but not as good...

                        2. thank you all. we are trying Zen Mei Bistro tonight. The lineage to Mayflower (when it was good) was the hook.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: yipster

                            They make a pretty good beef stew hot pot.
                            Don't forget if you get to the $20 mark to get your freebie.

                            1. re: monku

                              Remember it's a "hole-in-the-wall" kind of joint.
                              Pic of $9.99 house special lobster

                              1. re: monku

                                Coincidentally, yesterday we went to JR Bistro upon the advice of many. Ocean Seafood and Yang Chow were packed, with over a 45 minute wait. We sat right down at JR Bistro. Had five dishes among three of us - the bill came to 45 bucks and it was great. We had clams and vermicelli in broth, calamari in black bean sauce and chiles, spicy salt shrimp, eggplant, and a porridge. The eggplant actually tasted and had the consistency of eggplant and not like the slimy wad that most szechuan eggplants turn into when coated in all that sauce. I would definitely put in a vote for this place!

                          2. I'm vegetarian so ymmv, but I'm very fond of a couple dishes at Mandarin Chateau (formerly Mandarin Shanghai) - the spinach w/vermicelli and "vegetable bird".