HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >

Discussion

Fujian Fish Balls-- At Union Buffet in West Los Angeles

I'm becoming a regular at Union Buffet in West Los Angeles, which will probably get me drummed out of the Chinese food lovers society. Between the chicken potstickers, the grilled salmon (not like the awful baked salmon seen at most buffets) and steamed fish fillets, I feel I'm really getting my money's worth. But today was the real stunner--genuine giant Fujian fish balls. Don't know if this is a one day item, an experiment, or something that's going to be regular, but these were the real deal. Strangely, I didn't see any other diners that would appreciate this item. Wonder if they get UCLA students later in the day or something. Union Buffet is at 11819 Wilshire, just west of Barrington. And they still have tubs of serve yourself ice cream.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. oh man, i went earlier in the year and was grossed out. has it made a turn for the better in the last 8 or so months?

    2 Replies
    1. re: wilafur

      There was a change of ownership earlier this year, so I don't know whether you went before or after that change. Furthermore, most of the stuff I mentioned wasn't on the menu initially after that change of ownership and has been added recently. I pretty much concentrate on a few items, and won't vouch as to anything else.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        fair enough. i do recall thoroughly enjoying the steamed fish fillets and help yourself ice cream.

    2. Ah the Westside Chinese conundrum.

      I can think of no good reason why west los angelenos wouldn't go absolutely mad for the Shandong beef roll, if they only knew it existed.

      Mr Taster

      25 Replies
      1. re: Mr Taster

        probably much the same reason a pretty darn good dim sum place couldn't stay alive in samo (remember royal star?)..........westsiders don't understand or appreciate authentic chinese food.

        1. re: wilafur

          This Westsider appreciates authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food - that's why I hop on the 10 to SGV. But at the same time - I find that the price-sensitivity issue out there starts to get in the way of quality at some places or certain places' dishes. Some places can get away with this because their techniques are quite good but when it comes to ingredients like seafood or things like ratio or quality of ingredients in stuffings in dumplings, protein parts, etc., sometimes even a trip out to SGV doesn't guarantee a great dish. I think for now, we just have to accept the fact that LA is a place where one has to determinately travel to certain parts of town to increase the odds of meeting certain expectations for certain cuisines.

          1. re: wilafur

            I'm with taster. the shandong beef roll - a beef wrap, make it a corned beef wrap with a sweet sauce and cilantro isn't as foreign a taste to the westsider non-chinese as are many dim sum/yumcha dishes. BUT - ... you need ot have the restaurant owner ready to do it. and frankly, it's hard enogh for a shndong type place to stay open (esp if it isn't shandong via taiwan) in the SGV let alone on the westside. Think about Quanjude, or JZY which gave up on imperial snax and now hasmorphed into another duck place. (was it?)

          2. re: Mr Taster

            I can think of no good reason why west los angelenos wouldn't go absolutely mad for the Shandong beef roll, if they only knew it existed.
            _______________________________

            Really, why?

            I'm not a particular fan of beef rolls generally speaking. Plus, the beef roll is not the most popular item on the 101 Noodle menu.

            And I know of plenty of people who know of the existence of pizza, and still don't like it.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              The greatest barrier to the American mainstreaming of real Chinese food is not that the food is inaccessible to the western palate (well some is, but I'm not talking about chou doufu). It's that people unfamiliar with China don't even know it exists. Those who do know of its existence have already proven themselves to be intrepid and resourceful (either by have been to china, or their curious palate brought them to Chowhound, etc.) and have likely already sought out the possibilities.

              Stick your average Santa Monican in noodle express 101 and I guarantee you they'd go for the dumplings and avoid the beef roll like the plague. That is, unless they knew about it beforehand, or if they saw it on other tables and said "what's that". Either way, the barrier to the beef roll is ignorance of its existence, NOT inaccessibility to the western palate.

              The beef roll has amazing marketing appeal to a population already familiar with burritos and mushu style wrap flavors. There is nothing particularly "foreign" about the beef roll and I think it could be readily adopted. You'd have to market it in a ridiculous way to get people to try it (it's a Chinese burrito!) but once people bite into it I think it would go over like gangbusters.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                this has been my experience. friends who never liked chinese food explode for shandong tastes. even the jellyfish. Chou doufu - no stronger than roquefort or many other cheeses.
                (ok there are some way out taiwan chou doufu, but there are some way out cheeses as well)

            2. re: Mr Taster

              Actually I tend to agree with you, in light of the success of Xi'an Famous Foods in Manhattan. In fact I'm a little disturbed that you can get genuine Xi'an food in East Village, while you can't get it within a thousand miles of L.A. (and that's only if there's some in Vancouver). Of course it took publicity from Bourdain's TV show to get the New Yorkers clued in on Xi'an.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                supposedly there's a restaurant in beverly hills called Xi'an that has a new chef, but I doubt that's what most 'hounds are looking for.

                1. re: kevin

                  Any similarity between the food at Xian 90210 and real Chinese food is purely accidental. And certainly nothing representative of Xi'an the city.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    paomo yangrou is available at china islamic although they break the bread down themselves in the kitchen.
                    and many other dishes on the henan menu are close to things you'll find in shaanxi.

                2. re: Chandavkl

                  New Yorkers have no need to rely on Bourdain to set our taste buds straight (Chinese or otherwise.) Xian Famous Foods was well established in Flushing long before Bourdain's TV visit. What XFF serves up is genuine Xian street food.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    There's also a geographic/demographic issue inherent here which I think you have alluded to in the past. As you've pointed out, Chinese food out here is largely centered in the San Gabriel Valley, which requires automobile transportation for most residents of the L.A. area to partake in. A corollary is that this leaves wide swaths of the Los Angeles area without decent Chinese food. One area is the affluent West side of Los Angeles, which does have a small handful of examples of authentic Chinese food, but completely of the Hong Kong/Cantonese ilk, and one could only dream about an authentic regional specialty Chinese restaurant opening up on the Westside. I daresay that Din Tai Fung in Arcadia is probably as well known locally in Los Angeles as the original Xi'an in Flushing's Golden Mall was known by New Yorkers. But there's no way a Din Tai Fung or its equivalent could open up in West L.A., or stay in business for any length of time, unless it received a Bourdain level of exposure.

                    -----
                    Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                    1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      If there ever were a Chinese restaurant ready-made to be adopted by insular westsiders, Din Tai Fung is it.

                      Mr Taster

                      -----
                      Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                      1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        I wonder why Din Tai Fung has not yet opened up a branch at the westside. I'd imagine a place like the new Santa Monica mall would be perfect.

                        -----
                        Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                        1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I know you're being sarcastic, but did you see that they are opening up in Seattle? Kind of surprising when the Bay Area and New York have been clamoring for a branch.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            I didn't take ipsedixit's reply as sarcasm. If you've even been to the original DTF in Taipei, you'll notice that a huge percentage of customers are Westerners and Japanese businessmen/tourists coming to try the "world famous soup dumplings". The place absolutely appeals to foreigners.

                            A big part of the high % of non-Taiwanese customers is that people visiting for a short time on business or vacation wouldn't balk at the $8/tray price for XLB. Locals (both Taiwanese and expats) know you can get XLB on the street on in thousands of restaurants and street stalls for about $1. Travelers who come to Taiwan and only stay in the neat-n-tidy-approved-for-tourists section of Taipei around the 101 tower could come and go thinking that DTF is representative of all XLB in Taiwan, and this conclusion couldn't be more incorrect.

                            My mother-in-law would plotz if she knew we paid $8 for a tray of XLB, even if the XLB on the street corners of Taiwan are a wholly different beast than the refined, thin-skinned versions at DTF.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              No, I was not being sarcastic.

                              DTF is sort of the perfect vehicle to introduce the "Hummer driving, Whole Foods shopping, NIMBY and DINC" crowd to XLB.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Love it. "hummer driving" and "whole foods shopping "

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Hummer? Pffft. The beauty of living in the land of Arianna Huffington is the ability to leave the Prius at home and walk to Whole Foods (on days that the Farmer's Markets aren't open).

                                  1. re: LaPomme

                                    "Could it be that the smog's playing tricks on my eyes
                                    or is it a roller skater in some kind of headphone disguise
                                    Maybe somebody who just ran out of gas,
                                    Making his way back to the pumps the best way he can.

                                    Walkin' in L.A.
                                    Walkin' in L.A., nobody walks in L.A.
                                    Walkin' in L.A.
                                    Walkin' in L.A., nobody walks in L.A...."

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      Reminds of that scene from LA Story, where Steve Martin drives his car literally 3 feet to go from his home to his neighbor's home.

                                      Indeed, nobody walks in LA ...

                                    2. re: LaPomme

                                      there are so many whole foods here, you can actually walk to many of them without living in arianna land.

                                      just fyi ;-)

                                      1. re: Jerome

                                        Yes, but it's so much more stylish to carry those green Whole Foods bag to your Hummer than to actually lug them around as a mere pedestrian. :-)

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  I'm sure the cost of a lease at Santa Monica mall are forbidding for most businesses.

                                  1. re: monku

                                    The could just increase their prices accordingly.

                                    I mean, seriously, Manchu Wok in that foodcourt charges something like $7-8 for a two-item combo I think, and the portions are laughable.

                                    Or ever go to that Mexican restuarant La Sandia? They charge you $9 (gasp!) for guacamole.

                                    Take Panda Express. At the CC food court a two-item combo is something like $8. The same two-item combo at the Panda Express in the Arcadia Pavilions is no more than $6 (or $5 depending on the type of rice).

                      2. We just got back from dinner. I'll give it a C+ or maybe a B minus. Didn't see the fish balls. I thought their orange chicken was Panda Express worthy (which for me is pretty good) and their shumai was tasty. I will give them high marks for their ice cream and fruit. I'd go again because it's fast, it's filling and it's not too expensive ($31 plus I left the waiter $5). I guess I need to go again to find the fish balls, if for no other reason.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Servorg

                          is this the minimall with the slightly cobblestone parking lot, and a baja bud's and a subway in there. almost right next door to cabo cantina?

                          1. re: kevin

                            This place occupies (IIRC) the spot that used to be one of the Good Earth locations, and then I think it was a Denny's. Right where Granville Tee's into Wilshire on the N side of the street.

                          2. re: Servorg

                            Sorry you missed the fish balls. They were right next to the seafood soup at lunchtime. Didn't look like there were too many takers.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              I think it's possible that the fish balls are a lunch time deal and don't come out at dinner. Last night the only soup I recall seeing was the hot and sour.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                I'm curious - not too, but a little. I have a feeling that like some of the fujian places in queens, they may have a second menu of fujian dishes. Did anyone ask the waitstaff if they have min-nan, or fujian dishes?

                                1. re: Jerome

                                  No menus. This place is an AYCE buffet with everything out on the floor.

                                2. re: Servorg

                                  Fujian fish ball soup there today for lunch, along with three other varieties of soup. I suspect it might indeed be a lunchtime thing.

                            2. The original comment has been removed