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Best of Downtown Chinatown

I know the best stuff is in the San Gabriel Valley, but what is the best this area has to offer? I will be alone so consider about $10 max per meal.

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  1. Looking for authentic Chinese not american style

    1. First, let me put things in context. San Gabriel Valley is notably better than Flushing (not a knock on Flushing), while Manhattan Chinatown is better than L.A. Chinatown. Or, another way of looking at it is that there might be a handful of restaurants in L.A. Chinatown that would be able to stay in business if they were in the San Gabriel Valley. On that basis, I guess I'd go with J.R. Bistro, street address 750 N. Hill Street, but really in the middle of a shopping and restaurant complex and parking area that spans between Hill St. and Broadway. They serve decent Cantonese food (effectively the only style of Chinese food in Chinatown, with a couple of insignificant exceptions).

      13 Replies
      1. re: Chandavkl

        Thanks for the insight. Ironically on my only previous trip to LA Chinatown JR Bistro was the 1 restaurant I tried. I liked it, I ordered a lobster for 10 bucks and some fried squid. There is nothing but Cantonese in LA Chinatown? That is really depressing. I realize this is not the place for this but I would love to visit San Gabriel Valley via public transportation, but is seems complicated to research online. I am staying near Union Station. I am willing to endure a long trip I need cheapest option. It cant be that hard to travel 10 miles can it?

        1. re: AubWah

          JR is pretty good. I also like Zen Mei Bistro on Yale for super dirt cheap food. You can get a whole (but very small) lobster in garlic sauce for ten bucks. Any seafood (clam, squid) in their black bean sauce is solid. Also, for a cheap (and late night) meal you can go to Won Kok and get an order of dumpling. It's a little weird because you have to order at the counter even if you're sitting. The dumplings are dirty but delicious. Stay away from the regular set course menu. Also, quality is very spotty but if you want cheap dumplings Yum Cha on Broadway is super cheap.

          Chinatown is also a great place for Bahn Mi. My faves are the truck on Alpine and Spring and Lien Hoa on Broadway (spend up and get their roast pork Bahn Mi there). People seem to like Buu Dien but I've never been a big fan.

          -----
          Won Kok Restaurant
          210 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          Lien Hoa
          721 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          Zen Mei Bistro
          800 Yale St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          Buu Dien
          642 N Broadway Ste 5, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          1. re: mrgreenbeenz

            I always order noodles at Won Kok; My favorite is the House Special Chow Fun. I haven't heard good things about the rest of the menu, however. I love the baked bao at the counter.

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            Won Kok Restaurant
            210 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

            1. re: Ogawak

              +1 for the baked bao and I get my chow fun there with fish fillet.

              I like Hop Li better than JR.

            2. re: mrgreenbeenz

              I like the Banh Mi at Bahn Mi My Dung.

              1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                Went to Buu Dien per J. Gold's rec. Didn't do it for me either.

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                Buu Dien
                642 N Broadway Ste 5, Los Angeles, CA 90012

              2. re: AubWah

                I've worked downtown for the past six years and it's a five minute drive (or probably a 10 minute bus ride) to Chinatown, and I don't think I've eaten lunch in Chinatown more than 10 times in that period. While there are bus lines between the Union Station and the SGV, I suspect they are express lines for commuters that won't drop you off anywhere close to someplace good to eat.

                There are a couple of pseudo Shanghai style restaurants in Chinatown, but they're targeted for the Americanized crowd. Otherwise it's Cantonese and Vietnamese.

                1. re: AubWah

                  OK, this is three years late, but for anyone else staying near Union Station, the main bus from that area is the MTA 70, which starts at Union Station, runs through City Terrace and eventually onto Garvey Blvd. Get off at Garvey and Atlantic, and there are decent eating options all around within walking distance - just look on Yelp.

                  Farther down that line are a few more spots, but I don't know the names right now. They changed. However, the quality isn't really that high along Garvey, generally speaking.

                  So, the short version of this - yes, there is a bus that gets you to the SGV, without transfers.

                2. re: Chandavkl

                  I think I will try Master Chef, I like their lunch and late night menu. I've never tried "French Beef" I know they won't have an exemplary rendition of it, but the pictures look great to me

                  1. re: AubWah

                    Master Chef is the offshoot of Full House Seafood, half a block up on the same side of Hill St. Full House was the post-late night gathering spot in Chinatown, supposedly where the Chinese chefs went when their restaurants closed for the evening, and my presumption was that the "master chef" was the main guy who had been in the Full House kitchen. When Master Chef opened up a couple of years ago, it was really good--as good as Full House or better. But a few months ago a relative told us that Master Chef had gone badly downhill. Wanting to see for ourselves, we stopped by a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty bad. Now this was a weekday lunch, and maybe the main man is still in the kitchen at night, but right now I wouldn't recommend Master Chef to anyone without a caveat emptor.

                    Every Hong Kong style restaurant out here has French style steak on the menu, the "French" referring to the shape the meat is cut, not how it is cooked. Kind of hard to mess up, though surprisingly the version at J.R. Bistro isn't very good.

                    -----
                    Full House Seafood Restaurant
                    963 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                    Master Chef Restaurant
                    937 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                  2. re: Chandavkl

                    My wife, mother and I really enjoyed our dinner at JR's. As non-Chinese, we enjoyed his version of sweet sour pork (Mom's favorite dish). Maybe the best sweet sour we've ever had. Also had their lobster special which was delicious if a bit skimpy. I've heard good things about their crispy fried chicken and will try the crab special next time we go.

                    JR has a lot of fans from the Westside from his days at first the Oriental Seafood Inn, now closed, and later at JR's in West LA.

                    Of course I would go to San Gabriel Valley first for the best Chinese food, but JR's gives you a nice option in Chinatown.

                    Chandavkl: is Full House related to the Full House in Arcadia? I really like the Arcadia restaurant.

                    1. re: Ogawak

                      When the Arcadia location opened it was as a branch of the Chinatown restaurant. I don't know if the affiliation has held up.

                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        I believe they were still affiliated as of last year, but I'm not completely confident about that.

                  3. Looks like I'll be eating lots of tacos

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: AubWah

                      AubWah,

                      Take heed of Chandavkl says about Chinatown. He knows what he speaks of.

                      It is truly sort of sad that one of the best restaurants in Chinatown is a Portuguese one. If you are so inclined give Queee a try. www.queeesushi.com

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        When I went to Queee last year they didn't even give me the Portuguese menu, just the sushi menu. I had to ask for the Portuguese menu and at that time it was very short. However they did give us this really delicious Portuguese chowder which was not on the menu at the time. I hope they've beefed it up since.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I took your recommendation and went to try Queee this past Saturaday. This is my take of the restaurant.

                          I realized before I went, that Queee is occupying the former spot of Asian Noodles (A Filipino Noodle place we used to go in their early days). By the way, Queee is losing the lease and moving across the street in May/June timeframe.

                          Chef Paulo was such a nice guy. He repeatedly came to check with our table (2 of us).

                          A complimentary amuse bouche of seared tuna with a hint of sesame oil to start the meal – good.

                          I asked Chef Paulo to prepare a plate of the best fish he got and he came back with a sashimi plate of salmon, tuna, smoked albacore and uni. He is a sustainable chef. My wife and I felt it was just ok, nothing great. $12 was good deal.

                          We then ordered the Portuguese Specials:

                          Porco à Alentejana (Pork & Clams) – both of us were disappointed with the peculiar taste of the whole dish, - will not try this again. The pork has no flavor except of the sauce I mentioned.

                          Grilled Lamb Chops w/ Rice – we felt the disk was just OK, I could do better I think, nothing to write home about this dish.

                          And then:

                          Chef Paulo, gave us Caldeirada (Fisherman’s Bowl), on the house. Such a hospitable guy, and the irony of all was this dish was the best of our meal.

                          For Desserts:

                          A sample of 5 morsels of different desserts served each with a Chinese soup ladle.

                          We really want to like this restaurant and want to support it, but our take is his dishes are too ordinary. Did we miss something ?

                          Has anybody ever tried his special dinner events?

                          Chef Paulo, was such a nice guy.

                          1. re: jotfoodie

                            That's too bad.

                            I've never been for one of their special dinners, only for lunch. Had the Fisherman's Bowl and the Sabelfish, and both were quite good -- definitely better than anything I would rather have in Chinatown.

                      2. Will definitely have a Viet meal or 2, whats the best place

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: AubWah

                          In my original list I left out Pho Hoa on Spring. IMHO the best pho in Chinatown. Jonathan Gold big ups Pho 97 but I've tried it a couple times and don't think it's even close to as good as Hoa - maybe his review was from the long long ago. Make sure to get their spring rolls - they are even better than Golden Deli in SGV (which is sort of the brass ring for Vietnamese in LA).

                          -----
                          Pho Hoa
                          818 N Spring St Ste 103, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                          1. re: AubWah

                            Well, we're not talking real Vietnamese restaurants, but rather pho and banh mi shops. Pho Broadway (942 N. Broadway) and Pho 87 (1019 N. Broadway) are quite good. You can get good cheap sandwiches at L.A. Sandwich (736 N. Broadway in the arcade). I do want to clarify that most of the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown are "authentic" except for a few like your Plum Tree, Hop Louie and Yang Chow. However, I think the targeted demographic may be the low income senior citizens who live in the area.

                            -----
                            Pho Broadway
                            942 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                            Pho 87
                            1019 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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

                          2. Hong Kong BBQ (Formerly Sam Woo BBQ) for noodles and soups.

                            -----
                            Hong Kong BBQ
                            803 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

                            20 Replies
                            1. re: monku

                              OP is one of the more expert Chinese food "hounds on the New York board, and I fear telling him to go to Hong Kong BBQ or Won Kok or Hop Li is like telling one of us to try Wo Hop.

                              -----
                              Hong Kong BBQ
                              803 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                Maybe we just send him to Philippe's and hope the hot mustard redeems us?

                                1. re: happybaker

                                  Definitley going to try Philippe's! Saw it on Travel channel. Probly going to order beef double dip

                                  1. re: AubWah

                                    Excellent!

                                    Make sure to get a cup of their 9¢ coffee. It's surprisingly good!

                                    1. re: AubWah

                                      I would do a thorough search on this board before committing to that beef double dip.

                                      Every time I've tried any meat other than lamb, it's been tough and dry. And despite what many say, double dipping the bread makes it all but fall apart (making it, as ipsedixit says, "denture friendly"), which is not texturally pleasing. You get all the flavor and moisture you need on a single dip sandwich.

                                      My advice is to go for the lamb (single dipped), coffee and a slice of one of the cream pies. With tax and tip you'll be out about $12. And don't forget to generously douse your sandwich with the hot mustard on the tables....

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        very helpful mr taster thank you i will get the lamb single dipped and try the coffee

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          See, here's the thing: that beef is dry. But if you go to Cole's it is not. And we know your aversion to Cole's.

                                        2. re: AubWah

                                          Check out Philippe's, it's an institution.

                                          When you're ready for a sandwich real men eat (fire fighters,cops, city workers, etc) check out Eastside Market (82+ years) at the very northern edge of Chinatown.

                                          Get the #8 hot plate with Italian beef, pastrami, peppers and cheese + roll (make a sandwich and there's plenty of meat left for another sandwich) $7.20 including tax.

                                          http://www.esmdeli.com/

                                          -----
                                          Eastside Market
                                          1013 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                      2. re: Chandavkl

                                        I want good chow mein or won ton soup, then HK BBQ is the place.
                                        I didn't suggest WK or Hop Li for chow mein.
                                        I think Won Kok is kind of a dump and if you ever look at their dishes they're just sloppy presentations. It's popular because it's cheap. The only plus is they have dim sum day and night...I didn't say it was great or good dim sum.
                                        OP is also limiting it to $10/meal.

                                        -----
                                        Won Kok Restaurant
                                        210 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                        1. re: monku

                                          Across the street from Phillipe's in the Regent China Inn. They have really solid Cantonese food dirt cheap during their lunch special: $4.95 a dish. It's really delicious and a great deal. Love their porkchops with spicy salt.

                                          -----
                                          Regent China Inn
                                          747 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                          1. re: monku

                                            Won Kok and Hop Li references were to suggestions by other posters. Didn't mean to associate you with those places!

                                            -----
                                            Won Kok Restaurant
                                            210 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                          2. re: Chandavkl

                                            Did the Wo Hop scene 45+ years ago growing up in NY, loved it as a kid. If it's still the same, I might still like it?
                                            I like a visit to Paul's Kitchen every now and then.

                                            -----
                                            Paul's Kitchen
                                            1012 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                                            1. re: monku

                                              Went recently for Won Ton soup and it wasn't at all good.

                                              1. re: JAB

                                                Where at Wo Hop?
                                                Because the best wor won ton soup in LA is at Paul's Kitchen.

                                                -----
                                                Paul's Kitchen
                                                1012 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                                                1. re: monku

                                                  No, Paul's Kitchen.

                                                  -----
                                                  Paul's Kitchen
                                                  1012 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                                                  1. re: JAB

                                                    Sorry to hear that.
                                                    Their wor won ton is probably one of their most popular items. Many people make a meal of it.

                                            2. re: Chandavkl

                                              Hey- At 4am, the downstairs at Wo Hop is delicious!

                                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                                When restricted to China Town...

                                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                                  So the OP is New York's version of....you

                                                  1. re: Ogawak

                                                    Both boards have a number of posters who are familiar with a wide array of Chinese restaurants within their geographic areas.