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Chinese food in LA--where is the good stuff ?

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Fabulous Moolah May 14, 2006 10:37 PM

I am a transplanted NYer and have had terrible trouble finding excellent chinese food in west LA, Hollywood/WeHo, or in the Bev center/Miracle Mile area...and even in Beverly Hills.

Please do not tell me about Mandarette which is just average in my opinion.

Where do you chow hounds go for really top notch chinese food where I don''t have to pay Mr. Chow prices ?

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    Christine RE: Fabulous Moolah May 14, 2006 11:04 PM

    Hounds on this board invariably go to the San Gabriel Valley for Chinese food: Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Northern, Western, Dim Sum, Islamic, hand-cut noodles, you name it. BUT---it's not going to be New York-style Chinese. For example, if you're looking for a big, fat, juicy egg roll, you'll be disappointed. Though there are so many NYers looking for just that, you'll find plenty of posts with a search.

    I really like the smaller, divey places; seem more like what I've eaten in China. Like Giang Nan or Chung King in Monterey Park.

    One resident Chinese food scholar is *Jerome*. Do a Control+F search with his name and you'll get lots of good advice.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Christine
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      Jerome RE: Christine May 15, 2006 02:09 AM

      Christine, you are very nice.
      Mr. Chow's has awful Chinese food - well, that's overstating it...
      Mr. chow provides a scene and food reminiscent of chinese-like food. If you are seriously interested in Chinese food - different regional cuisines, different styles of presentation and preparation, you aren't really going to find them in areas you've mentioned where the population at large isn't going to be sophisticated enough or interested enough to support these places (think "BIG NIGHT").
      This is why some of the more interesting Chinese food in NYC is in Flushing, along East Broadway, and not on the upper west side.
      If you want to get a few friends together, special order the "Whole Winter Melon Soup" a day in advance at Empress Pavilion in Chinatown and go down with your friends. The soup alone will set the table back $50-60 but with other dishes, the dinner for the table of 8-10 will still be under $120. And you'll see what I mean about the difference in the food.

      If you're looking for decent non-Western cuisine in the areas you've mentioned, consider Thai. Esp in Hollywood.

      1. re: Jerome
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        lad1818 RE: Jerome May 15, 2006 07:31 PM

        I used to live in Flushing. I'm heading back to Queens next week. This was the perfect post to read to get me in the mood!

        The sad state of Chinese food in these parts does get me down. I find an occasional great dish here and there, but no restaurant seems to have it all down. As for eggrolls, when I have to have one I either fly cross country (okay not just for that) or make my own.

        1. re: lad1818
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          carter RE: lad1818 May 15, 2006 08:31 PM

          Sad state of Chinese food?! Who you kidding? If you mean the west side, ok, but in the 626 area code, you probably have much of the best, if authenticity is the benchmark to be used, in the country, as more Chinese live in southern California than any other part of the US and demand quality food. Then it is a matter of cuisine within that framework that becomes your choice.
          Convenient, maybe not, but sad state - hardly!

          1. re: carter
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            Will Owen RE: carter May 15, 2006 10:06 PM

            I have heard it asserted that there are people from Hong Kong who come to the SGV for the food, as the ingredients available here are consistently superior - not just the meat and fish, but the vegetables as well. I can't vouch for that myself, but it wouldn't surprise me.

            1. re: carter
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              lad1818 RE: carter May 16, 2006 07:57 PM

              You're exactly right. By "these parts" I was thinking of my surroundings which are the west side and the San Fernando Valley.

              I know the San Gabriel Valley is legendary for Chinese food. While I sometimes entertain the notion of heading out there for a meal, I never actually get there. My loss, I know.

              Plus I posted after a particularly lackluster take-out Chinese meal. On the west side.

              I just want the good stuff closer!

              1. re: lad1818
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                Jerome RE: lad1818 May 16, 2006 08:45 PM

                You can get there in under 40 minutes. If you're in canoga park, it's about half and hour or so if you go for lunch on the weekend - 101->134->5->10E off at Atlantic, Garfield, New, San Gabriel etc. Not too bad.

                1. re: Jerome
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                  Das Ubergeek RE: Jerome May 17, 2006 12:09 AM

                  Or 101->134->210->off at San Gabriel and go a couple of miles... which is often better than suffering through Silverlake and Echo Park.

                  There's a branch of Yang Chow in Canoga Park that's not horrible, but it's not "the real stuff" either.

                  1. re: Jerome
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                    carter RE: Jerome May 17, 2006 12:35 AM

                    Which I did tonight from Sherman Oaks, even in stiff traffic, where I had a great meal at MPV Seafood on Garfield. It is just not that far, you just have to want to have it, and be willing to take the time to get it.
                    You will never regret the drive afterwards!

              2. re: lad1818
                Das Ubergeek RE: lad1818 Jan 24, 2009 04:31 PM

                Well, for egg rolls, you can try Genghis Cohen, or go to New Moon -- just make them leave it whole. There was a whole research project done by me and Mr. Taster a couple of years ago -- do a search. I found real egg rolls in OC.

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            Chandavkl RE: Fabulous Moolah May 15, 2006 01:04 AM

            Interesting that you mentioned all of the parts of Los Angeles in which there is absolutely no good Chinese food. Indeed, until about 10 years ago you could have categorically stated that there was no good Chinese food in Los Angeles west of Chinatown (except for the South Bay). Then J. R. Seafood opened (11901 Santa Monica Bl.) and a few other places followed in West L.A., though there has some backsliding in the past couple years. VIP Harbor Seafood (11701 Wilshire) is OK but has slipped considerably. Otherwise you need to go to Chinatown for decent fare, or the San Gabriel Valley for the really good stuff.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chandavkl
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              geekbruin RE: Chandavkl Jan 24, 2009 07:52 AM

              I agree that VIP isn't so good anymore. The people there are super nice though and we saw Cindy Crawford there once with her kids! :)

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              JBC RE: Fabulous Moolah May 15, 2006 10:38 AM

              Below is a link to a very good discussion from the General Topics board that specifically addresses the question on the absence of quality chinese food on L.A.'s west side. Since you raised that question, you "must" (is that too strong a word?) read it!

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              1 Reply
              1. re: JBC
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                Chandavkl RE: JBC May 15, 2006 08:30 PM

                It is clear that in Los Angeles (and probably most, if not all the rest of the U.S.) good Chinese restaurants require a critical mass of Chinese clientele, which means large swatches of territory being a wasteland as far as Chinese food is concerned. And where something may pop up occasionally outside of these parameters, the survival rate seems to be zero, as evidenced by Unicorn Inn in Venice, Grand Dynasty, Hong Kong Paradise and L.A. Seafood in Encino and Golden Village on 3rd St. near the Beverly Center. For want of a better explanation I guess there's just some inevitable connection between having predominantly non-Chinese customers and dumbing down the cuisine.

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                Das Ubergeek RE: Fabulous Moolah May 15, 2006 12:46 PM

                As one former New Yorker to another (and is there really ever such a thing as a 'former' New Yorker?) let me just be up-front and say that if you're looking for cold sesame noodles and huge egg rolls, you're going to be sad... they don't exist.

                All of the truly great Chinese food is east of you about 10 miles, in Chinatown (to a lesser extent) and Monterey Park, Alhambra and San Gabriel. The 10 freeway is our answer to the 7 train... you take it out there and you get real Chinese food.

                That said, the kind of place that exists everywhere from Christopher Street to East End Avenue just hasn't made it here... LA Chinese food is different, and even then the best of LA Chinese food isn't anywhere near Beverly Hills.

                It's often been said that the only decent Chinese in Hollywood and the environs is BBQ Unlimited #2 on Melrose near the 101.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Das Ubergeek
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                  Jerome RE: Das Ubergeek May 16, 2006 03:38 AM

                  cold sesame noodles don't exist?
                  I'd put malan or even mandarin deli's cold sesame noodles up against any empireszechwanhunan extravaganza in Manhattan.
                  Forgetting real dan-dan noodles, as you might find at Jasmine on Garvey, behind little sheep, corner of atlantic.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
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                    eunice64 RE: Das Ubergeek Jan 23, 2009 07:47 PM

                    i think there needs to be a delineation between NY American Chinese food and good Chinese food. Fat egg rolls are definitely NY style American Chinese and the board is right...no go out here. Das Ubergeek is exactly right about the 10 freeway! AND about BBQ Unlimited #2! Its right by my house and after years of searching for decent Chinese food in LA this is the closest I've been able to find without trekking out to San Gabriel etc. Don't be scared by the looks of it...its good stuff!

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                    Ciao Bob RE: Fabulous Moolah May 15, 2006 01:18 PM

                    While no "professor-of-all-food-especialy-Chinese," like Jerome, I am certainly working on my dissertation in the Chinese area. A recent portion of this dissertation that answers your questions (I hope) is linked below.

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ciao Bob
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                      Chandavkl RE: Ciao Bob May 15, 2006 01:26 PM

                      There's a Chinese buffet on the corner of Gale Ave. and Fullerton Road in Rowland Heights that proclaims on outside signage to serve New York style Chinese food. I'm certainly not brave enough to try that place, but maybe you are.

                      1. re: Chandavkl
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                        Das Ubergeek RE: Chandavkl May 16, 2006 12:11 AM

                        We're moving to northeast OC soon, so I may just bite the bullet and try it. I've eaten in some weird places in the SGV so it can't be THAT weird, and Mei Wah is my Bible.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
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                          Chandavkl RE: Das Ubergeek May 16, 2006 01:11 AM

                          Upper Orange County is pretty much devoid of good Chinese food, in part due to the fact that you can go over the hill to Rowland Heights or Hacienda Heights to places like Happy Harbor (f.k.a. Sea Harbour), Hong Kong Palace, Seafood Village, New Capital Seafood, Capital Seafood, Malan Noodles, Dumpling Master, West Coast Seafood, Little Sheep, Acopia Seafood Beer House, Happy Family and tons of litle Taiwanese places.

                          1. re: Chandavkl
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                            Das Ubergeek RE: Chandavkl May 16, 2006 11:36 AM

                            Exactly -- and from Fullerton to Rowland Heights is all of 10 minutes' drive up Harbor Blvd/Fullerton Rd. :)

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                      Steve RE: Fabulous Moolah May 15, 2006 08:04 PM

                      I think Sam Woo in Van Nuys and A&W on Reseda do an amazing job with there food. I'm from NY and really love both places. BBQ pork rules!!!

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                        joe RE: Fabulous Moolah May 15, 2006 08:42 PM

                        Other posters have already given you the basic answer, which is the San Gabriel Valley, but it might be helpful to have more specific details. There are probably fifty high-quality Chinese places in that general area, but the main concentrations are in Monterey Park near Garvey Ave (Yungui Garden, Chung King, etc), and in San Gabriel along Valley Blvd (Green City, Jin Jiang, Mei Long Village, etc). Both areas are easily accessible from the I-10.

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                          Jerome RE: Fabulous Moolah May 16, 2006 03:41 AM

                          just to gauge your tastes -
                          have you tried Hunan taste at Fairfax and Olympic or Hu's Szechwan at National near Motor, or JinJiang at Santa Monica near Veteran?
                          And what did you think of them?

                          this isn't a recommendation as I'm not sure what the tastes of the OP are - a gauge here will help with possible recommendations.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Jerome
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                            myronmeisel RE: Jerome Jan 25, 2009 01:18 AM

                            alas, living near Hu's Szechwan we ate there the night we moved into our first house 23 years ago and it was so mediocre that we haven't been back notwithstanding the convenience. hunan taste can usually offer something approaching a suggestion of authentic chinese food but never with distinction and certainly without excitement. i can eat there perhaps once a year. but these are emblematic of the sort of places that demonstrate the lack of credible chinese restaurants outside the san gabriel valley (and chinatown has slipped severely the last five years, too, even formerly reliable stalwarts like empress pavillion which only occasionally rises to its old glory (esp during dungeness crab season).

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                            bob91343 RE: Fabulous Moolah Jan 24, 2009 10:59 AM

                            I have been reasonably satisfied with Mandarin King on Devonshire near Balboa in Granada Hills. I once went there on a date with a Chinese woman who carried on a conversation with the waitress in Chinese and got us some great food not on the menu. However I have gone there many times and never was seriously disappointed. They are seldom crowded and will modify a dish on request. They are mostly Asian, and the place has been there forever.

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