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Answering The Age Old Question Of Whether It's Worth The Drive From The San Gabriel Valley to Eat at ROC Dumpling

Based on initial my impressions, unless you're driving to visit Tsujita or perhaps Seoul Sausage in the same complex and want to take some Chinese home with you, I would say not. ROC is still in its soft opening stage, as I ordered off the menu that said "Soft Opening Menu, November 29." But at least they are open for lunch now from noon until 3pm. To be fair the items I ordered were all sort of the same ilk--onion pancake, XLB, and crispy chicken dumplings. All three were quite bland without dipping sauces, but actually pretty good with the sauces. This raises the issue of whether these kinds of items should be flavorful on their own, or whether you should allow for the saltiness in the sauce. I'm definitely a proponent of the latter. The post sauce onion pancake was a good, average quality SGV onion pancake. But at $4 for an order half the size of Earthen's, it's a poor value even if it were as good (which it isn't). XLB was OK, with an OK skin and lots of soup. Crispy chicken dumplings were interesting, fried together in a single clump, which I like. But I couldn't help wonder if they had bought the dumplings frozen across the street at Nijiya Market. (I suspect not, but I sure couldn't tell from the taste.) I'll go back later to see what else they may have. But only if I'm in the area. Address is 2049 Sawtelle Blvd.

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  1. I've never heard of a dipping sauce for onion pancakes.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Ginger soy sauce. It's actually described on the menu.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        What I meant was onion pancakes are not eaten with a dipping sauce a la XLB or dumplings.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I think they're indiscreetly tipping the hat to Korean pajeon where there there is usually a side of dipping sauce, but I agree...scallion pancake/green onion pancake should be enjoyed on its own, and even the versions in Hong Kong that are like multi layered deep fried crispy crusts the size of a bagel don't have dip sauces either.

          1. re: K K

            I think they are actually discreetly tipping the hat to the typical American diner looking for Chinese food.

            Your typical American diner (yes, I know I am stereotyping here) will instinctively reach to some type of sauce when eating Chinese food -- be it soy, chili, sweet+sour, duck, or whatever. It's almost like Linus reaching for his blanket.

            There's a reason that over 50% of Kikomann's revenues come from those individual soy sauce packets.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                hey man, sometimes it's chilly in the house and ranch dressing isn't warm enough.

                1. re: linus

                  You should ask Sally to come over and keep you warm ...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    sadly, sally lives in the SGV and decided i'm not worth the trip.

      2. This can't be the the age old question because there was no question as to the answer: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8736... . Never, ever, ever. No. No. No.

        The true question remains: is SGV's XLB worth the drive after ROC opened.
        I'm saying no.

        Everyone keeps comparing ROC's prices to SGV (Earthen, 101 noodle, etc.). Stop that immediately because it's bad accounting: Sawtelle rent, LA-city English speaking labor, blah blah, blah blah blah.1 bowl of noodle at Tsujita is $10++ and they charge for green tea.

        Which leads to the final question: who's opening more edible XLB joints? Culver?

        2 Replies
          1. re: TonyC

            Not sure that's even a relevant question -- much less an age old one.

            Most Chinese restaurants in SGV view the Westside clientele as more of a nuisance than a marginal addition to the bottom line.

          2. Tried ROC recently. Unimpressed. The fact that there was dipping sauce for the tsung yeoh bing (scallion pancakes) should have been a warning sign... They need to tinker with their flavors on the XLBs, and thin down (& flavor up) those pancakes. The food should stand on its own without the dipping sauce.

            Chicken don't belong in dumplings (I'm more of a Sino-purist when it comes to that), but I suppose if you want to survive on the Westside, it's inevitable.

            Due to fortunate circumstances, I can usually walk over to Sawtelle to sample all the eateries there. But sadly, I still find myself schlepping over to the SGV for my Chinese carb fix, price & commute notwithstanding.

            Still... I have hope for the ROC. I'll check back periodically.

            6 Replies
            1. re: J.L.

              Again, I don't think its's fair or apt to compare ROC to an SGV equivalent Chinese restaurant.

              Because, to put it bluntly, ROC isn't an SGV Chinese restaurant. And it is good business acumen on their part not to be. You can't have a successful SGV style Chinese restaurant survive on the Westside. (What was it Einstein said about insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?)

              The better baseline comparison might be a place like Bao Dim Sum House or even a place like Take A Bao. If ROC is better than those places (or places of that ilk) then it should be considered a success.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I agree with you that Westside Chinese should not be compared to the SGV. However, in reporting the opening of ROC, the food press has characterized this as a taste of the SGV coming to WLA, and indeed I believe the chef has stated this himself. Also, I think that's why the first Chowhound thread on ROC ran over a 100 posts long. Consequently, we need to weigh in on the validity of that assertion.

              2. re: J.L.

                I agree with the premise that we shouldn't expect ROC to compare with the SGV establishments.

                BUT even taking this into account - As a standalone eatery, as the current offerings stand, I still can't find myself going back. As I've said, I will try to go back for periodic re-assessments.

                  1. re: J.L.

                    I haven't tried it yet. But I'm overdue on a whirl.

                1. There are still some service issues here. Yet they are eager to please.

                  It seems like a small group of friends has opened the joint.

                  The pure crab dumplings were good, though not great. It will do in a pinch when the trek along the 10 seems to be too arduous and unnerving.

                  But those scallion pancakes here are great. And yes, the do taste good without the ginger dipping sauce. Some pieces I dipped and some not.

                  It is pricier than the SGV but not by much. If you compare XLBs at DTF, those will run you at least 9 bucks for the crab/pork mixture, here the same mixture will run you 9.25.

                  Though at crab fried rice here for 12 bucks will prolly run you about 9 bucks in the SGV.

                  And those scallion pancakes would most likely run you close to 4 bucks in the SGV, but then again I'm no scallion pancakes expert.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: kevin

                    XLB pricier than the SGV?, yes, excluding DTF (which is one of the bigger knocks against it). By comparison, Dean Sin World and most other places serving XLB will run in the $6-7 range.

                    1. re: JThur01

                      My bad. You are absolutely correct. Yeah, I was referring to DTF. You are probably right that Dean Sin World and others are a couple bucks cheaper. (Sadly, I have not been to Dean Sin World before).

                      Actually you are abosutely right. Just referred to the Luscious Dumpling menu, and all the items are either 6 or 6.50

                      1. re: JThur01

                        The problem with DTF isn't the price, it's that the food isn't very good (save for a few items like the chicken soup and perhaps the nian gao).

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          The fried rice and pork chops at DTF are exemplary

                    2. Tried it today after having some business to take care of at UCLA.

                      Scallion pancakes were a travesty. Flaccid, cold and oily. Not greasy, just oily. This was like eating a cold tortilla. Bad ordeal.

                      XLB with dungess crab. Fillings had no taste. The skins were undercooked and tasted like machine-grade commercial stuff you buy at the market. If these were handmade skins, the person making them needs to go back to school, or be fired.

                      Spicy fried dumplings. These were ok. The addition of the chili sauce certainly hid any of the deficiencies in these things.

                      Three Cup Chicken. This might've been the highlight of the meal. But I must first say this is most definitely not Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken. It's more like a hybrid version of fast-food Teriyaki Chicken and Orange Chicken. Three Cup Chicken is not sweet and sour, it's more salty and pungent (hence the name three cups of wine, soy and sesame oil). But that said, ROC should make this their signature dish and I have a feeling it will be one of their most popular items, but just don't call it Three Cup Chicken -- because that's not what it is. Call it ROC Chicken, or whatever. Still, like I said, this is pretty tasty shit. They should use this chicken as the filling for their XLB and dumpling, instead of crap they're using now.

                      Ok, food aside, I need to say something about the price. Yes, it's pricey, but that's ok if the food tasted good. But the food doesn't taste good -- certainly not by SGV standards, and not by any standards really. And if I am going to pay 60 for a meal for 2, I want tasty food. I did not get tasty food, except for that misnamed Three Cup Chicken.

                      So would I drive from SGV to the Westside to try this? No. I wouldn't even drive from UCLA to eat here.

                      But I will say that there is one thing that makes them very different from SGV Chinese restaurants. Service. It's really really quite accommodating. Almost too much so.

                      Oh, and their tea blows. Cold and insipid. How do you mess up tea?

                      39 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Maybe Sergio wasn't cooking today... :-P

                        This was a similar in line to my experience there, except my tea was lukewarm, not cold...

                        I'll go try the hybrid 3 Cup Chicken next time, since I am usually walking distance to Sawtelle.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          3 cup chicken (hybrid) - one cup teriyaki, one cup orange, one cup hipsterism.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            ips is in the minority. Peeps are LOOOVING ROC right now, Asian, Chinese, or otherwise.

                            1. re: TonyC

                              Perhaps ipse is in the minority. But in general, chowhounds tend to be in the minority anyway. Many people swoon over restaurants viewed unfavorably by chowhounds.

                              1. re: TonyC

                                I will say this my scallion pancake was piping hot and I did like it too.

                                The crab dumplings, the pure crab only with nothing else, is a little bland if you don't dip it in the soy.

                                But I still think they are going through growing pains. Yet, they are also already very busy. And the restaurants looks to have a very long soft opening.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  LA Weekly informed us they "opened" on Dec 1: http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...

                                  dunno what that that actually means since they've been serving customers (albeit on and off) since Oct 19 *shrug*

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    ... Maybe I'll go back when Sergio is cooking.

                                    1. re: J.L.

                                      sergio is cooking ? for some reason, this sounds like an in-joke on coni's seafood ???

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        Hehehehe indeed... It just seems we had such different green scallion pancakes at the very same place, there must have been different chefs.

                                        Either that, or we have different taste and/or expectations about our green scallion pancakes.

                                        1. re: J.L.

                                          Well, I will say this. It was definitely piping hot. That would be a fact. It did take a solid half hour for it (once again, it's those damn growing pains.).

                                          I know most hounds don't like it, but for some reason I have a feeling it's going to get better. And it's definitely a refreshing addition to the scene on the Sawtelle Corridor. This time on the weekend, parking was not even to huge of an issue.

                                  2. re: TonyC

                                    I think Ipse has a soft spot for old school SGV/Monterey Park which explains the avid dislike for places like DTF, ROC, and yes, even Shanghai #1 :)

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Oh, I dunno, I'm quite fond of Why Thirsty ... which is about as "non old school" as one can get for PCR.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        We may be the only two on these boards that like Why Thirsty then.

                                        1. re: Johnny L

                                          There are people who don't like Why Thirsty?

                                          Really? What has the world come to?

                                          Next thing you know, there will be XLB west of the 405 fwy.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Well, Hunan Mao would apparently like to open a branch in WLA. Would that fly?

                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                              Owner of Hunan Mao From Novermber LA Weekly " My vision is to bring this restaurant and Hunan cuisine to more Caucasian-based neighborhoods. I'm currently looking at properties in West Los Angeles."

                                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                                Don't you think one Hunan restaurant in the westside is 1 more than too many?

                                                But in all seriousness, I wonder why there is this unsatiable urge for some Chinese restaurants to expand to the westside.

                                                Wolfgang contemplated doing the reverse (Westside to Pasadena) and concluded that the whole notion was unworkable because of the demographics.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    I prefer Einstein.

                                                    "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Would that notion include putting those words in Einstein's mouth over and over and over again, despite the fact that the probability he said it is remote at best? ;-D>

                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                        Shush. Just don't tell Rita Mae Brown.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Seems like there's enough Chinese students at UCLA to support a westside Hunan Mao. Yeah, Ocean Star (Royal Star) fizzled a decade ago, but perhaps something non Cantonese might work.

                                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                                        The Chinese UCLA students, from what I can tell, don't actually go out for Chinese food -- at least not the ones on campus or living in/around Westwood. Those that do, actually are commuter students who live (get this!) in/around SGV.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          I would say you are very correct.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            A lot of Chinese UCLA students are from NorCal, and from scraps I've seen off the Internet they do venture to the SGV for food when they can. Also I've noticed that since the present ownership took over at Union Buffet in WLA and added things like Fuzhou fish balls and whole mackerel (or similar fish) that there is a fair amount of patronage from what appears to be UCLA students.

                                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                                              Should I visit Union Buffet ? That's in the same mini-type-mall as the Baja Bud's and the Subway ?

                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                Even though we go on the odd occasion I can't in good conscience recommend it to anyone...

                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  I believe that's the same mall. I go there regularly, but it's not for a gourmet meal. Rather I go there for a large, inexpensive meal ($7.99 weekday lunch) for a handful of selections that I especially like (chicken shui mai, chicken dumplings, steamed swai, chicken nuggets). It's the best Chinese buffet outside the SGV, but I'm not sure that necessarily says much. Kind of like way the Asian patronage here is much higher than it was under previous regimes dating back to 2004.

                                                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                    So if you had a choice on the food alone, money no object, would you take Union over

                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                      Based on food alone, very few buffets are worth a return visit.

                                                                2. re: Chandavkl

                                                                  I wonder why Fuzhou fish balls would ever be an attraction for diners (of whatever creed or race) at buffets. They're inevitably the pre-packaged, commercially mass produced frozen ones you can get from the many suppliers in/around Baldwin and Lower Azusa.

                                                                  Now, if they had the stuff that Xi Xi makes, then I'm game. I just wish Xi Xi's broth had more body and character, but I quibble ...

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    Probably for the same reason why when I used to work regularly in WLA I'd drive to L.A. Chinatown for lunch. Beats the alternative.

                                                                  2. re: Chandavkl

                                                                    I don't recall being able to eat like a Chowhound during my undergrad days at UCLA. Mostly, due to academics/time/resources, I was studying, doing research, or more studying. Food meant brown bagging it, vending machines or eating cheap on campus. The "feast" to splurge on a date would have been Olive Garden. I couldn't afford a car, so mobility was very restricted.

                                                                    It was only after I graduated UCLA that someone introduced me to in-depth exploration of areas south of Santa Monica Blvd., including Sawtelle.

                                                                    And yes, I did walk uphill in freezing sleet on Bruin Walk to and from class, both ways. ;-)

                                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                                      Oh, sadly, for me I started eating like a 'hound in college.

                                                                      It was the start of a terrible relationship for the stomach and the pocket book.

                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Well, I've never even heeard of Why THirsty ?

                                                            Btw, have you guys gone to a JGold recently reviewed joint called Tasty Dining in San Gabriel ?

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              ... Just 1-2 blocks west of the 405 Fwy.

                                                          3. re: ipsedixit

                                                            Well, I know a bunch of people from Taiwan that do not like Din Tai Fung at all.

                                                            Well, interestingly, ipse you do also like Dai Ho Kitchen, correct ?

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              Yes, I do like Dai Ho.

                                                              Some of the best lu-wei, NRM and dry pork noodles around SGV.