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May 25, 2013 07:21 PM

Does Los Angeles have the best of Chinese, Japanese and Korean of any city in the United States

Either collectively, or on an individual basis?

I don't think there can be any serious discussion that LA does Chinese better than any city in the U.S. (and maybe North America with the exception of Vancouver and *maybe* Toronto). Flushing and SF are pretty good, and I'm told that Houston is a serious up-and-comer, but all of those places bring up a distant rear.

And with Japanese, I know that NYC has many many great sushi places -- esp. the high-end variety -- but does NYC Japanese span the spectrum that LA (and Orange County) can offer in terms of things like monjayaki (or okonomiyaki), kaiseki, ramen and soba, izakaya, kare raisu, etc.? I don't think so, but my Japanese is limited and I'd be curious to hear from those who have a deeper and more intimate appreciation of all things Japanese.

I think the same could be said for Korean. I think if you included all the Boroughs and NYC, the Korean might be comparable with what you can find in LA, but it still lags a bit. And, as with Japanese, NYC has better high-end Korean (e.g. Jungsik, Bann, Danji) but for overall depth and diversity I think NYC (w/o counting the Outer Boroughs) is not comparable to LA.

And I think collectively, there is probably no city in the United States that's in the same league.

But I'd like to hear people's thoughts. And I don't want, nor mean, this to be an avenue to denigrate any one city, or region. Just because we can applaud one city, does not mean we have to be heckling another one simultaneously.

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  1. I think you're going to have to count outer boroughs if LA gets to count SGV, MP, etc.

    SF will have to get to include San Mateo, Cupertino, Milpitas, etc.

    Collectively you may have a case. Individually, there are a few shining stars in each city that I prefer to LA's best.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      NYC + Outer Boroughs and SF + areas extending all the way San Jose, I still think LAC/OC comes out ahead.

      And, I'm talking about the cuisines as a whole, incl. the entire cross-section (from high-end to hole-in-the wall, from formal to street food, etc.).

      So, yeah, with NYC and Japanese, there are places like Masa or Ushiwaka Maru that very few cities have, incl. LA (with the exception of Urasawa and/or Yamakase), but what NYC has in spades on the high end, it lacks in the middle and low end and in other types of Japanese vis-a-vis LA/OC.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I would include SF's Koi Palace as handily beating LA's best Cantonese. I noticed some updated dim sum items on my last visit that reflects more what HK dim sum is like these days (eg. steamed bean curd rolls in chicken broth vs traditional oyster sauce prep). Elite's and Sea Harbour's offerings have been pretty much the same. Also if what KK says is true about Koi Palace offering Hua tiao liquor prep for crabs, that's another sign of Koi Palace trying to keep itself somewhat updated with HK offerings while the high end LA Cantonese dishes remain stagnant.

        Don't know enough about NYC's ramen boom to know where it stands now vs LA's ramen boom. Wouldn't underestimate NYC's Japanese cuisine though.

        1. re: Porthos

          Again, like I've said now TWO times the high end does not define a city's culinary chops vis-a-vis a particular cuisine.

          If it were the case then DC might be crowned with the title of Best Indian based on Rasika (if not also Bombay Club)

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I heard you the first time but you are asking for "best" right? What does that even mean in this context? So LA has way more middle of the road Cantonese restaurants than anyone else but none of them come close to Koi Palace. Does that make Cantonese cuisine better in LA or SF? I don't know.

            1. re: Porthos

              It's both variety and quality.

              You want a good cross-section as well as depth.

              If you focus only on high end, you lose the cross section of what a cuisine has to offer.

              So Koi and even Hakkasan are doing kick-ass Cantonese but what of the other iterations of Chinese?

              If I said X museum has the best collection of Dali, and you said, "well, what does the collection entail?" and I said "there's the Persistence of Memory and not much else" you probably wouldn't think much of the museum's collection.

          2. re: Porthos

            NYC has definitely had a nice Ramen boom, but the quality in the broth, noodles and execution is off... I spent a couple of days focused on just classic cooked Japanese dishes (No sushi) at various top rated restaurants in New York and the only that I felt that had something better than was in L.A. was Onya's Udon.

            I will say thing, while I agree with Ipse's premise (having experienced Asian food, actually REALLY GOOD Asian food, throughout the country), the one thing I think that always disapoints out of towners about the Chinese/Japanese/Korean food places in L.A., so that I think we do get too specialized. Without a doubt, I can take a group to the BEST place to get Bimbimbap in Koreatown and they'll order the Galbi... and then they'll complain that the Galbi was not as good as their neighborhood Korean place in Flushing... The same thing at Sichuan places... I've had someone try to send a Mapo Tofu dish because because it actually had Sichuan Peppercorns and their previous experience with the dish was at a Japanese place in Toronto (Which they LOVE!).

            Meanwhile, I recently went to a Korean place in Providence which was surprising very good. Not great, but they got the Galbi right. The dol sot was hot enough to get the rice crisp, the soon dobu tasted nice and fresh and was actually quite spicy! I think that is the thing that places like that feels more pressure to hit the right notes (There is a sizeable Asian population in the area) but at the same time is lacking the competition to really drive it to set itself apart via regional specialties.

            Also, I feel that the Asian population and Ethinic-adventurous diner in L.A. puts a lot of pressure to restaurants to specialize and remain authentic. Spending my teen years in L.A.'s extraordinarily Asian SGV region, I saw how when I would ask for a table they would pull one menu, but if one of my Asian friends would ask for a table, they'd get handed a completely different one... (Then they'd have this little worried look when I get up and sit down with join the party). I think SF and especially New York, their Ethnic-adventurous diners appreciate experimentation within the cuisine more (My recent visit at Ippudo in New York had them touting pulled pork Ramen... I passed) and then there is the idea of despite the large Asian population in the areas, there are also large Non-Asian potential customer base (Richmond is VERY Asian... but also very close to areas that VERY Non-Asian). I have to put it out there that it has been been my personal experience that I've been much less likely to be 'whited' at a Vietnamese place in San Jose than in Westminster...


            1. re: Dommy

              That's interesting about specialization.

              Never considered that angle. Going to have chew on that a bit ...

      2. I would agree with you on Japanese and Korean foods.
        I think San Francisco wins first place for Chinese food. Los Angeles is a close second.
        But the very best Chinese food can be found in Vancouver. .

        1 Reply
        1. re: cujo

          SF, even if you include all the surrounding areas, e.g. San Mateo, Oakland, San Jose, etc., still doesn't come close to LA/OC in terms of depth of quality, variety, and cross-sectional diversity.

          And, again, this is absolutely no knock on SF, which might very well have the best Chinese in the United States outside of LA.

        2. Depends. Are you talking top dollar high end Asian restaurants or are you talking mom and pop Chau type diners?

          It's a tough call for the mom and pop places. I have had excellent food from those type of diners in San Fran (although it does hold the lead in my book because of childhood memories), Seattle, and NYC.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Not having eaten all there is to eat in any of these places, especially LA, I'd still say you're probably right. And maybe it gets into the demographics/geography/whatever. The LA area is HUGE allowing a lot more people with all levels of income to come there. And being on the West Coast, it's going to 'catch' more Asians. SF, where I've eaten the most, is pretty contained, the city itself being a peninsula and The Peninsula :) having the bay to the east and the ocean to the west. I could be very happy spending my remaining days in the SGV :)