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Moon House -- New Chinese in WLA

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Moon House took over the Winchell's and the burger place behind at the east end of the strip mall on the S/E corner of Santa Monica Blvd. at Sepulveda, with the newish Del Taco next door and the Fatburger replacing the Yoshinoya on the west end. Moon House is surprisingly large and very nice, with good lighting and black tables with some booths and some nice chairs. Owner is from Mandarin Kitchen and came by to ask how things were.

And they were good. Dropped in for lunch today. Told my server I liked spicy and he recommended the top dish on the lunch special menu, the Zi Ran Lamb ($7.50). Hot 'n Sour daily soup was mediocre -- needed some hot chili oil (which they have) to spice things up. Lamb dish was very good and a generous serving -- I took home enough for a substantial snack after eating as much as I could. Seemed close to a Mongolian lamb -- thin-sliced meat, green onions, thin strands that i thought were chives but ws told were cilantro stems, in not much sauce. I requested spicy, and with some spoons of the hot chili oil added it was. Lamb was mostly tender, a couple of bites chewy or gristly, but generally high quality. Owner said the flavor I couldn't place was cumin. Good dish.

I'll be back.

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  1. Now you've done it. Stepping all over Chandavkl's territory! (g) Sounds good and in our home orbit. Wish I liked Fatburger and Del Taco better, but you can't have everything. Was there much of a crowd, or are people still finding them?

    Someone over on Yelp said that the owners of Hop Woo are involved. So Hop Woo and Mandarin Kitchen are the same owners then?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      I came in at about 1 for a late lunch, and several other tables were occupied. And a few more parties came in while I was eating. It is a large dining room for a neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

      The more formally dressed guy who came over, sat down across from me (!?), and asked me how I liked things said he recognized me from Mandarin Kitchen -- which I used to frequent much more often than now.

        1. re: PeterCC

          The other good thing about Moon House is that they have one of those Chinese language devices that sends orders back into the kitchen. That, and their upcoming Chinese menu, have me encouraged.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            Channeling kevin for a moment, "Chinese language devices that sends orders back into the kitchen???"

            Pen and paper? Sound waves generated from larynx?

            I am cautiously optimistic that they seem to be improving. My expectations were in line with Ciao Bob's experience on the other thread...

            1. re: PeterCC

              You see those TV touch screen type devices in a lot of the SGV restaurants. Spits out a Chinese language receipt that they bring to your table.

      1. Sounds like it's worth a visit. A few yrs back, that strip mall was such a dump, but it seems like it's picking up nicely....

        1. i went there last week and had the same lamb dish,thought it was great.i felt the same way about the hot and sour soup-i asked for some more vinegar.

          3 Replies
          1. re: yogacat

            Really liked the hot and sour soup I had the other night at Little Hong Kong on Sawtelle...

            1. re: Servorg

              If Moon House does have an association with Mandarin Kitchen, hard to fathom their blah hot and sour soup. Mandarin Kitchen's was usually pretty good, both hot and sour, though on the thin side without too many solid ingredients.

              Best hot and sour soup I've had in SoCal is at Bamboo Forest, a little place on the south side of Burbank just east of Kester. It comes hot (both spicy and temperature) with a sour note, has an appropriate amount of slivered bamboo shoot, black mushroom, egg, etc. and is not overly thickened. Their lunch specials (get the orange chicken, aromatic shrimp, or mongolian beef) come with soup, a small salad, big entree, rice, egg roll and fried wonton for under or over $6 (depending on meat or shrimp).

              I go to Bamboo Forest after golf. Between them, Hu's (like the chinese chicken salad course that comes with the lunch combo), and now Moon House (will definitely try again), Mandarin Kitchen has fallen out of my rotation. Especially since that strip mall has troublesome parking during lunch rush and I often choose a philly cheesesteak at Philly West if I'm there.

              1. re: nosh

                Got pickup, they were able to identify me from my phone number which is the same thing Mandarin Kitchen does and I was in their system. So pretty much the same operators. Prices I think are a $1 more than Mandarin Kitchen. Chow mein and pea sprouts were exactly the same as at Mandarin Kitchen. The lamb dish was interesting - definitely a lot of cumin. They gave complementary cream cheese fried wontons. I don't think I've eaten one of those since a Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis over 15 years ago. Decor is nicer than Mandarin Kitchen, they advertise free wifi, only one Asian customer only when I popped in. The parking lot is definitely better set up than the mall that contains Mandarin Kitchen.

          2. They do have a web site with some discount coupons on it, And good news is that they serve till 1am 7 days a week.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wienermobile

              In their window, they have a lobster dish or a steamed chicken dish for $2.99 with a $30 purchase. On their takeout menu (which they did a mass mailing in the vicinity) there is a percentage off offer -- don't know whether a lunch special would disqualify.

              Relatively big place, very nicely appointed. At least two or three servers, a girl at the desk, the well-dressed guy circling, to say nothing of kitchen staff, when I was there on a Tuesday. I'm sure hoping I find new dishes I like.

              They offer some standard menu dim sum items, shu mai and the like, starting at $3.50 I think. Have no idea if these are from frozen or house made. If they could do some actually good dim sum, on weekend mornings when that otherwise crowded strip mall would be fairly deserted, they could hit a westside jackpot.

              1. re: PeterCC

                Is that #18 (pork bellies) on the menu? I was going to ask if someone would try it but, after seeing the picture, I'm not so sure. Judging by the menu, I thought the dish was similar to one of my favorite Thai dishes, cha po.

                1. re: mucho gordo

                  Despite the name, It is definitely not pork belly, a.k.a. samgyeopsal, a.k.a. un-cured/smoked bacon. It is in fact pork stomach.

                2. re: PeterCC

                  You've seen the Hop Woo Secret Menu, right?


                  The Secret Menu applies to the Broadway location AND the West LA location as well.

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    Did you "Chinese awful on the Westside"?

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Shh, that was supposed to be subliminal...

                      And I think you a word.

                  2. Got takeout tonight. Ordered the following:

                    65. Zi Ran Lamb: Cumin marinated lamb stir-fried with onion and cilantro in perfection ($12.95)

                    69. Sauteed Pork Bellies with Chilli Peppers: Stir-fried pork bellies with chilli peppers ($9.95)

                    125. Hong Kong Roast Duck on Steamed Rice ($7.95)

                    That pushed the order over $30, eligible for a free chicken dish, so I chose to get an order Orange Chicken (yes, take away my Chinese membership card) for free for the kids.

                    As a disclaimer, I generally eschew Chinese food on the Westside, and I haven't gone to SGV to have decent "real" Chinese food in nearly two months, so perhaps my expectations were low, but I was pleasantly surprised.

                    It was better than I expected, and to misquote Woody Allen for a moment, the food wasn't great, but there was plenty of it. The pig stomach was decent and a rare find out here, the lamb was better, and the duck was... a good value. Orange chicken was orange chicken, though surprisingly it looked like they used white meat.

                    If I were craving semi-Americanized Chinese, I'd definitely give it another go, but it does make me yearn for SGV...

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: PeterCC

                      i'm a little confused.
                      "pork belly" and "pig stomach" aren't the same thing, are they?

                      which did you have?

                      1. re: linus

                        Pork belly is the cut of meat that is made into bacon in the U.S. or found at Korean BBQs. What I had was pig stomach, the organ that digests food, and is offal(ly good!).

                        1. re: PeterCC

                          but you listed item 69 as "pork belly." thats what confused me.
                          i drank a lot of beer yesterday so im even slower than normal.

                          1. re: linus

                            Sorry, I mentioned it in a previous comment above: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9139.... The name/description "pork bellies" is straight from the menu.

                            I think they should change the name, I'm sure Midtown Lunch LA probably expected to get cuts of pork belly rather than slices of pork stomach: http://instagram.com/p/fgB6lvy1HT/.

                            1. re: PeterCC

                              oopsie. sorry i overlook or forgot that previous comment.

                              as emily litella would have said, "never mind."

                    2. My problem with these westside Chinese places is that I want more interesting veggies with my chicken or shrimp dishes than the usual onion and bell pepper wedges. So my last time at Moon House, I ordered the chicken with mixed vegetables, but I requested the szechuan garlic sauce, spicy, plenty of it.

                      I got a pretty good dish. First, their hot'n'sour soup is improving -- a bit more zing from both hot and sour. The entree had a lot of nicely high-quality white meat chicken, sliced into thin squares. I liked the broccoli, snow peas, a bit of carrot and onion. The bok choy was good but served in small heads that were a bit difficult to separate the leaves and eat -- chop it. Mushrooms might have been canned buttons? Sauce had some taste and promise but wasn't hot or plentiful enough. Dish was a B, but plenty of room for improvement if I add it to my regular rotation. Big portion -- I left more than full and left all of the mushrooms and a couple of bok choy stalks behind.

                      1. Stopped by Mandarin kitchen for lunch this week -- hadn't been for awhile in favor of Hu's and the new Moon House. This might be a downhill alert.

                        The hot'n'sour soup, which used to be a strong point here, was bland. No heat. No spice. No tang. I put in a dash of soy and a stream of hot chili oil, and that helped a bit.

                        Ordered the shredded pork w/ garlic sauce. (After asking about which vegetables accompanied several other dishes, which sometimes didn't correspond with the photos of the dishes on the menu.) Ordered spicy with extra sauce. The dish that came out had long, slender strips of a whitish vegetable with a thin dark skin -- eggplant? No, it was tofu. And it overwhelmed the pork that I saw in the dish. Who puts tofu in a shredded pork dish, especially without mentioning it on the menu and when the dish before had pork, red and green bell peppers, bamboo shoots, black ear mushrooms, onion, spring onion, and water chestnut? Sent it back and got the old version, which was good but not spicy. Have to note: the two thimbles I used of the hot chili oil needed spicing up the heat level.)

                        Some of the former staff/ownership (not sure) of Mandarin Kitchen opened Moon House. I now prefer them. (Though to note: Moon House's shredded pork dish is very meat-centric, with just an accent of a couple accompanying vegetables.)

                        1. Dissapointing. Had the spicy lamb and salt pork chop at the host's suggestion. Nothing special. A lot of mediocre food for the price though. Too bad. Wanted to be a fan. Next going back to Hu's for the first Tim in 25 years. Tired of Xian an Le Chine Wok ( though both ok and much better than Moon). 1/2,step above Panda.

                          21 Replies
                          1. re: Thor123

                            If you go to Hu's for the lunch combo -- Spice up the hot'n'sour soup with a dash of soy and some hot chili oil. The intermezzo of the Chinese chicken salad sometimes is overdressed and the dressing is sweet, but it is a refreshing and "healthy" interlude. For entrees, I like the eggplant (done tender) with the ground pork, the kung pao chicken (extra sauce), or the twice-cooked pork w/o tofu. Their fried chicken wings look delicious; never tried them myself. Avoid the sweet'n'sour, the batter is thick and bready. If ordering a la carte, get the kung pao shrimp.

                            1. re: nosh

                              So what's good here ?

                              I always go to Fatburger instead when I'm positively in the area.

                              Bad hound, bad hound. My apologies.

                            2. re: Thor123

                              That's too bad it was disappointing for you. Thirteen of us were there last night for dinner and we all had a great time and enjoyed both food and service. Only one of us was not Asian. Agree, the food is not outstanding here but we don't expect outstanding Chinese food on the Westside, otherwise you set yourself up for disappointments. For a large group, Mr. Ma, I believe he is the owner (from Mandarin Kitchen), offered to come up with a set menu with an agreed amount. We had 10 dishes and steamed lotus paste bun with salted duck egg for dessert. Peking duck, minced duck from the Peking duck with lettuce cups, Westlake minced beef soup, string beans, baby bok choi with Blk mushrooms, Yang chow fried rice with nice size whole shrimp, French style steak, fish fillet in Blk bean sauce and asparagus, and walnut shrimp. It was all inclusive $15/person. Oh, he also gave us spareribs which we would change to something else next time. Not that it was bad, but this kind of appetizer is too "guai low". He gave us the small private room too. He did offer the lamb dish but I told him last time we ordered this, the dish was tasty but meat was tough (the served took this off our bill and even boxed it up for us to take home). Been living on the Westside for + 40 years so yes, I have tried all the Chinese restaurants in the area and travel to China Valley for the better stuff and dumplings when we can. I asked him to leave out any msg and lower salt. No one got sick, no one complained about the seasoning. 4 stars for food and service. We all walked out full and pleased with enough left overs for one meal. The egg plant dish was very good from a prior visit. This was my third and plan to come back for many more visits. I would never order dim sum here, it's not their specialty.

                                1. re: dragonanna

                                  I do not doubt they can, and will, make specially ordered things special.

                                  But, if one walks in off the street expecting to eat anything but pretty awful - in both quality and value - Chinese food, faggettaboutit. It's really no better or worse than anything else nearby...just newer.

                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                    Bob, do you like Mandarin Kitchen on Westwood ????

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      It is not much different than New Moon.

                                      When MK first opened (or, when the new owners came in, cannot recall which it was) they had marginally higher quality ingredients (plumper, tastier shrimp, in particular IIRC) for take-out than others but that changed long ago. I think any of these places can do a better job if you special order what you want and pay a little more.

                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                        Did you ever try the lobster at Mandarin Kitchen ?

                                        That's what I always get there.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          have not. but will. how do they prepare?

                                          1. re: Ciao Bob

                                            ginger with scallions.

                                            lobster szechuan.

                                            canton style with noodles.

                                            I've liked all especially the lobster szchuan.

                                            The other dishes seems like a variation of the Panda Express style of Chinese food.

                                            Not sure if you will like the lobster, but I think it's good, and at 10 to 15 bucks per lobster it's not a bad deal.

                                            1. re: kevin

                                              I thought Moon House was just a half step above Panda. To me the best Westside Chinese is Le Chine Wok at Beverly Glen. That said, I am totally bored.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                Maybe I will try the lobster tonight - I have to be at Sepulveda/La Grange from 7-11 and need something to eat first.

                                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                Not online but they always have it - call them.

                                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                  Bob, yeah, you should call them.

                                                  Because there was one time I went and they didn't have the lobster.

                                                  Though they usually have it.

                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                    $9.99 for "Szechuan Lobster!"
                                                    Basically a goopy sweet and sour sauce with a little heat and a ton of garlic. But, a decently prepared small, gummy lobster.
                                                    And, as I said, $9.99.
                                                    For that price it's the best Chinese lobster I've had. Probably the only one. too.
                                                    Thanks Kevin.

                                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                      Exactly, though it is market price, so sometimes it might run up to like 13 bucks.

                                                      I like it a lot.

                                                      Once I ordered that good shit, I didn't order anything else on the menu.

                                              2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                We had takeout from MK a couple of weeks ago. It wasn't good.
                                                The shrimp were especially awful. We always loved their shrimp dishes. The beef with broccoli was another disappointment. The only thing we liked was the won ton soup. Full of flavor and delicious won tons. Won't be ordering from them again. I may have to give Changs another try. Their food isn't bad, but the owners are miserable and nasty and ordering is an unpleasant experience.

                                                1. re: maudies5

                                                  I have not found the servers to be miserable and nasty. But who knows ????

                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                    The servers at Changs are ok. The boss who answers the phone is nasty.

                                                    1. re: maudies5

                                                      Ok, I never actually called them up. Just dealt with the waitstaff though I don't know if one of them was the boss or not.

                                      2. The honest truth is that 9 year old LOVES Panda Express, so if Moon house is a step (or even 1/2) step up, then he should love it too, right?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Scotty

                                          We gave Moon House a try and sorry to say my 9 year old said Panda Express is better (and I had to agree).