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NY to LA Looking for High-End Chinese

Coming to LA from NY for a wedding and would appreciate some recommendations for high-end Chinese restaurants and great Chinese food in general.

Some background: Eaten Chinese food throughout the major cities in Asia, NY, Vancouver, Toronto, etc.

Looking for food from any region,Taiwanese indigenous (mountain boar, snake, crickets), Peking duck. Shanghai hairy crabs, soup dumplings, etc.

I haven't been in LA in over 6 years and am completely out of the lurch. I've been to Din Tai Fung and Sea Harbour and a couple of other places I no longer remember.

Looking for 4 star Chinese, top-notch ingredients and preparation. Love Peking duck. Looking for the top dim sum place. Price is not a consideration.

Thanks for any advice.

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  1. Mr Chow

    Just kidding.

    "High end" Chinese is pretty much the exclusive domain of the Cantonese seafood houses.

    No surprises here. Elite, Sea Harbour for dinner (not dimsum, although that's good too). Newport Seafood house special lobster and crab (if you really want to blow out your wallet, spring for the king crab staring you down in the tank in the waiting area.) NS cooks dishes from a region that blends SE Asian flavors/dishes with Cantonese style cooking.

    We don't really have Beijing Duck that rivals the best I've had in China (we used to, but it went away)-- so I wouldn't bother with it.

    That being said, your criteria is seriously limiting your choices to the regions of southern China. As Limiting yourself to "the best" (as defined by a high budget/expensive ingredients) is doing yourself a disservice. Omar's big plate chicken, for example, is phenomenal-- halal dishes from the central Asian region of Xinjiang in extreme northwest of China. It costs ~$15 and feeds 2-3 comfortably. But does he use organic free-range happy hippy chickens, and organic wheat in the noodles? Doubtful. But it's a fucking delicious plate of food, and you're not going to find it in any "high end" Chinese restaurant, because there's probably less than 5 restaurants in the whole of North America that even cook this dish.

    Mr Taster

    20 Replies
    1. re: Mr Taster

      Newport Tan Cang Seafood is more Chiu Chow/Teochow style cuisine.

      WP24 by Wolfgang Puck is the highest of high end for Chinese in LA, and they've received good reviews particularly for their Peking Duck. $80 to $120, I believe for theri tasting menus and the restaurant's design is wonderful as are the views from the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton in downtown LA.

      Tasty Duck in San Gabriel is a favorite for their Peking Duck and other non-seafood items.

      I'd bank on Sea Harbour for dim sum and dinner. Not much with Elite (dinner is worse, in my opinion).

      Din Tai Fung is on the higher end for XLB eateries, but the best come from a hole-in-the-wall.

      1. re: TripleAxel

        You can get much "higher end" than WP24. You can pay thousands of dollars for a dinner for ten people at a place like Sea Harbour or Elite. The only limit is your wallet.

        1. re: raytamsgv

          Just to clarify, I'm not looking for "high end" by way of rare ingredients. I could probably max out the bill by ordering fillet of panda.. that's not what I'm looking for. Skill level, and fresh ingredients of high quality, not rarity.

        2. re: TripleAxel

          Re duck-- I haven't tried WP24. It has gotten favorable reviews, but then so has Beijing Duck House, and the other Duck House. As far as I know, nobody in Los Angeles has the correct open hearth oven to roast Beijing duck... and even for those who do, results are not guaranteed (see my experience in China). I would be very interested to hear a comparison of WP24 from someone who has also dined at Qianmen Quanjude.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: TripleAxel

            When it comes to XLB, hole in the wall is fine, as long as the XLB is great, not looking for a place that's popular just because they have 6 for $3 specials, etc.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              J&J (aka JIn Jian) for some of the best XLBs around.

            2. re: TripleAxel

              Thanks for the heads up regarding WP24, I'm going to check it out. Newport Tan Cang sounds interesting,I'm checking out their website.

              I wasn't much impressed with Elite so I'll avoid dinner there.

              1. re: TripleAxel

                Have you eaten at WP24, I just looked at the menu and it looks a little scary, aka PF Chang-ish? Looking to avoid a Mr. Chow type meal.

                1. re: Pookipichu

                  You'll want to skip WP24. Beautiful setting, nice cocktails, but from what you've written, the food is much more Mr. Chow than what you're looking for.

                  1. re: Robert Thornton

                    Have you eaten at WP24? I don't mind a place that is not traditional, as long as execution is good.. my fear is sloppy execution and lack of respect for the cuisine. What I mean is, a restaurant that is Chinese for novelty rather than respect for flavor and techniques.

                    Mr. Chow, at least in NY, symbolizes that lack of effort and execution, typifying Chinese as novelty.

              2. re: Mr Taster

                We don't really have Beijing Duck that rivals the best I've had in China (we used to, but it went away)-- so I wouldn't bother with it
                ===============

                I found Peking duck in Beijing pretty overrated (tried Da Dong and Made in China).

                The Peking duck at Elite and Duck House are pretty tasty. At least as good as the two places we tried in Beijing.

                1. re: Porthos

                  I'm going to look at Duck house, thanks :)

                  1. re: Pookipichu

                    If you go to Duck House they can do the prep 3 ways. You can make it duck 4 ways by ordering the tongue with jowls still attached. Delicious. I like it better than the duck itself. The boneless stuffed chicken is also very good.

                    For Taiwanese get thee to Sinbala in Arcadia or Simbala in Rowland Heights (never noticed the n vs m until recently). The stewed pork with bamboo and pork belly with preserved vegetables (mei gan rou) will be what your sweetest dreams are made of. The vermicelli with pumpkin is also delicious.

                    Regarding Elite, the live king crab 2 ways and roast suckling pig will set you back $500-800 but it's hard to find a tastier or higher end meal in town. The simmered soups at Sea Harbour is the only thing Sea Harbour does better than Elite IMO.

                    Go to Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village for their shenjianbao and their lions head soup. Then stop and go across the street to J&J for the crab and pork XLB for a win-win situation.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Duck tongue is *nom nom nom*. I miss being able to get puffed duck tongue and eat them like the way people eat popcorn here.

                    2. re: Pookipichu

                      Remember that "Duck House" and "Beijing Duck House" are two different restaurants. Both serve an approximation of northern style Beijing duck. If you've got Quanjude in the back of your mind when you eat SoCal Beijing duck, you'll be weeping again, but not for joy.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Pookipichu

                        I do highly recommend Tasty Duck. Either place, be sure to call ahead for reservations.

                      2. re: Porthos

                        We've split off a discussion about Peking duck in Beijing to the China board. You'll find it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9156... .

                      3. re: Mr Taster

                        Mr. Chow *gag gag gag*

                        I am open to any great Chinese food. I'm really just looking not to be disappointed. Anything, that would be better than what I can get in NY. I'm not even a huge Cantonese food person, more like Zhejiang banquet food or 听鹂馆 would be awesome.

                        I've done the night market and countless hole in the wall places in Taiwan, if it's good I'll eat it, but I'm hoping for better than good.

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Mr. Taster, maybe my reading comprehension isn't what it is cracked up to be, but who serves the Omar's big plate chicken?

                          1. re: jgilbert1000

                            That would be Omar's Xinjiang Halal Restaurant

                            http://www.laweekly.com/2010-12-02/ea...

                            They were closed for the month in August-- not sure if they've reopened. Check before you go.

                            Mr Taster

                        2. If you are headed to San Francisco, please read about JAI YUN. This may be what you are looking for. We had an incredible experience there.
                          "A Zagat User
                          reviewed 11 months ago
                          "This is a foodie-only restaurant as the stratospheric prices, limited decor, and non-English-fluent staff are not what most SF Chinatown diners expect. The prix-fixe meal, starting at $98 for dinner, had about 25 different dishes, all exquisitely arranged, tasty and complimentary to one another. The breadth of cuisine served was remarkable and completely different from any other Chinese cuisine that I've had."
                          If you want fancy Southern California with a gorgeous view, gorgeous service and great duck then consider WP24, These two restaurants could not be more different.

                          1. Places to consider, in no particular order:

                            Sea Harbour
                            Elite
                            Shanghai Seafood No. 1
                            Shanghailander

                            I pass no judgment on the quality of any of those places, just that they are some of the "high[er]-end" Chinese in LA.

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Do you have a favorite(s)? Since you're bi-coastal, your perspective is appreciated.

                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                Of the places I listed (esp. Sea Harbour and Elite for dim sum), you won't anything of the same quality in Manhattan or the Boroughs (e.g. Flushing or Brooklyn).

                                Dinner service at the places I've listed you can probably find comparable (stress "comparable") cooking and quality in Flushing, but I still think Sea Harbour and Elite are head and shoulders above anything you'll find in NYC (or the Boroughs).

                                Oddly, LA/SGV doesn't really do Peking Duck well. Partly it's probably due to AQMD regulations or whatever, and partly it's clientele. Who knows. You can get decent Peking Duck, but it's not something I think you should necessarily target if you're visiting on a Chinese food tour.

                                But if you're looking for "top notch" Chinese, I would look at those four I listed above (although I will say that Shanghailander is probably a notch below the other 3).

                                Sadly no Jai Yun (SF), or Hakkassan -- yet.

                                Hope that helps.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I've been to Sea Harbor and Elite, I'll check out Shanghailander, thank you for the recommendation.

                                  I'm really interested in seeing how the Chinese food scene in LA has changed. I'm hoping to find places that are a notch above what I could get in NYC.

                                  1. re: Pookipichu

                                    The strong suit of LA/SGV Chinese is not high-end.

                                    You will not be able to experience the full panoply of SGV Chinese excellence by simply focusing on "high-end".

                                    Just fyi.

                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                      You're really asking two separate questions.

                                      Picture a Venn diagram. The left bubble is "great Chinese food better than I can get in NYC". The right bubble is "Expensive, high quality ingredients, refined technique". Your target restaurants are the tiniest sliver in the middle.

                                      In my opinion, you're really better off ditching preconceived notions of expensive blowout meals and settle in for a plate of pork and fennel pies, or lamb with xo sauce and Islamic scallion sesame bread.

                                      Expensive Chinese meals are by far the exception, not the rule, and is by no means a requirement for an excellent, well prepared meal that you will not be able to get in Flushing (or any of NYC's various Chinatowns).

                                      Welcome to the San Gabriel Valley... LA's anti-FUB!

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Perhaps the way I wrote my post was muddled, I'm not looking exclusively for high end Chinese, that's just my focus (what I prefer most, since I get to eat it least).... but I'm open to any Chinese food that's great. Some of my favorite places to eat in NYC are not high end but serve great food. Especially when it comes to specialty foods like XLB or gua bao, etc., I don't expect to be eating gua bao or the best pork chop over rice in an Imperial banquet.

                                        Even when it comes to Imperial banquets and other high end banquets, I'm not an abalone and shark fin person. For example I had a mind-blowing 蘿蔔絲餅 in Suzhou, which was incredibly precise, skilled knife work, perfect cooking, presentation and the radish melted in your mouth with wonderful, fresh, lingering flavor. Just super high-level execution. One of my favorite restaurants in Taipei serves artisanal tofu, that is just out of this world with fresh prawns. They serve spoons of house made 桂花 vinegar that is incredibly delicious and elegant. None of the ingredients are particularly expensive, but the presentation and skill are all top notch in a refined setting.

                                        I'm particularly interested in XLB because I've noticed it's popularity in LA has lead to a proliferation of options. I prefer the Din Tai Fung in Taipei to the one in LA so I'd love if there's a place that's even better. Perhaps the J&J that Porthos recommended?

                                        Hopefully that clarifies.

                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                          Regarding the XLB at DTF: You're not gonna get better XLB from a Din Tai Fung than at the Taipei branch. The Arcadia DTF branch may leave you disappointed.

                                          L.A. ain't NYC. We excel at hole-in-the-walls when it comes to Chinese food. J&J is one of them. Cheap but good (and occasionally great). Just don't expect to find the "God of Cookery" (a la Stephen Chow) in L.A.

                                          Aside from my 2 yuan above, ipse pretty much eloquently summarizes how I feel on this matter.

                                          1. re: J.L.

                                            I agree. The original Taipei shop was excellent (but incredibly touristy). The chicken soup in particular was far superior to the Arcadia version, and was the best overall compared to Shanghai and Beijing branches too.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              What about the HK branch? My friends raved about the XLBs there stuffed with a meat filling and truffles.

                                              1. re: TripleAxel

                                                No better DTF than at Taipei. Period.

                                            2. re: Pookipichu

                                              Consider Shaanxi Gourmet, JTYH Restaurant, Beijing Pie House, 101 Noodle Express. All have specifically amazing dishes that you can read about on other threads. If you like spicy, Chengdu Taste.

                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                Sea Harbour
                                                Elite
                                                Newport Tan Cang Seafood
                                                Seafood Village
                                                Hunan Style
                                                Chengu Taste

                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                Good point Mr. Taster.

                                                And on that line, here's a great article by Jonathan Gold about hosting visiting high end Chinese chefs - and what they really wanted to taste - which was sweet and sour pork. Because it was such a benchmark - if a restaurant did THAT well, they would do anything well.

                                                Apparently Sea Harbor rocked it.

                                                http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                1. re: happybaker

                                                  I'm not sure that JGold article or approach is apt in this instance, unless of course the OP is a renowned, famous Chinese chef from HK.

                                                  Taking that tack would be like trying to figure out what museums to take Picasso or Van Gogh to visit while in LA. What might pique Picasso's interests may not be the same thing that might tickle the fancy of the curious, but interested, hoi polloi tourist.

                                                  1. re: happybaker

                                                    Interesting, article. Sea Harbour is my go to in LA so, yay I guess? I'd disagree slightly with the writer in that I don't think that sweet and sour pork is for non-Chinese though, plenty of Chinese people love sweet and sour pork.

                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                      You can't go wrong with Sea Harbour, but what about Seafood Village too ?

                                            3. re: Pookipichu

                                              You could make the argument that Ipse is tri-coastal, or more, depending on how you count your coasts. But then again, so are many of us on the LA board.

                                              Mr Taster

                                          2. High-End? WP24 on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton downtown on Olympic.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: gr8pimpin

                                              Be prepared to give a credit card UP FRONT before getting a drink:(

                                            2. I know this thread has gotten a little unwieldy but I'm still waiting to hear if anyone has eaten at WP24 and what their thoughts are?

                                              19 Replies
                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  Those are some incredibly mixed reviews. Talk about a polarizing restaurant.

                                                2. re: Pookipichu

                                                  I think you've gotten your answer many times over in this thread.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    Are you referring to my question re: WP24? Because if you are, I respectfully disagree. It was recommended but other than you, there was no indication of whether the recommend-er had or had not eaten there or what their personal thoughts were regarding it.

                                                    If you're referring to my original question in general then I agree that I've received a wealth of wonderful recommendations.

                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                      I've been there once for snacks/opening event, once for a proper meal, and once for dessert and drinks. As for the proper meal, I went pretty early on (May 2010) and did not enjoy it very much. We had a tasting menu that had some hits and some misses, but the thing I remember most was that I didn't enjoy the peking duck and one of my dining companions and I thought they had prepared it improperly (didn't separate the skin from the meat before cooking). Since then, some people on here have commented that they enjoyed the peking duck and I trust that they know what they're talking about, so I think that has been corrected. Anyway, some dishes were good, but I didn't think the value was there for me.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      ... which renders it moot as per the original request.

                                                      (and yes, I'm the guy who wrote one of the above PeterCC-hyperlinked ChowReviews of WP24 back in 2010)

                                                      1. re: J.L.

                                                        And, as usual, you were spot-on -- both in the review, and the photos.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Smiling as I scan the Chowboard & enjoy my McDonald's Filet-o-Fish this Friday eve (fried fish month, is it?)...

                                                          (No I'm not going to Shunji's afterwards... Probably.)

                                                        2. re: J.L.

                                                          Why is it that a French restaurant can use uni, fermented soy paste, shiso leaf, soy sauce or any number of Asian things and still be considered a French restaurant, but a "Chinese" restaurant must conform to a narrow definition? I haven't eaten at WP24 so I'm not going to argue for it being or not being Chinese, but I find it strange. It seems that Western cuisines can borrow liberally and still maintain their pristine cultural identity?

                                                            1. re: Pookipichu

                                                              ... but a "Chinese" restaurant must conform to a narrow definition?
                                                              ________________

                                                              What narrow definition?

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                I'm not looking to get into another protracted food argument about what makes a restaurant "Chinese". As I mentioned, it seems that French or Italian restaurants never have anyone arguing they are not French or Italian even if they include ingredients and/or cooking techniques that are not indigenous to their regions, but if a Chinese restaurant does that, it's automatically not Chinese as if the Chinese identity is somehow narrow or ephemeral.

                                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                  it seems that French or Italian restaurants never have anyone arguing they are not French or Italian even if they include ingredients and/or cooking techniques that are not indigenous to their regions
                                                                  ________________

                                                                  Do you have an example in mind?

                                                                  In LA, I might say a restaurant like Alma is not French per se, but would be more appropriate described as "French-inspired" or "Contemporary French".

                                                                  Same with a place like Red O (for Mexican) or chi Spacca (for Italian). Those places are Mexican and Italian in the same vein that a Joss or Mr. Chow would be Chinese -- they're not, exactly.

                                                                  In other words, if you came and asked for "great [Mexican] food in general" (your words), it would be inapt to say, "Get thee quickly to Red O."

                                                                  Does it make those places bad? Not necessarily. But they're just not the restaurants you are asking for.

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                    Daniel, Bouley, Marea to name a few.

                                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                      I wouldn't call Marea Italian. It's as much a seafood place as it is a Italian restaurant.

                                                                      And for me at least Daniel is the epitome of classical high end French.

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Yelp calls WP an "Asian Fusion, Salad, Dim Sum" restaurant. So I guess it's not Chinese. Maybe we can just call these sorts of places "Chimeras" and leave it at that?

                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                          Salad?! More reasons to distrust yelp...

                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                            Chimeras, Servorg? Wow, I like that analysis.
                                                                            I give you top score on this thread.

                                                        3. Def go to Newport Seafood. I mean, it looks like its a converted Marie Callender's, but its awesome. Just stick with the cheaper crab. We got a single crab that cost $500 and it def wasn't worth it. Lol. They told us they made a mistake on the bill, ... They came back and said they forgot to charge us for white rice. Hahah. That being said, awesome food. Lotta Viet dishes too like sour fish soup.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: tenxtone76

                                                            Newport is actualy Chiu Chow cuisine that is found in the region from S. China into Vietnam, that's why there are Vietnamese dishes on the menu.

                                                            1. re: TripleAxel

                                                              Nowadays, I prefer Seafood Village for my chiu chow eats.

                                                              1. re: TripleAxel

                                                                I've never understood how Chiu Chow cuisine is considered (at least on the Chowhound boards) a hybrid of Guangdong/SE Asian flavors when in fact it's so much closer geographically to Fujian province, which admittedly uses fish sauce and shrimp paste in its cooking. Wouldn't it be more accurate to describe Chiu Chow cuisine as a Guangdong/Fujian hybrid?

                                                                I'm expert in neither Fujian nor Cantonese cuisine (though I am going to Taiwan next month and hope to have some Fujian/Hakka dishes while there), so I'm sincerely asking the question, not trying to make a point. (Although I do think that after two callouts in one thread, TripleAxel deserves his "Official Chowhound Chiu Chow Police" badge.)

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                  A large number of Chiu Chow people migrated to Vietnam and other parts of SE Asia. Many of the Chiu Chow in the US are from Vietnam.

                                                                  1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                    Hopefully this question will not start WWIII, but what are the signs of Chiu Chow cuisine briefly ?

                                                                    my apologies.

                                                                    1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                      So, is it fair to say that the Chiu Chow food we're eating at Tan Cang represents a modified, expatriate version of Chiu Chow cuisine, and not what you would find if you actually visited Chaozhou?

                                                                      I mean, there's 600 miles, as the crow flies, between Chaozhou and the VN border. That's a whole lot of Cantonese food to navigate through before you start tasting the flavors of SE Asia. I haven't eaten my way across that part of the world (yet)... when I was in China last, we came by train from Yunnan. So I'm not sure how the cooking style transitions from Chiu Chow to Cantonese to Vietnamese cooking (or if and where the cooking ever transitions to what we in SoCal think of as Chiu Chow cuisine).

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        Many of the Chaozhou restaurants one finds in the US are from Chaozhou people who fled the mainlaind to parts of SE Asia (e.g. Indo, Thai, Vietnam, Singapore, etc.).

                                                                        So, it is not surprising that the Chaozhou food/restaurants one finds in the US will have a heavy influence of SE Asian flavors and cuisines. A person lives in a foreign land long enough, and their cooking will inevitably take on the local hue and verve.