In all my time living in LA I had one major failure. Well maybe more than one failure, but one of them is not making a trip to Daikokuya. Fortunately, that ramen spot set up an outpost over in Little Little Tokyo. It has a crazy wait, but when you step inside it feels like you’ve really stepped onto a street in Japan (as evidenced by that picture to the left inside the place).
On name alone, Everyday Noodles in Squirrel Hill might draw comparisons to Noodlehead. But, where Noodlehead is Thai, Everyday Noodles is pure Chinese. And I mean pure in the sense that this isn’t some Chinese restaurant catering to the desires of Americans. This is for real. With a near-constant noise of noodles being prepared by hand behind a viewing window that is sometimes displaced by the intricate construction of dumplings, Everyday Noodles is the place to be.
Chinatowns are an interesting phenomenon. And not so much in the fact that a group of people from a country showed up to a new country and settled in one area, but in the way that they no longer really seem to be representative of China. Case in point: while in Vancouver, I knew there was good Chinese to be found, and rather than point me to Chinatown, my hotel pointed me to Richmond, which he called real Chinatown. By real, he meant that the Chinatown on the map was simply no longer authentic, if it ever was. By recommendation, we went to a place called Rainflower to devour dim sum before undertaking the long drive to Jasper.
Anyone who lives in LA knows that Chinatown isn’t really Chinatown. Sure, there are many Chinese people to be found there, but the most authentic Chinese experience is further east in the San Gabriel Valley. Yet, the Torrance and Gardena area is often overlooked when it comes to Asian food, despite the fact that it sports the Toyota and Honda headquarters. And I don’t just mean Japanese food, it also has its fair share of Chinese. One of these is Sea Empress (you must check out their amazing website from 1966), which is all about dim sum.
Guys, I’ll admit it. I’m a Chinese food snob. But I like to think you would be if you once lived there too. For that reason I’m glad I live in LA, but sad that I live on the west side, about half a light-year from the real Chinese food in San Gabriel. That all changed, however, when ROC Kitchen opened up in the area I like to call Little Little Tokyo, but is fast becoming Little Asia with an influx of other Asian food like ROC Kitchen.
Once upon a time, some great people brought me to a place called Din Tai Fung. Although I was living in Shanghai at the time, I had no idea what to expect on this first visit to Xintiandi and my first introduction to Xiaolongbao (way before it was cool). Luckily, they taught me how to bite in without scalding the insides of my mouth, and I quickly fell in love. More than six years later, I finally made in back to Din Tai Fung, but this time it was in Arcadia, California. Despite the obvious distance between Arcadia and Shanghai, much of Arcadia looks like it was pulled directly out of China. The Din Tai Fung, though, looked little like its counterpart across the Pacific.
For my first outing to LA Live, my lady and I headed to WP24, a restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton created by that famous chef with a name like a prodigious hockey item, Wolfgang Puck. We were out celebrating, but didn’t call ahead to make plans. This meant we couldn’t get a table, because apparently WP24 has no room for walk-ins, but it also meant we weren’t locked into an $80 or $110 fixed price dinner. Instead, we were offered the lounge, which served sushi and appetizers.
On our last night in China (tears), we had a tough time finding a restaurant open by the time we finished climbing the Great Wall and shopping at the Silk Market. Although McDonald’s was open 24 hours, we really didn’t want our final meal to be a burger. Finally we found a place just across the street from Quanjude off of Wangfujing Street to get some baozi (steamed bread dumplings). It was called Tianjin Go Believe Steamed Stuffed Bun. Now that was a mouthful, and we hoped their dumplings would be as well.
Just across from Yang’s new location in the new mall on Wujiang Street is another place that serves up xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). It’s called Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant and cooks them up in the original steamed way. Nan Xiang is actually the part of Shanghai where xiaolongbao originated and you can still find the original in its location near the Yu Garden, but the line is always crazy-long, so when I saw the Nan Xiang restaurant right next to Yang’s, I figured I would give them a taste.
Once upon a time, there was a street called Wujiang in Shanghai just outside the Nanjing West Subway Station. At all hours of the day, the street was lined with food vendors and inside the old buildings were delicious, old-school Chinese restaurants. On that street was a hole in the wall called Yang’s Fried-Dumpling, which served a delicious xiaolongbao (pronounced shiao-long-bow) with the special twist that it was fried (as opposed to the traditional steaming method). Xiaolongbao is one of Shanghai’s signature dishes, a dumpling stuffed with pork that creates a soup inside when cooked. The dumpling is sealed air-tight so the soup stays inside until it is eaten. Even though Yang’s went against tradition by frying their dumplings, there was always a line outside their door.