Los Angeles Area rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the LA Chowhound community.

Hounds’ Showdown Over Favorite Soup Dumplings

J&J keeps a pretty low profile, but it’s been getting a ton of good PR on the boards lately. The ambience may be nothing to shout about, but when it comes to xiaolongbao (a.k.a. soup dumplings), it’s a favorite of hounds in the know.

AquaW loves it for xlb and more. Pork and crab dumplings are spiked with carrot, ginger and other veggies–a one-way trip to yum. They’re also bigger and slightly cheaper than Din Tai Fung’s (although J&J gives 8 xlb per order, and DTF gives 10). Pork xlb are tops, and veggie dumplings and potstickers (order early, they’re made to order) are also worthwhile. Scallion pancakes, golden and flaky, are fried to perfection. Nian gao, glutinous rice cake, is a tasty stir-fry, stir-fried chow mein-style, with some greens, onion and slivers of meat.

ipsedixit really likes the egg drop corn chowder–the cornstarch to egg ratio is just right. Chicken soup is also good, adds sidwich–clear and flavorful, but not salty.

Other recommended dishes: smoked fish, sauteed eels, fried pork chop on veggie rice, Shanghai noodle dishes, hot and soup soup, and winter melon soup.

Decor is…well, there is no decor. Tea comes in a generic metal pot with Styrofoam cups for your drinking pleasure. The rating is a B. But J&J has been serving up homestyle Shanghainese fare for well over a decade, and with good reason.

In the same minimall is another xlb favorite, Mei Long Village. Like J&J, Mei Long’s dumplings have wrappers that are a bit more rustic than Din Tai Fung’s–thicker and more flavorful.

Jerome’s favorite xlb spot is the underappreciated (or at least undermentioned) Giang Nan. Dumpling choices are limited to pork and crab-pork, but those are the two flavors recommended at most places anyhow. yclops is also a fan, offering a backhanded rec for the oily, molten-lava spring rolls.

ipsedixit puts Ho Ho Kitchen at #2.

Dragon Mark, in the same plaza as Mei Long Village and J&J, is considered a pretty good spot for xlb, but on the greasy side.

And then there’s Din Tai Fung. Those who love it cite the thin, delicate xlb wrappers and side dishes like the mysteriously named “appetizer.” Those who hate it consider the xlb devoid of soul. As ipsedixit says: “I don’t like my xlb to look and taste like they fell off a conveyor belt.”


J&J Restaurant (a.k.a. Jin Jiang) [San Gabriel Valley]
301 West Valley Blvd. #109, San Gabriel
626-308-9238
Locater

Mei Long Village [San Gabriel Valley]
301 West Valley Blvd. #112, San Gabriel
626-308-9238
Locater

Giang Nan / De Yue Lou
306 N. Garfield Ave. # 12, Monterey Park
626-573-3421
Map

Ho Ho Kitchen [East LA-ish]
10053 Valley Blvd., El Monte
626-442-6689
Locater

Dragon Mark [San Gabriel Valley]
301 W. Valley Blvd. #110, San Gabriel
626-282-5953
Locater

Din Tai Fung [Pasadena-ish]
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia

626-574-7068
Locater

Board Links

A J&J comfort food feast.
Bring on your top 3 xlb spots

Chichen Itza Opens in MacArthur Park

Chichen Itza, whose Mercado Paloma stall is a hound favorite, has finally opened its long-anticipated restaurant, reports 9thandBroadway, and the panucho and cochinita pibil are fabulous. It’s Yucatan-style Mexican food, in the ground floor of the Asbury apartment building.


Chichen Itza
2501 W. 6th St., Los Angeles
213-380-0051
Map

Mercado La Paloma
3655 S. Grand Ave. #C6, Los Angeles

213-741-1075
Locater

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Chichen Itza restaurant arrives

Habanero Salsa in the ‘Hood

Dommy passed a hot spot for outdoor al pastor pits, on Central north of Jefferson. On her return, though, she couldn’t find them and instead stumbled upon a taco table on MLK Boulevard that a guy had set up in front of his house.

There’s a grill, and a braising “hubcap” where the juices collect and infuse the meat and braised onions. Chorizos are obviously homemade, and are perfect in a mulita–you get two tortillas to soak up all the juice, and cheese to heighten the flavors. Lengua, in a taco, is melty and flavorful. Salsas include habanero salsa (unusual for an outdoor, non-Yucatecan operation).

It’s definitely a neighborhood operation, with most of the customers being neighbors–even the non-Latino kids are hooked on cabeza (although Dommy says her portion was a little gristly).


Taco table
Martin Luther King Boulevard, west of Central
Locater of intersection

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South L.A. taco table

The Faux-Hostess With the Mostest

Cupcakes from Dainties knocked FoodieMcFood for a loop. Dark chocolate with ganache frosting and a shot of whipped cream inside and on top make them like the Hostess cakes of childhood, but so, so much better.

There are five options for the whipped cream flavor–vanilla bean, raspberry, chocolate, caramel, and coffee–but the cupcakes are all chocolate with ganache frosting. Chocophobes need not apply.

Although it’s more of a catering operation, the owner welcomes drop-ins. Don’t expect a cafe atmosphere, though.

cvc says there’s another good new cupcake place in Pasadena, Dots.


Dainties Cupcakes [Beaches]
11058 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-312-3632
Map

Dots Cupcakes [Pasadena-ish]
400 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
626-568-DOTS (3687)
Map

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Ultra-chocolatey cupcakes.

Jewish Penicillin – It’s for All of Us

It’s cold season, just the right time for a hot bowl of deli soup.

Kreplach soup at Solley’s in Sherman Oaks has excellent dumplings of good thick dough filled with well-spiced beef, says bglicklich. The broth is also rich and tasty, with lots of noodles, chicken, and carrots. It costs $9…but such are the times we live in.

Matzo ball soup from Fromin’s is NAspy’s answer to the common cold. You can also get “chicken in a pot,” a soup that includes a matzo ball, a kreplach, half a chicken, and lots of noodles and carrots, plus half a loaf of rye on the side.

Canter’s also has chicken in the pot, and Hackenbush thinks it’s amazing–with a boiled potato and sometimes some kasha in the mix. The basic chicken soup here is a purist’s version: just broth and noodles or rice, no chicken or carrots.

Label’s Table, a real-deal deli, serves an excellent matzo ball soup with no chicken, says roastingjoe. Nate ‘n’ Al’s version, also very good, is similarly light on meat.

For those who like their matzo ball soup “loaded” with chicken, vegetables, and herbs, davinagr’s fave is Weilers. The one in Woodland Hills makes the other locations pale by comparison, she says.


Solley’s Restaurant & Deli [East San Fernando Valley]
4578 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks
818-905-5774
Locater

Solley’s Restaurant & Deli [West San Fernando Valley]
16650 Ventura Blvd., Encino
818-905-5774
Locater

Fromin’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1832 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-829-5443
Locater

Fromin’s Restaurant [West San Fernando Valley]
17615 Ventura Blvd., Encino
818-990-6346
Locater

Canter’s Fairfax Restaurant [Fairfax Village]
419 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
323-651-2030
Locater

Label’s Table Delicatessen [West San Fernando Valley]
23311 Mulholland Dr., Woodland Hills
818-222-1044
Locater

Weilers Deli [West San Fernando Valley]
21161 Victory Blvd., Canoga Park
818-884-6611
Locater

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Matzo balls and kreplach

Go for the Pastries, Stay for Lunch

Rubio’s Bakery may look like an unassuming panaderia, but this Guatemalan place has a ton of tasty-looking hot dishes too: chicken stew, pupusas, tamales studded with slivered vegetables, stewed beef and fried chicken, says can’t talk … eating.

There’s a nice array of fresh-looking pastries. Oreja is crispy and light, but the coffee one morning was stale.


Rubios Bakery [Midtown]
4972 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
323-938-4069
Locater

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Guatemalan bakery and restaurant

Magic Wok’s Miraculous Return

Filipino restaurant Magic Wok has reopened after a strip-mall fire, just in time for the new year, and it’s as good as ever, says elmomonster.

Pinakbet, “a stir-fry that eats like a stew,” is chock-full of all kinds of veggies: yellow squash, bitter melon, eggplant, okra, and string beans, all pulled together with the flavor punch of fermented shrimp paste.

Bistek tagalog, or thin-sliced marinated steak glazed with a garlic-soy-vinegar blend, is pleasantly chewy and a little dry, halfway between jerky and fajitas.

Pancit sotanghon is fast food, Filipino mom-style: stretchy glass noodles stir-fried with green beans, pork, and tofu.

Note that the decor hasn’t changed either: the same red pleather seats, cramped booths, and complete absence of music.


Magic Wok [Artesia-ish]
11869 Artesia Blvd., Artesia
562-865-7340
Map

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A Filipino favorite

Neighborhood Mexican Place Perks Up

Someone new is in the kitchen at La Parrilla on Sunset, and they really know how to cook, says AndrewS.

Rib eye, thinly sliced and slathered in some kind of adobo, is delicious. Guacamole, always excellent, is up to the mark. Chicken quesadilla holds juicy (clearly marinated) chicken that’s cooked perfectly, with a little crust. Queso fundido con chorizo now comes with rustic, full-flavored corn tortillas that are a big step up from the ones served previously.

Breakfast has been outstanding lately as well, adds Paliman.

And as always, it’s nice to have a (pretty good) sit-down Mexican joint that has a full bar.


La Parrilla Restaurant [Silverlake]
3129 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
323-661-8055
Map

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Parrilla sizzles again

The Best Chicken Pho

The best pho ga, period, is at Pho Nguyen Hoang, says hjb. Not only do they have great chicken soup, they also have an extensive vegetarian menu, and (sometimes, at least) vegetarian pho.

Vietnam Kitchen’s pho pleases Eastern and Western palates, says czaplin. Pho ga comes with chicken breast meat and steamed chicken balls.


Pho Nguyen Hoang [San Gabriel Valley]
401 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel
626-281-0017
Map

Vietnam Kitchen [Artesia-ish]
1429 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
626-294-9605
Locater

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Where to find pho ga

Taiwanese Deli 2.0

When it comes to Taiwanese street food, Won Won Kitchen is where it’s at, says ipsedixit. After selling the formerly formidable QQ Kitchen last year, its ex-owner opened Won Won in the adjacent strip mall, with pretty much the same menu: oyster and egg, pork chop rice, rice stick noodles, and “Taiwanese tamales” (sticky rice dumplings in bamboo leaves–zhongzi). It’s all just as good as in the old QQ days. (The original QQ has gone downhill under the new ownership.) Unfortunately, QQ’s delicious black pepper chicken rice and stinky tofu aren’t on the menu, but you can still get them if you ask nicely.

Although Won Won has the edge with simple soup noodle dishes and rice plates, Ay-Chung is a good place for Taiwanese eats too. The menu is bigger than WW’s, but as condiment points out, it’s essentially a one-dish restaurant: if you haven’t had the thin noodles in gravy with bits of beef intestine, you haven’t eaten at Ay-Chung.

My Way Deli is also a good Taiwanese spot, adds ipsedixit.


Won Won Kitchen [San Gabriel Valley]
9461 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City
626-287-5500
Map

Ay-Chung Rice Noodle [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W. Valley Blvd., #208, San Gabriel
626-280-0186
Map

Ay-Chung Rice Noodle [Inland of LA]
1015 Nogales St., Rowland Heights
626-839-5667
Locater

My Way Deli [San Gabriel Valley]
735 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park
626-284-6638
Locater

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Taiwanese street food