Dinner at Sichuan Impression 锦城里 in Westwood/West Los Angeles

Dinner at Sichuan Impression 锦城里 in Westwood/West Los Angeles

If you’re a Chinese foodie, then you’ve been waiting for Sichuan Impression to open in the Westside since it was announced that they acquired the location that used house Jin Jiang, a Chinese American style restaurant (similar to those like Yang Chow in Chinatown) that was in business for over 25 years before shuttering this summer.

Sichuan Impression originally wanted to open last Sunday, but they didn’t quite finish setting up the place, so Tuesday became their opening day.  They opened with little fanfare, and by Thursday, they have been written up by EaterLA.  Since yesterday’s lunch service, long queues began for form as many locals, particularly ex-pats who work or study at UCLA come down for a bite one of Southern California’s most popular Sichuanese restaurants.

And they didn’t disappoint.  They brought in a chef from Chengdu to work with the other chefs and kitchen staff to create new dishes for this location, as well as ensuring that the kitchen churn out dish after dish of deliciousness.

The dishes, for the most part, are just as good as those at the Alhambra location.  One major difference here is obviously the prices, as they are slightly higher, compensating for the higher rents on the Westside.

Of all the dishes we ordered tonight, only the Impressive Sausages, Impressive Cold Noodles and the Wontons in Spicy Chile Oil didn’t impress me at all.  Flavorwise, they were rather ordinary, and the texture of the cold noodles (versus room temperature noodles) were unpleasant.

Delicious were the Bean Jelly, Steamed Chicken in Chile Sauce, Kung Pao Chicken, Stir Fried Lamb with Cumin, Mapo Tofu and Fish Filet with Rattan Pepper all sang with a depth of flavor with the expected spiciness from the chiles and numbing effect from the Sichuan peppercorns.

For their first week, they’re doing well with service and, especially, the preparation of the dishes.  Once the servers get into their groove, then things will be running like a well oiled machine.  The host station still needs more time to be able to answer questions by customers waiting for 20 or 30 or 45 minutes for a table and better keep order around the host station.

No reservations taken.  Just put your name, contact number and the number of people in your party and wait…but make sure everyone in your party is present when called as they may refuse to seat you not everyone’s present.

Now, if they could have spent some money renovating the restrooms.  The main dining room looks new, but the restrooms remind me of Chinese restaurants from back in the 1980s.

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Modern Burmese at Daw Yee Myanmar Corner in Silver Lake

Modern Burmese at Daw Yee Myanmar Corner in Silver Lake

It was disappointing to learn that Daw Yee Myanmar Cafe in Monterey Park had shuttered due to the inability to negotiate a new lease.  However, there’s still Daw Yee Myanmar Corner to nosh at when one has a craving for refined Burmese dishes.  The food here is modernized to adapt to the local clientele in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles.  As such, some of the recipes used at the Cafe have been modified in order for Corner to offer up vegan and/or gluten free options.

The food here is still good, but some dishes will lack some of the pronounced flavors to the dishes due to the modifications and to accommodate special dietary needs.

Favorites of mine still include the Kima Platha, Mohinga, Tea Leaf Salad, and the desserts.  The dessert may not seem like much, but they sure hit the spot for me, with the best being the Tapioca Cake, made with tapioca flour and coconut.  Light sweet and fragrant from the taste of coconut the every bite.  The Semolina wheat cake and the cassava cake were hot out of the oven, dense, yet moist and also lightly sweetened.  A cup of coffee would go nice with the Semolina wheat cake.  The cassava cake had this sweet custardy taste to it.

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Walking into Spicy City last Sunday night, we were caught off guard by the new furnishings and new tableware/settings.  The servers had to reassure us that that was all that changed with the restaurant.  They still have the same chefs and still churn out delicious Sichuanese food that we’ve grown to love over the last 4 years.

Even their menus are new, although I preferred the old menus as they had photos of all the menu items, making it easier to identify what you want to order and what else looks tempting to try.

Food is almost as good as the last time we ate here.  There were a couple of noticeable changes.  The Rattan Pepper Fish didn’t seem to have the depth of flavors as before.  There was definitely Ma (numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns), but not enough La (spiciness from the chiles).  The Lamb Chops were tasty, but they’re really serving you lamb ribs as opposed to lamb chops, where you’d expect a nice portion of meat attached to the bone (which was what we had the last time we were here several months ago).

Other than that, we enjoyed the food and appreciated them fulfilling a couple of requests, such as preparing the Fried Shrimp with Red Chilis with shelled shrimps rather than with the whole shrimp (shell and head attached).

And while we didn’t take advantage of ordering desserts, we were served complimentary plates watermelon and assorted moon cakes (as this the time of the Chinese Autumn Festival).

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

UPDATED: Dim Sum at Capital Seafood 金都 in Beverly Hills

UPDATED: Dim Sum at Capital Seafood 金都 in Beverly Hills

UPDATED: Please advance to the end of the post.

Ever since the loss of Royal Star in Santa Monica around the turn of the century, and the change of ownership of VIP Harbor Seafood Restaurant in Brentwood that became The Palace, the westside of Los Angeles became deficient of a Chinese restaurant that can serve up an excellent and complete dim sum menu.  The opening of Capital Seafood in Beverly Hills (taking over the space that was previously occupied by Newport Seafood Restaurant) has changed that, bringing solid quality dim sum that is better than The Palace, but cheaper than Bao Dim Sum in the Fairfax District and Shanghai Rose in Studio City.  Interestingly, this Capital Seafood is affiliated with the location in Arcadia but not the ones in Irvine.

While most of the items were solid and were prepared well (the rice noodle wrap dishes featured rice noodle sheets that were thin and soft, but not overcooked and gummy).

The Salt Pepper Soft Shell Crab was wok tossed not only in salt and white pepper but also ample amount of minced garlic, chopped chiles, and scallions.  The flavor was bold with a nice peppery and spicy kick to it.

However, there were a few dishes with issues, particularly the Minced Beef Balls.  They were made with too much filler (usually corn starch) in it that made it relatively flavorless and very pasty in texture.

The Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice were rather small in size, and there wasn’t much filling inside the rice.

For me, the Seafood Crispy Noodles was executed well, but the dish’s quality was diminished by the use of imitation crab meat.  Rather than imitation crab meat, perhaps the usage of a few bay scallops would provide the variety of ample seafood, without increasing the costs of the dish.

And for a more upscale style of dim sum place, their service was wonderful and attentive.

Pricing for their dim sum are broken down into 4 tiers:  “A” level dim sum is $4.95 per order, “B” level is $5.95, “C” level is $6.95, and “K” level is $7.95.  “K” dim sum are usually the vegetable dishes, as well as specialty dim sum dishes such as Salt Pepper Calamari or Salt Pepper Chicken Knuckles.  The pricing is actually very reasonable for the area and for the quality of the dim sum you are getting.

UPDATED:  Since posting a review on Yelp mentioning the strange consistency and taste of the Beef Meatballs; the deficient amount of filling the Lotus Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice; and the use of imitation crab meat in the Seafood Chow Mein with crispy noodles, their PR person sent me message indicating that they had taken my critique wholeheartedly and have asked their chefs to rework on the recipe for the Beef Balls; swapped the imitation crab meat out of the Seafood Chow Mein with crispy noodles with snow crab meat (though very little, while keeping the price the same); and making sure the ratio of meat filling to the Lotus Leaf Wraps are consistent.

The Lotus Leaf Wraps made with sticky rice are more enjoyable as you do bite into seasoned ground pork now.  Before, you could hardly taste anything aside from the sticky rice.

The Beef Balls have a much better consistency to them now.  They are no longer pasty in taste and in texture.  But the flavor isn’t quite there yet, so perhaps you may want to have them douse some Worcestershire sauce over them (influence by the British in Hong Kong pre-1997).

However, now, I find issues with their salt-pepper dishes (the protein is given a much too thick of a coating, making the outside thick and too crunchy), and the bean curd skin rolls (the sauce has too much corn starch in it, so when the dish is served, you can see the gelatinous nature of the sauce).

But their roast duck was delicious.  Skin was roasted to a nice crispiness.  And for $18.95, that was quite a sizable half-duck.

 

 

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

Updated: Added photos of the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Imitation Shark’s Fin with Egg Whites, Crispy Bean Curd with Bamboo Pith and Shrimp Roe Sauce, and Oyster Omelette.

If you’re able to order off their Chinese only menu, then you open yourself up to a culinary adventure you don’t find in many Hong Kong style Cantonese restaurants.  Some of these dishes require extra time to prepare, and therefor need to be ordered in advanced.

The best of these dishes is the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Shrimp Paste.  The skin was crispy, and the shrimp paste was flavorful, making every bite delicious.  With a larger party, we had 1 1/2 orders of the chicken on the plate, and that amount made for an impressive presentation

There is another Crispy Boneless Chicken that’s stuffed with sticky rice instead.  While the presentation was nice, it wasn’t as enjoyable to eat.  The sticky rice didn’t add much flavor to the the chicken.

Both of these chicken dishes, as well as the Stuffed Chicken Wings and the Tilapia Rolls, need to be ordered 24 hours in advance as these dishes are more labor intensive.  Each of these dishes is around $40-$50.

Tilapia Rolls were unique to me, as you bite into pickled red ginger along with thousand year old egg.  The sulfuric flavor of the egg could be somewhat offputting to some, especially when combined with the tart and spiciness of the ginger.

Aside from preparing these elaborate dishes well, they’re good at the simpler dishes as well such as the Scrambled Egg with Shrimp.  The scrambled egg is well seasoned and is cooked to the point where the eggs remain wet, which prevents it from overcooking and drying out when it sits on the plate for a few minutes.

The pricing is on the higher side when compared to other restaurants such as Sam Woo and Sham Tseng.

Dim Sum Dinner at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine 金凱旋宮 in Alhambra, CA

Dim Sum Dinner at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine 金凱旋宮 in Alhambra

These days, if you can’t make it for a dim sum brunch early weekend hours, then having dim sum for dinner is becoming a more and more of an option here in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Lunasia’s current dim sum menu offers the traditional items as well as some fancier dim sum dishes such as the Scallop Dumplings with Squid Ink Wrap, Baked Abalone Tarts, and the Pan Fried Pork Bun with added Crab Meat.  While we loved the Scallop Dumplings and the Pan Fried Pork & Crab baos, we didn’t feel the same with the Baked Abalone Tart, as the abalone was quite hard.

Dim sum, for the most part, is priced the same for both lunch and dinner hours, and the execution of many of the items we ordered were quite good.  The only dishes that didn’t work for us were the rice noodle rolls.  Both types we ordered were overcooked.

Another plus about having dim sum at this location at night?  Less crowds, ample parking, and there’s no feeling rushed to finish your meal so that they can flip the table quickly for the next party.

Chef Laurent Quenioux’s LQ Fooding “Fall Series @ MaMaison 2018” in Topanga, CA

Chef Laurent Quenioux’s LQ Fooding “Fall Series @ MaMaison 2018” in Topanga, CA

The owners of this lovely property in the mountains just north of the Topanga Village opened their amazing property to Chef Quenioux and his LQ Foodings team to host a multi-course dinner this weekend.  It was a beautiful night, with lovely views, and the weather was perfect for an outdoor dinner.

And what a dinner it was, considered a bargain by many of the diners, as you get 7 courses plus a glass of apertif: Dijon Cassis Kir, for only $80 plus tax, gratuity and a processing fee for purchasing your tickets online.

Cold/room temperature appetizers were the perfect dishes to serve on this night to start the dinner with, leading up to three delicious main course including the seafood course, garnished with a delicious bouillabase broth, to beef short ribs served with cordyceps mushrooms.

It was a wonderful progression of dishes, and this is certainly one of the better pop-up dinners around these days in the LA area.  It’s the type of dining I enjoy:  gradual progression of dishes, relaxed atmosphere, not excessively loud, and no loud music blaring away.  Instead, contemporary jazz was played in the background, at a volume that did not make it difficult for one to carry a conversation with dinner mates nearby.

Website:  http://bistrolq.com/lq-foodings

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.