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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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.

 

 

Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant 黃金閣海鮮酒樓 in Monterey Park, CA

Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant 黃金閣海鮮酒樓 in Monterey Park, CA

One of the more popular places in the San Gabriel Valley for dim sum because of its pricing (it is one of the less expensive places for dim sum these days).  Most of the dim sum items are priced at $3.18 per item (specialty items such as Roast Pork Belly and Roast Duck cost $6.32 each), and these prices are good for weekends and holidays.  However, if you are able to have dim sum during the weekdays, then pricing is substantially lower at $2.78 per item, or $5.56 for the specialty items.

Dim sum is served in carts that weave through rows of tables throughout the restaurant.  If you come during the peak dim sum brunch hours of 11:00am and 1:00pm, then you will be able to order any dim sum listed on their dim sum menu.  During the rest of the time, the less traditional dim sum items such as the Deep Fried Green Tea Balls with Pumpkin and Pan Fried Fish Cake with Corn are not offered.

Two of the dishes that are a stand out for me are their Pan Fried Stuffed Bell Peppers made with shrimp pasted and a black bean sauce, and the Pan Fried Turnip Cake.  Both are delicious, and the Pan Fried Stuffed Bell Peppers are a rarity these days as not all dim sum palaces serve this dish anymore, and for some who do, they would use jalapeno peppers instead.  Jalapenos give the dish a slightly different flavor profile, and the spiciness of the jalapenos overpower the delicate flavor of the shrimp past.

Service here is attentive and responsive, and the quality of most dim sum is quite good.  Sometimes you may get items such as the Har Gow and the Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls overcooked, and the rice flour wrap becomes gummy and soggy.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photo.

Sichuan Dinner at GuYi 古亦廚房 in the Brentwood Neighborhood of West Los Angeles

Sichuan Dinner at GuYi 古亦廚房 in the Brentwood Neighborhood of West Los Angeles

The Westside of Los Angeles is becoming a haven for only excellent Chinese restaurants, but specifically, Sichuan food.  A couple of years ago, China’s Meizhou Dongpo opened up their first US location in Century City.  Then GuYi opened up earlier this year, followed by West LA’s Hop Woo adding management and chefs with experience preparing excellent, non-Americanized, Sichuan dishes.  In the near future Sichuan Impression will take over the space where long time Chinese American restaurant Jin Jiang used to reside, in West LA as well.

Though I wasn’t much of a fan of the food at Meizhou Dongpo, it was quite the opposite with GuYi and Hop Woo (both whom have created dishes that are spicy and are packed with indepth flavor).

What a even more surprising about GuYi was that their Sichuan cookery has improved since my first visit back in May.  The dishes were well prepared and seasoned well, offering a good amount of spiciness and mouth-numbingness without the dishes being extremely salty as many other Sichuan restaurants seem to do.

Highlights of our Labor Day dinner at GuYi were the Fish with Green Chiles and the Steamed Chicken in Chili Sauce.  The flavors were outstanding; the spice level, good; and an adequate amount of mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorns used in the dishes.

Because GuYi is located on the west end  of the 3rd Floor of Brentwood Gardens shopping mall, their prices have to be on the higher side in order to compensate for the higher rents they have.  In addition, some of the portions were on the trimmer side. However, the deliciousness of the food made it easy for us to overlook that.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge the photo with captions.

 

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant 海港大酒樓 in Rosemead, CA

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant 海港大酒樓 in Rosemead, CA

Sea Harbour was always considered as one of the best places to go for dim sum in the Greater Los Angeles area since it opened.  However, I did not like the dim sum I had during my last visit in December 2016.

Today, a long time friend wanted good dim sum, and I decided to Sea Harbour another chance, and this visit changed my mind again about them.  The dim sum was well prepared and tasted delicious.  A far cry from my last visit.

Only issues I was with the specialty dim sum dishes they offered (Shrimp Dumpling with Gold Leaf, and Steamed Salted Egg Yolk Bun with Gold Foil).  Though they tasted good, one may not be able to held and wonder if that’s enough to justify spending the extra money on dim sum.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

 

Taiwanese Cold Dishes & Noodles at Cindy’s Kitchen 金葫蘆煄醬滷味 in Hacienda Heights, CA

Taiwanese Cold Dishes & Noodles at Cindy’s Kitchen 金葫蘆煄醬滷味 in Hacienda Heights, CA

This is the place to go for a great variety of cold appetizers you can choose from, and the appetizers run from $5.00 to $12.00 per order.  With most being under $8, it was easy to order a huge variety of dishes to share.  Aside from the tasty cold appetizers, Cindy’s Kitchen serves up some decent pan fried noodles and noodle soups as well.

Some of the better cold appetizers we noshed on included their Smoked Duck, Spiced Chicken, and Spicy Chicken Gizzards (which I somehow missed taking a photo of).  The flavors were quite pronounced.  The smokiness of the duck was enhanced throughout the dish.  Every bite was a nice bite of smokiness and savoriness.

At $23 per person (which includes tax and 20% gratuity), it was considered inexpensive, and it may contain exotic herbs and spices from around world, in their dishes.  Such a bargain, and we were stuffed to the gills afterward.  Even with a party of 8, we barely made a dent in the number of dishes they have offer on their menu.  So, we’re going to head back in late September, and hope to be able to sample more dishes from their dinner menu.

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarged the picture.