The Top 5 Dishes in Chinatown

Five dishes from the new generation of Chinatown restaurants

Drunken Pancit at LASA

 |  Photo:  Joshua Lurie

L.A.’s Chinese American community dates to the 1850s, but it wasn’t until 1938 that the neighborhood that once held Little Italy officially became known as Chinatown. Now, eight decades later, Chinatown is enjoying unprecedented growth. Classic spots like Eastside Market Italian Deli, Nick’s Café, Phoenix Inn, and Sam Woo are still going strong, and a new crop is providing diversity and depth. Start with these five dishes.

 

Howlin' Ray's Nashville Hot Chicken | Photo: Howlin' Ray's

Howlin’ Ray’s



Johnny Zone and wife Amanda Chapman run fiery Howlin’ Ray’s in Far East Plaza, where people happily wait to eat at one of L.A.’s most popular restaurants. Their Nashville-inspired hot chicken incorporates a proprietary pepper blend that includes classic cayenne, habanero and more modern adrenaline inducers like Carolina Reaper and ghost. Spice levels range from “country,” just short of mild, to “howlin’,” which may ignite your mouth. Their fantastic fried chicken sandwich combines juicy breast meat with cabbage slaw, pickles and spicy “comeback sauce” made with ingredients like chile powder and paprika. Take the experience up a notch with their Luis-style fried chicken sandwich, which substitutes Texas toast for a buttery bun and adds cooling Cheddar.

LASA



LASA is a modern Filipino restaurant from Chase Valencia and chef/brother Chad that started as a pop-up and settled permanently at Far East Plaza near Howlin’ Ray’s. They’ve also received national attention, including a 2018 Food & Wine Restaurants of the Year nod. The concept has evolved from tasting menu to a la carte at dinner, and continues counter service at lunch. Drunken pancit is a savory, umami-rich play on the classic Filipino noodle dish. Thick Fung Village egg noodles are dressed with scallions, crispy shallots, pickled Fresno chiles, hearty greens, and an XO inspired meat sauce that Chase describes as “Filipino ragu.” Crumbled Chinese sausage, pancetta, ginger, garlic, shallots, and funky bagoong (Filipino salted shrimp paste) meld beautifully.

Surf and Turf at The Little Jewel

The Little Jewel of New Orleans



New Orleans born restaurateur Marcus Christiana-Beniger and business partner Eunah Kang brought Big Easy flavors to Chinatown with Little Jewel of New Orleans. They’re L.A.’s leading advocates for home-style Cajun and Creole cooking, with a deep menu that includes dozens of po’ boys and plates. Crawfish mac and cheese is a powerhouse dish inspired by a Jazz Fest version that Christiana-Beniger grew up eating. The classic recipe uses Velveeta, but Little Jewel makes Mornay, adds Sriracha and mayo and more to al dente fusilli. They shower the plate with scallions and top with griddled house-smoked Andouille sausage to round out a truly novel surf and turf pasta.

Majordomo



David Chang is helping to lead the charge on Chinatown’s northern frontier with Majordōmo, an ambitious Asian-inspired restaurant with a provocative David Choe mural. The menu changes daily, but certain dishes have already become instant classics. Stuffed peppers are a play on the battered and pan-fried Korean peppers called gochujun. In this case, mild green peppers are coated with light, crispy tempura batter that’s liberally salted. The filling consists of juicy pork sack sausage made using a recipe from Tennessee country ham legend Allan Benton. Three hefty peppers are served with a tangy buttermilk ranch dipping sauce folded with sour cream, chives, and garlic.

Beef and cheese “double-dip” en Philippe the Original | Foto cortesía de TheGirlsNY, Flickr

Philippe The Original



The French dip is L.A.’s most iconic sandwich, featuring meat piled on a soft roll and dipped in residual jus before serving. Philippe The Original vies with DTLA rival Cole’s for creator status. Convincing evidence points to Philippe’s, which Philippe Mathieu founded in 1908. Richard is the third member of the Binder family to lead Philippe’s, making sure quality stays consistent. Line up at a counter with plenty of desserts and pickled eggs to order a sandwich with choice of meat, which could mean beef, pork, or pastrami. We recommend the lamb dip with added Swiss cheese. Lamb’s carved to order from the leg. Specify “single dip,” “double dip” or “wet,” which will drench the roll. Squeeze on atomic spicy mustard to supercharge the flavor and clear your sinuses.