From 1935 until it faded away 50-odd years later, the Far East Café was a mainstay of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, with battered wooden booths, tall ceilings and a neon “Chop Suey’’ sign outside as grand as anything out of an Edward Hopper painting — also a reputation for unusually tired Chinese food. Freshly reopened, cobwebs scrubbed away but otherwise looking pretty much as it did in the mid-1980s, the redubbed Chop Suey Café seems to pick up just where the Far East left off: a mixed clientele of hipsters and old-timers who probably celebrated their sixtieth birthday in the restaurant, sweet-and-sour pork flavored with one part vinegar, two parts nostalgia. There are a few fusiony dishes on the menu — Asian hamburgers, papaya salad, Chinese-style Caesars — but there are probably dishes here you haven’t tasted since Richard Nixon was in office. (Or, in the case of a ground-pork patty steamed with funky dried fish, probably ever.) As a re-creation of a culinary style that has been discredited for more than 30 years, the menu at Chop Suey Café does present some conundrums. Is the gray, cornstarch-thickened gravy on the cashew chicken a glitch or a feature? Is the steamed rice authentically gummy, or just gummy? Does the old-fashioned chow mein have to be that authentic? But there is some funk in its step — the string beans stir-fried with ginger and garlic were quite good. Happy Hour is a specialty. And if you are so inclined, Chop Suey Café is an aromatic, Chandler-esque place to kill an afternoon. 347 E. First St., Los Angeles,
(213) 617-9990. — Jonathan Gold
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