There's a new dim sum restaurant in Hollywood that's actually legit and tasty. It might also change the way we order dim sum.
ixlb DimSum Eats (yes, the name's stylized in lowercase) sits on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Bronson Avenue, just steps from Hoy Ka Thai and Emerson College. It's pretty much a to-go-only joint, with a couple of counters built into the walls and standing room to eat. The design is sleek and minimalistic. A row of iPads are lined up along a wall and will soon be available to be used for ordering. The large menu that hangs above the cash registers is simple, with around 25 items, written in both Chinese and English.
The restaurant is owned by Gloria Shi, but when we visited, we were greeted by her father, 71-year-old Tony Ying. He was donning a gray paperboy cap and handing out orders to customers. According to Ying, ixlb is a family business, and three generations of his family have operated Chinese restauranteurs dating back 1942 in New York City. Shi also grew up around restaurants; when she was 12, she was already acting as a hostess at her father's restaurant and taking orders on the phone, Ying says.
As modern as the restaurant's design is, the dim sum is as classic as can be. There are har gow (shrimp dumplings), with a translucent and pleated starchy dough covering. The wrapping of the har gow isn't broken (a positive sign), and has a soft chew to it with juicy shrimp on the inside.
There is also siu mai, a steamed pork and shrimp dumpling rounded out like a short cylinder and covered in a wonton wrapper. These come out in four and are on the plumper side, much larger than we normally see at dim sum spots. The meat is juicy and flavorful . It's our favorite of the selection.
While you would think that the xiao long bao (aka XLB) would be the best of the dishes, since the restaurant's name pays homage to the pork soup dumplings, they don't quite stand up to the likes of Din Tai Fung. The skin is a little thicker, and the ground pork is less fatty. At the same time, though, the XLB is made with precision — there isn't a break in the wrapper and when you bite into it, there is some soup that fills your mouth. It's accompanied by a red vinegar sauce with thin slices of ginger in it.
The dishes may not be as transcendent as you would find at the likes of San Gabriel Valley's Seafood Harbor, but the quality is better than some places we've been to in Chinatown and the 626. The dim sum comes out piping hot and fresh, and if you have some time, we suggest eating it right away at the counter — even if you have to stand.
Ying says the family wanted to keep the menu simple and that's why they made sure to serve only the most popular dim sum dishes. You'll also find on the menu a baked cha siu bao (those sweet, glazed, fluffy buns stuffed with barbecue roasted pork), flaky egg custard tarts and pan-fried turnip cakes. While all the items are made traditionally, the scallion pancake — which normally is a flat, flaky pancake — comes out as a deep-fried, bun-like pastry with sesame seeds on top.
Since the restaurant is in its soft opening, ixlb only has a limited menu available, but Ying says a longer one should be finalized by this week. He also says they're not in any rush. It's a family business, and with all his restaurant experience, he thinks they should take their time.
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SHOW ME HOW
Once they have the final menue, guests will be able to order right off ixlb's iPads, just like they can at Tatsu Ramen. The iPads will have descriptions and photos of the dishes. Ying says their restaurant's concept is "fresh, quick service and cheap," and ordering like this will help cut down on busy work for ixlb.
As for the name of the restaurant, Ying says the "i" in "ixlb" can mean two things. One is that it sounds like the Chinese word, "ai," which means "love," as in "love XLB." The other reason is that the letter "i" is in front of everything now.
If you have a hankering for dim sum and don't want to trek out to the SGV, ixlb is among your best bets. Plus, they're open until 9 p.m. every night except Sunday, when they close at 8 p.m., so you can sate those cravings way past the time that the usual spots quit serving dim sum.
ixlb DimSum Eats, 5900 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 848-4766.