Koreatown's newest restaurant is, in many ways, very on-trend. Golden Pouch specializes in dumplings, it's in a neighborhood with a vibrant food culture, and there's an Airstream trailer on the property. All very hip, but there are some issues — both inside and outside of Golden Pouch's control — that might prevent it from become a destination establishment.
First, the food. The menu is a sort of greatest hits of East Asian dumplings, plus a couple of spring rolls that can be steamed upon request. The skin on every one of these offerings is far too tough. Sometimes the filling is good enough that the tooth battle is worth it, such as the "grilled flat dumpling" with shrimp and chives. The "spicy cheesy chicken" bao are not particularly artful, but they taste like pizza and would make great hangover preventers. (Golden Pouch is open past midnight most nights.)
The restaurant also offers xiao long bao, which is breathtakingly bold. XLB, as they are perhaps more commonly known, have become emblematic of Los Angeles food, one of the city's great points of pride. Golden Pouch has instructions for eating XLB printed out around the restaurant, but the problem is, the rendition here isn't juicy enough to warrant the whole spoon-and-poke rigmarole. In a county that is home to the first American Din Tai Fung, not to mention the other restaurants across the San Gabriel Valley that make even better XLB (yeah, you heard me), your xiao long bao had better be truly excellent if it's a highlight of the menu.
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The XLB and the other bao will get the job done if Koreatown is an easier destination than the SGV. But Koreatown itself might be a liability for this mostly outdoor restaurant. Listen, the neighborhood is a crowded place — the most densely populated part of Los Angeles, according to the 2000 Census. And an evening spent at one of Golden Pouch's picnic tables at the corner of Sixth and Catalina can feel like an adventure. In one evening, this reporter witnessed two separate men with big backpacks attempt to conduct various business in a far corner of the restaurant, was screamed at for a good 10 minutes by a woman who was overexcited about Jesus being a Jew, and watched a battle royale over a stolen tip jar, which involved every man on the payroll running after the thief in the pouring rain, in the manner of the Keystone Kops.
But that's life in the big city, right? Plus, Golden Pouch serves all its food in to-go boxes.
3324 W. Sixth St., Koreatown. (213) 263-2700, facebook.com/goldenpouch.