Recently, we released our 99 Essential Restaurants in Los Angeles package for 2017, along with its new sister list, the Freshmen 15 (for the newbie restaurants too young to make it onto the list, but which we love nonetheless). Contained within that massive list is a guide to what we consider the best Chinese restaurants in the city. Our Chinese food riches are so vast in L.A. that we could have come up with a list of 99 places you should visit in order to experience it, but given the constraints, we think these five spots are a great starting place to dive into those riches.
Beijing Pie House
Beijing Pie House is a great place to learn about food traditionally made and eaten in Northern China. It’s heavy on lamb, pastry and noodles, and the vegetables are mostly served cold and sometimes lightly pickled. It’s also a great introduction to Sichuan peppercorn, which strikes fear in many hearts but in truth offers a complex flavor, not just searing heat. But the must-get dish is the meat pie. Get the lamb and green onion version. It’s about the shape of a hockey puck, and served outrageously hot. —Katherine Spiers
Read the full 99 Essentials Beijing Pie House entry here.
The Chengdu Taste empire just keeps growing, with four restaurants now under the same ownership, all thanks to the public’s hunger for this particular brand of spicy, numbing, complex, alluring Sichuan food. We still prefer the original Valley Boulevard location, for toothpick lamb bristling with cumin, wontons that have an almost floral undertone (if you can taste anything under the extreme chili oil heat), slick jelly noodles, and water boiled fish with green chilies. You can order a whole pork shank cooked in a deep, sweet braise and slathered with red chilies, or chopped rabbit in Younger Sister’s Secret Sauce. What’s in that secret sauce? Peanuts, and — you guessed it — chili. —Besha Rodell
Read the full Chengdu Taste 99 Essentials entry here.
Din Tai Fung
To some purists, the proliferation of Din Tai Fung locations — its very real status as an international chain — makes the dumpling house less thrilling than when we knew it as one restaurant in Arcadia. That original location has given way to a proliferation of upscale mall versions, including the newly expanded outpost at the Americana at Brand in Glendale. The truth is that no matter how many outposts of Din Tai Fung there are, the food — the famous juicy, thin-skinned xiao long bao, but also the other dumplings and the veggie dishes and the noodles and the rice cakes — is still damn good. —B.R.
Read the full Din Tai Fung 99 Essentials entry here.
It’s un-American to not love dim sum. Sea Harbour in particular is still innovating, moving the menu items around to make room for things like the shrimp paste–stuffed eggplant, the salty egg buns and the shu mai with truffles. The restaurant does not offer cart service, which is a disappointment to some diners. But think of it this way: The food is fresher if it’s made to order. —K.S.
Read the full Sea Harbour 99 Essentials entry here.
There are times when browsing the menu at Szechuan Impression — the acclaimed Alhambra restaurant most often compared to the San Gabriel Valley’s other temple of Sichuan cooking, Chengdu Taste — that the non-Chinese diner can feel as if he’s reading a list of inside jokes rather than dishes: “Potato Strips on Street Corner,” “Big Mouth Ginger Frog,” “Fiery Temper Goose Intestine” and, perhaps most famously, “Cinderella’s Pumpkin Rides.” What these signify, though, is Szechuan Impression’s home-style cooking, which invokes serious nostalgia for those well-versed in the food of Sichuan. —Garrett Snyder
Read the full 99 Essentials Szechuan Impression entry here.