If you don't want to travel to the SGV for excellent dan dan noodles, scallion pancakes and mapo tofu, wel l... you're kind of out of luck. But Silver Lake now has a decent option for these things, in the form of Pine & Crane, a Taiwanese restaurant owned by Vivian Ku, and named for the noodle company Ku's grandfather owned in China.
Pine & Crane sits on the corner of Sunset and Griffith Park Boulevard, facing the mall square where the Silver Lake farmers market is held. While it's nice to have Chinese and Taiwanese dishes in a neighborhood whose Chinese options are mainly of the crappy take-out variety, the real gift Pine & Crane has to offer is bright, fresh daily vegetable dishes and salads sourced from the family's farm.
The space is pretty adorable, with light wood tables and a sunny, modern vibe. You order from the counter, where enthusiastic employees are happy to help you through the menu and list of specials, and offer tastes of the seasonal salads in the cold case.
On a recent visit, standouts included a wood ear mushroom salad that was perfect for an unseasonably hot early summer day. The lightly dressed mushrooms had the perfect sproing, contrasted with the sweet snap of red peppers. Pea shoots, also from the family farm, embodied grassy freshness.
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The dan dan noodles, which are served in the Taiwanese style and are far less spicy than the Chinese version (Pine & Crane's are also meat-free), have an addictive quality here, the peanut contrasting with the fresh crunch of julienned cucumber. And the mapo tofu, also milder than it can be, was a big bowl of warm comfort.
I found the scallion pancake a little leaden, and the beef roll lacked some of that sweet sticky/meaty juxtaposition that makes it such a fun dish. But along with a passion fruit black iced tea and a few treats from that cold salad case, the locational convenience and good looks of Pine & Crane make it a welcome (and affordable) addition to the neighborhood.