Just wanted to let you all know that Northern Cafe which has branches in Westwood and SGV opened near beverly center - in the old M-Con location. I’m so happy for the upgrade, I no longer have to drive to westwood to get my chinese food fix. ROC kitchen on 3rd has some solid oxtail noodle soup and XLB, but with the addition of Northern Cafe it’s doubled the amount of authentic chinese casual options in Weho.
We ordered the Dan Dan Mian, Cold Wood Ear, Cold Spicy Cucumber, Beef Roll, and Chonqing Fried Chicken. First 4 items were excellent, last item was pretty good. Chicken was a little too crunchy and seemed like it had been a little too deepfried and it didn’t have the proper amount of wok he or enough spicy chilis. But seriously I digress as this is going to be one of my regular go to food spots as it is tasty, casual, and affordable.
Must have items for me are the dan dan noodles, the pork and shrimp/ pork and cabbage dumplings either pot sticker style or boiled depending on your preference and the mapo tofu (they use prickly ash so you’ll get tha numbing flavor).
I think they also do very solid renditions of the beef roll, beef noodle soup, and xlb.
I would say that northern cafe is definitely not a “change your life” Chinese restaraunt but a very good restaurant that does a lot of favorites that are consistently good at a reasonable price. For example, if I lived in sgv I probably wouldn’t visit this restaurant that often, but authentic Chinese food is sorely lacking anywhere east of downtown LA, hence my excitement. Hope you enjoy!
I personally have never tasted Sichuan peppercorn in any of the dishes at the Westwood Northern Cafe. The Chongquing spicy chicken appears – to me – to have plain old red chili peppers in the batter. Same with the mapo tofu.
Others have reported tasting them, so maybe I’ve just had bad luck. But I love the flavor of Sichuan peppercorn – cook with it all the time. And I couldn’t taste even a hint of it in the dishes I tried. Again, this is the WW branch.
The only place I’ve found that uses Sichuan peppercorn outside the SGV is Meizhou Dongpo. Unfortunately, quality at the CC location has slipped, likely due to their expansion.
i’ve gone to the WW location and did not taste peppercorn either that is why i’m asking
I went to Meizhou one time in CC and was not very impressed.
I also cook with it all the time at home…Why can’t we get a LEGIT sichuan spot outside of SGV. I think a real one (like a chengdu taste or sichuan impression etc…) in West Hollywood would absolutely crush it and be popular if it was done right (trendy build-out, more gentrified/hollywood lol)
For over 3 decades people having been saying “If (insert name of popular SGV Chinese restaurant) only opened up on the Westside they’d make a killing.” In that time period the only ones that have tried it have been Ocean Star (with their Royal Star branch in Santa Monica), which went out of business in a few years, and Newport Seafood, which opened up in Beverly Hills about three years ago and hasn’t made any kind of impact. This might change when Din Tai Fung opens up in Century City, but that seems to be a phenomenon unto itself. And even with the current surge in Westside Chinese dining, the only operations coming in from points east have been bit players–Northern Cafe, not widely known in the SGV, and Little Highness Bao and Popcorn Chicken (not known at all).
It’s one of those great mysteries. You can get legit Sichuan food all over Manhattan, NY, including Chelsea and the UES, so I think you’re right such a place would crush it on the Westside.
My suspicion is it has to less to do with demand and more with the scarcity of good chefs willing to schlep all the way to the Westside. In NYC, you have public transportation and it’s generally just easier to get into Manhattan from areas with large Chineses populations like Queens. It’s a lot harder to commute from the SGV.
I think that’s why the quality at Meizhou Dongpo declined when the chain expanded. There are only so many experienced chefs, and they were shuffled around to help launch the newer locations.
None of those places are Sichuan, though. Meizhou Dongpo and Northern Cafe are not only thriving but expanding. I really don’t think it’s a coincidence they both serve Sichuan cuisine – or at least purport to do so.
Yeah, but if you go to Meizhou Dongpo on nights or weekends, it’s a largely Chinese clientele. I don’t think it has really caught on with non-Chinese Westsiders aside from the Century City lunch crowd.
I’m hoping it sticks around a long time and doesn’t go the way of m-con.
The mapo tofu I had at Westwood had ma-la in it as my girlfriend said “I think I’m allergic to something” but it was just the slight numbing effect of the prickly ash. So def try that. I’ve never had the chongqing chicken at the Westwood location though.
I had the pork xao long bao, which were very well made and quite tasty. Also had the egg roll, which were nicely crunchy but probably not house-made. Then I tried the calamari which was pretty grim. Very heavy breading and tough.
It’s right next to the food court (which is swarmed on weekdays at lunch) and almost directly 2 flights up from Gelson’s. And access in Century City mall is terrible in general right now, w/ the retrofitting.
How much more conveniently located could it be for mall-goers (genuine question)?
They said the same thing about Din Tai Fung being a sure bet if they opened on the Westside a dozen years ago, but as people pointed out back then on the predecessor board, knowledgeable foodie types overestimate the demand for authentic Chinese food by non-Chinese. Din Tai Fung had to grow their cult legend before reaching the point of expansion. You really need a core of Mainland China diners to support authentic Sichuan food. The fact that there is zero Sichuan style food in Chinatown or downtown LA is testament to the importance of demographics. (Contrast to Manhattan, where even though there might not be an identifiable community of Mainlanders like in Flushing, the area is so dense that the clientele is there.) Silver Lake might work since Pine and Crane seems to be doing well, plus that might be more convenient for Mainlanders attending USC who currently head out to Lao Sze Chuan in Glendale for their Sichuan fix, but neither is it a sure thing.
Solid everyday food will succeed. There are so so many Chinese Asian in the Westside now - younger ones with busy schedules and money to spend. They’re working and living in SaMo and Venice, but many more in West LA, Mar Vista and Playa Vista. Was at ROC in PV over the weekend. Over half the patrons fell into this demographic.