Opening Alert: Northern Cafe Beverly Center

Went to northern cafe again and got their dumplings, Peking Meat pie, and mapo tofu. @skramzlife can confirm there is ma-la pepper in the mapo tofu although it’s not super strong still a pleasant numbing floral kick though. I asked for additional ma-la peppers and the server said that the Sichuan peppercorns were already infused in the chili oil that they cook the mapo tofu in so she couldn’t give me a side to sprinkle on top.

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That’s because they’re using only hua jiao oil and not actual peppercorns



Are you suggesting that ROC is solid food? As well as solid everyday food?

Well a lot of the Westside Asians aren’t Mainlanders, but more like my son who works in Century City and lives in Culver City. And for that group, ROC is probably solid enough.

I would say that ROC is solid enough especially when there are zero other options.

No. ROC is the default eatery only because they offer a lot of dishes that are Chinese/Taiwanese and is close by. The next closest option is probably Westwood.

Agree if ROC was in sgv I would never step foot in that joint

Yup. ROC is the only game in this part of town. Otherwise, they’d be devoid of Chinese Asians.

Yeah, but I mentioned other examples besides Meizhou Dongpo. Having seen Sichuan food sweep some of the whitest parts of Manhattan, I’m convinced it has cross-cultural appeal. The problem is supply, not demand. But it may take someone with a real vision to make it happen like John Zhang did in New York.

I agree, I really think it has crossover appeal too.
What are the Manhattan spots that are popping? Would like to look into them.

Off the top of my head, there’s Szechuan Gourmet, which has been around for years. Also, Chili House on the UES and Legend in Chelsea both serve legit Sichuan in areas that are pretty gentrified.

My totally speculative theory is that Sichuan food is sufficiently similar to traditional Chinese takeout that Westerners embrace it more readily than they do other Chinese cuisines, even dim sum.

I get @chandavkl’s point about concentrations of Chinese people. But I really think, if a legit Sichuan place opened up near UCLA (like, e.g., Chengdu Style near UC Berkeley) it would succeed.

Sichuan would definitely work today near UCLA due to the large influx of Mainland Chinese students to campus the past 2 to 5 years. That’s why in Westwood Village Koala T converted to a sit down serving Sichuan dishes, and First Szechuan Wok added to its Americanized menu.

All three are putrid, and none make their living selling Sichuan dishes. The majority of clientele that goes to SG – either for dine-in or take-out – are ordering things like wontons, hot/sour soup, soup dumplings, chicken and broccoli, etc. Same with Legend in Chelsea, where people actually go for the mi-fen (or rice noodles), you know the sine qua non of Sichuan dishes? Like how steaks are a staple of pescatarian diets.

The real penetration of Sichuan places in Manhattan (Midtown and points south, towards Chinatown and FiDi) are hot pot places, just like in SoCal. Fucking hot pot places. Good grief.

I think a main reason for the current growing popularity of Sichuan cuisine and, more importantly, flavors is the lifting of the US import ban on Sichuan peppercorns back in 2005.

Not every place can be Hakkasan amiright?

Don’t misunderstand. These aren’t the best Sichuan restaurants in NYC or even Manhattan. Merely places where you can get authentic Sichuan food in the whitest parts of the city. They may well make their living selling other dishes. IIRC, Legend used to be a Vietnamese restaurant and kept that side of the menu in response to their old customers’ demands.

Speaking of which, did you at least try the Dry Spicy Chicken with Ginger and Peanut I recommended there? I find it really hard to believe someone who tasted that dish would find the food “putrid.” At the very least, it’s miles better than anything I’ve ever had on the Westside. I would welcome places at that level whether or not they meet your high standards.

Where in SoCal though? Any on the Westside? West of downtown even? To be clear, I’m not suggesting the Sichuan food is better in NYC overall. My point is more that LA Sichuan outside the SGV is way worse than it should be, even taking the Chinese population into account.

That was certainly a watershed event, but the influx of Sichuan places in Manhattan really started back in the 1990s with Wu Liang Ye and the Grand Sichuan chain. I remember Zhang surprised everyone by opening a Grand Sichuan in Chelsea of all places. Fucking Chelsea! That’s why I say it may take someone like him, with a similar vision, to spark a Sichuan revolution on the Westside.

I had a solid meal here as well, nice addition to the area. The servers were all very friendly and helpful, and at least on the weekend night I went, parking wasn’t too hard to find (unrestricted parking in the surrounding residential area is only a couple blocks away, but Beverly also has plenty of metered spots).

@skramzlife - I believe their “Spicy Pot” entree had the ma la peppercorns in it, and it was quite spicy and aromatic. Kind of a random combo of ingredients though, including bacon of all things. It’s not a great dish in that the ingredients don’t all seem to work together, but it should scratch an itch for ma la.

Also tried several cold dishes, dan dan mian, shrimp/pork/egg/chive dumplings, red oil chaoshou (“pork wonton in spicy sauce”), and braised eggplant in garlic sauce. Favorite dish was the dumplings - thick toothsome skin with savory, even slightly soupy filling. Will definitely try more dumplings next time.

The cold dishes were decently prepared although the wood ear and cucumbers could’ve used a little more vinegary punch. Dan dan mian were pretty good - although on the milder side, the noodles, while thin, had a decent chew to them. The chaoshou were too sweet - never had chaoshou even close to that sweet before, probably the weakest dish. The eggplant was also a bit sweet although the eggplant itself was really well cooked, almost creamy on the inside with the skin still a little crisp.

Haven’t been to the Westwood branch, but for those of that have, is there a similar combination of milder and sweeter flavors overall? I did wonder if those flavors were meant more to cater to their expected clientele in the Beverly area or if they were just testing things out still.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Fish Dumplings in Westwood Village

what else?
I have had some dry hot pots in China with bacon/pork belly

I would say that’s a pretty good description of the general flavor profile of the dishes I’ve had at the Westwood branch (but I certainly have not tried most of the menu).

There’s a Northern Cafe opening by USC (on Figueroa / 31st)