High-end, “fusion” Chinese food gets a bad rap around town. It makes sense. Angelenos can get the real thing for half of the price point — just trek on over to the San Gabriel Valley for proof. There’s a repertoire of high quality dishes there: tea-smoked duck that takes a grand seven days to make and finely pressed noodles soaked in a dark, earthy beef broth.
These traditional dishes are great, but there are a handful of innovators out there rolling out unique riffs on traditional Chinese food items, and their wares are both respectable and overlooked.
Here are our five favorite picks that can’t be found at your typical mom-and-pop Chinese eatery:
Sweet Flatbread with Vanilla Ice Cream from Pingtung Eat-In Market ($4.95)
Pingtung is an Asian fusion joint on Melrose sporting dim sum, Taiwanese plates, and Japanese specials like sushi rolls and tonkotsu ramen. Skip straight to their dessert menu and order the sweet flatbread. The bread is essentially a laobing (烙餅) — rolled and layered unleavened bread that is fried to a crisp, and normally a savory dish. Pingtung tops theirs off with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint. Order to share.
Crab and Uni Yang Chau Xiao-long Bao from Chi Lin ($15)
The price on this dish will undoubtedly leave a dent in your pocket, but if there’s a xiaolongbao that screams fine dining — this is it. The bao is stuffed with crab and pork meat and topped with uni mousse, of all expensive things, and finely sliced pieces of ginger. On the side is a pink ginger vinaigrette in a pipette. No this isn’t a lab experiment, but the eating process is admittedly a five-step process. How to eat this gem: Plop it on your spoon, top it off with a couple drops of pink vinegar, bite off a piece of the skin, suck the soup out, and enjoy the rest. The soup has a mild hint of sweetness to it, which is always an indicator of a xiaolongbao done right.
Find out what the other three picks are here.