988 N Hill St, Ste 201
Los Angeles, CA
Sunday morning, after a long night trekking west for Kogi then back to Bar C in Little Tokyo for drinks, I roused my crew for dim sum.
Why not attempt to hit three Asian countries in one weekend? We parked a few blocks away and had a nice stroll through Chinatown, little more than a mile from my house over the river and across the 110.
I love our Chinatown. It is small but colorful. It is actually "New Chinatown". "Old Chinatown" in Los Angeles used to be down the street where Union Station is now. Officially established in the 1880's, it was demolished for Union Station and relocated in the 1930's. Once it was a burgeoning neighborhood, with a Chinese Opera Theater, a newspaper, three temples and a telephone exchange. It was also the site of the Chinese Massacre of 1871, when 19 Chinese men and boys were killed by an angry mob of 500.
This was one of the largest racially motivated acts of violence ever in the American west. Some consider one underlying cause of the massacre growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States at the time, which climaxed in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, suspending Chinese immigration for over ten years. A more concrete reason for the massacre was the accidental death of a local rancher. Apparently Robert Tompson was caught in the crossfire between two factions of Chinese gangsters fighting over the abduction of a Chinese woman named Yut Ho. On October 24th, 1871, a mob of over 500 Anglos and Latinos entered Chinatown. Every Chinese person in the area was robbed or murdered and every building with Chinese lettering was ransacked. In, Chinese Los Angeles in 1870—1871: The Makings of a Massacre, Scott Zesch writes,
"The dead Chinese in Los Angeles were hanging at three places near the heart of the downtown business section of the city; from the wooden awning over the sidewalk in front of a carriage shop; from the sides of two “prairie schooners” parked on the street around the corner from the carriage shop; and from the cross-beam of a wide gate leading into a lumberyard a few blocks away from the other two locations. One of the victims hung without his trousers and minus a finger on his left hand."
Only ten men were brought to trial over the incident, of the ten seven were convicted with their convictions overturned on a technicality.
New Chinatown now stands, clean, lively and violence free with Central Plaza and its center. Central Plaza was designed as a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai with streets such a Bamboo Way, Jin Ling Way and Chung King Road. Chinatown has expended beyond the centralized hub of shops and restaurants and is bounded by Dodger's stadium to the north and Olvera Street to the south. We walked through Central Plaza to get to Empress Pavilion, located in Bamboo Plaza on the second floor.
We arrived around 10:30-ish, perfect timing. I was expecting a prohibitive wait like last time but we were ushered in hurriedly right to a table for three in the middle of the craziness.
Our table was laid with Chinese mustard and chili sauce, pot of tea and water. From there we were pretty much left alone, save for the men and women manning the dim sum carts.
The first dish P rounded up for us was a fried shrimp dumpling, maybe called a Haam Sui Gok? Slightly sweet and savory wrapping lightly fried with shrimp and slices of sweet mango. This was delicious. Not a fan of fried food, usually, but this was done very lightly.
Although the colors are more or less the same throughout the dumpling, you can kinda see the mango on the inside to the left of the dumpling.
The second dumpling we ordered was Har Gau. This had chopped up shrimp and veggies in a steamed starchy wrapper.
You can see all the veggies in the inside. I loved this one because I can strongly taste the carrot and the cabbage.
P also ordered for us the roasted duck. This was far and away my favorite dish. I could eat this on my own. So delicious, a nice little duck roasted in soy sauce and Chinese spices with the shiny skin and fatty layer underneath...
The dish above puzzled me. It was a bit mysterious. Another dumpling, I think, but what was inside was a little indecipherable. It wasn't like a dumpling with a clearly discernible inside filling and an outside wrapper. The flavor was nice though.
I love bau. I worked for a Chinese florist for years in my early 20's. Whenever we were making arrangements for a funeral or putting huge red ribbons on plants for a restaurant or store opening, the community would send over boatloads of food. Many times we would receive a big pink box full of baked pork bau. So good.
This one was steamed with what seemed like the exact same filing. Its doughy goodness was delicious.
P & I knew we had to introduce K to the Chinese broccoli. Neither she nor P are fans or American broccoli, however they both love the Chinese kind. I love the leafiness of this and the dark sauce, but then again I adore all broccoli.
The last dish we could stuff into our bodies was a little sweety that P used to eat as a child. Just a sweet rice cake. It was fun to try but does not measure anywhere on my meter of things to try again. Thick, sweet and glutenous.
The Empress Pavilion is a little shabby. It seems to be just a giant banquet hall with a few nods at Chinese decor. The walls have Chinese panels on them, hung with thumb tacks.
A little askew.
And there was duct tape in a few places on the moulding which I found strange, Surely some blemish to the moulding was not as unsightly as the duct tape? Nevermind, everything was amazingly spotless, the food was good and the experience was fun.
P said, on the walk back to the car, the food at the Empress Pavilion is good but not great. Still, I would go again anytime. I wish dim sum was served for dinner.
We crossed the 110 and headed back to Elysian Park into another cultural experience altogether. There was a car show on this last weekend and I am damn glad I didn't miss it.
We slowed my car waaayy down, rolled down the windows, cruised up and down the street several times, saying how-dee-do to the folks, and snapping pics.
This red car is fly.
And the above Caddy is nothing short of pimpin'. Gang culture of another type altogether.