Restaurant: Hop Woo
Location: 11110 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. (310) 575-3668
Date: May 30, June 3 & July 25, 2018 and January 6, 2022
Cuisine: American and Szechuan Chinese
Rating: Surprisingly excellent Szechuan!
Incredible as it sounds, just a few days after hitting up new Brentwood Szechuan GuYi Erick and I explore another new westside Szechuan. Plus, this is a composite posts with returns on my own and a Hedonist visit.
This time disguised as venerable American Chinese Hop Woo, which has been serving a big menu of Cantonese inspired classics for years — but it turns out they have a new Szechuan chef and a secret Szechuan menu!
The space is vintage LA Chinese.
At night, it’s packed with us Hedonists taking up 3 tables!
Here is the special Szechuan menu. You have to ask for it. Some of the more challenging items they didn’t even bother to translate!
The big regular menu has a few gems too, but everything here from my first two visits is from the Szechuan menu.
Cold Szechuan Noodles (June 2018). Not even on the Szechuan menu, but they can make them. Basically nice wheat noodles with a tangy/spicy Szechuan chili oil sauce.
You mix them up and they are quite addictive. But the third time I had them (7/25/18) they were different, heavier, not as much chili, and not nearly as good.
Toothpick lamb (June & July 2018). The classic cumin rubbed lamb nibblettes. Quite nice.
Griddle cooked Bullfrog (June 2018). Very nice sauce and flavor. Mind the little kermit bones.
Griddle cooked lamb (June 2018). Somewhere between a griddle and a cumin lamb.
Garlic Shredded Pork (June 2018). Big dish, full of flavor, and nice texture.
MaPo Tofu (June & July 2018). Really a 9 or 10 out of 10 version of this favorite of mine. Tons of mala (numbing Szechuan peppercorn), you can see it dusted on top. Eaten over rice this is just so good. I have had this every-time I have been.
Hop Woo Signature Fresh Rock Fish with Hot and Spicy Flavor (June & July 2018). A very nice white fish smothered in delicious chilies (and chili oil). Some good vegetables like lotus leaf are hiding in there too. Could use more veggies though.
Slightly spicy fried calamari (7/25/18). Not bad. Very fried.
Cold chicken in chili oil (7/25/18). Delicious dish of boneless white meat (and skin) with a tangy spicy Szechuan chili oil.
We liked the sauce so much we ordered some Hainan chicken (boiled chicken, ordered 7/25/18) to dump into the extra sauce. Tasted the same but had bones.
It came with this bagna caulda (aka garlic oil).
Spicy lobster (7/25/18). Salty and full of flavor. Excellent lobster actually, if perhaps very slightly over done.
Garlic greens (7/25/18). Typical greens and garlic.
Shrimp with chilies (7/25/18). This is normally chicken with chilies, but we got it with shrimp. Basically salt and pepper shrimp (you eat them whole) with dry aromatic chiles. Pretty good.
Cauliflower with bacon (7/25/18). Awesome dish. Nice crunch to the vegetables and made 10x better with the soft pancetta like ham/bacon.
Panda Express Fried Sesame Pork Balls (7/25/18). Someone wanted a “white guy dish” and this fit the bill perfectly. Tasty enough, but REALLY fried.
Fish filets with green peppers (7/25/18). A savory mix of regular green chilies (Jalepenos or Serranos) and Szechuan peppercorns. Nice flavor and burn and numb.
Braised eggplant (7/25/18). This might be their take on “fish flavor eggplant.” Hard to tell, but it was tender and had lots of garlic. Not that spicy.
Below is a return post pandemic 1/6/22 meal:
BBQ Pork (1/6/22). A bit chewy and overly sweet.
Cold chicken with chili sauce (1/6/22). Great sauce. Chciken itself was a little big on the tendon factor.
Garlic cucumbers (1/6/22). Pretty good.
Jellyfish (1/6/22). A bit chewy.
Honey Walnut Shrimp (1/6/22). Very tasty. Not the best ever version of this dish, but quite good.
Sichuan Garlic Scallops (1/6/22). A bit sweet and cloying.
Clams with garlic and scallions (1/6/22). Not bad, but not amazing either. Not so much clam meat.
Whole fish with Rattan Pepper (1/6/22). Awesome broth. Fish was very tender. Lots of numbing. Bones, yes, but delicious. DOTN.
“Peking Duck” (1/6/22). Not bad, but huge chunks of Southern Chinese style roast duck.
Thin sweet hoisin.
Salt and Pepper Pork Chops (1/6/22). Very salty, but quite tasty.
Mooshu Pork (1/6/22). Extremely mushy and not very good.
Mexican Tortillas instead of real spring pancakes. Not kidding, just el patio.
Orange Beef (1/6/22). Super sweet and fried. Kinda delicious in a dessert sort of wait.
Cumin lamb (1/6/22). Pretty decent.
Fried Rice Cake with Brown Sugar (June 2018). The owner gave these to us on the house. Very interesting Chinese dessert, all about the texture as usual. Chewy inside and dusty sweet on the outside.
Mandorla Tostata Stroopwafel Gelato (Toasted Almond) made by me for Sweet Milk Gelato (7/25/18) — toasted Sicilian almonds and Dutch Stroopwafel, because, why not?
Classic oranges and Fortune Cookies.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Szechuan items. It’s not a huge menu of them, and they aren’t quite Szechuan Impression or anything, but a few of these dishes, like the MaPo Tofu and the fish were absolutely first rate. Nice balance of tangy, hot, and numbing. It’s great to have a few real Szechuan choices on the westside!
Given my repeat and must larger visit with a lot of dishes I actually think the Szechuan here is on par with a second tier SGV Szechuan like Lucky Noodle King or maybe Spicy City. Some dishes better, some worse. It’s not the BEST Szechuan in the city by any means, but it’s the real deal and surprisingly very good for Westside. The even have really legit dishes like MaPo tofu with pig brains!
On our 1/6/22 visit a certain spice hater forced us to order about 3/4 from the regular menu. It was pretty consistent that almost everything from the regular (Chinese American) menu was very mediocre while stuff from the Szechuan menu was pretty good.
For more LA Chinese dining reviews click here.
Random wines, only a few of the ones we brought: