Restaurant: Pine & Crane
Location: 1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026. (323) 668-1128
Date: September 8, 2022
Cuisine: Taiwanese Chinese
Rating: Blech! So bland
PINE & CRANE is a fast-casual Taiwanese restaurant located in the heart of Silver Lake. Their goal is to bring authentic, delicious Taiwanese fare in a comfortable, modern setting. They say they are passionate about what they do, and take pride in preparing their food using simple, fresh ingredients. In addition to Taiwanese staples like Three Cup Chicken 三杯鷄 and Beef Noodle Soup 牛肉麵, they offer a variety of small plates, traditional cold appetizers, and vegetarian/vegan options. Their beverage list includes a “curated” selection of premium loose-leaf teas sourced from Taiwan and a rotating craft beer, wine, and sake list.
I’ve been wanting to try Pine & Crane since it opened, being the Chinese Food fiend that I am. It’s location in annoying (aka far) Silverlake and its casual nature prevented me. It’s not worth driving to the ends of the earth and fighting for parking for something too casual. But when we finished up a dinner at Causita next door I figured we should hit it for Second Dinner.
A cute enough fast casual interior.
The very short menu.
Chilled Garlic Pork Belly. Salmon creek pork belly, garlic soy sauce, chili crisp. Very soy sauce and garlic forward. No spice. WTF is up with this dish? It looks like Sichuan Garlic Chili cold pork belly, but it tasted like cold raw bacon with soy sauce.
Pork Potstickers. Kurobuta pork, Taiwanese cabbage. One of the better dishes. Very crispy with nice pork center. Just good gyoza.
Basic but important sauce components.
Shrimp Wontons. Filling was good but the sauce was just salty, not much else going on. The stuff that looks like it might be chili oil — no heat.
Dan dan noodles. Sesame-peanut sauce, chili oil, cucumbers, cilantro, crumbled peanuts. Very mild and sesame forward. No spice or vinegar at all. Tasty, but basically sesame noodles. I always find these Taiwanese “watered down” variations on Sichuan dishes to be a total disappointment.
Mapo Tofu. Organic Silken Tofu, Kurobuta Pork, Spicy Doubanjiang. I couldn’t taste ANY spicy or any Doubanjiang (which is spicy). It was basically very nice tofu in salty brown sauce. It looks good. The texture was good. But it’s fake Mapo. No spice, no Ma!
Pine & Crane is a waste of space for a Chinese Food fan like myself. I’d just go to the SGV, which is quicker to get to and much better. There are tastier places on the Westside. I guess I have a bit of a problem with Taiwanese versions of mainland Chinese food — I find them bland and unbalanced. They lean heavily on salt without spicy, numbing, or sour. This is my problem with DTF too. But DTF is much better than Pine & Crane. Maybe Pine & Crane is also watered down for the whiteness that is Silverlake. Hard to say.
I also don’t like fast casual unless I’m alone. Annoying and stressful format. I’m very glad I hit this as a Second Dinner (first one is here at Causita). If I had come out here for lunch just for this I would have been really pissed.