Restaurant: Northern Cafe
Location: 1064 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310) 208-8830
Date: August 4 & 29, 2016
Cuisine: Northern Chinese
Rating: Small menu (for Chinese), but great to have on the Westside
Northern Cafe joins Qin as one of Westwood’s two most recent fairly authentic Chinese openings. Here they serve northwestern Chinese type food, sort of quick Beijing favorites.
The format is fast casual. You order and pay at the counter and then get a number. They bring the food to the table.
The dan dan in a bowl. Lots of sesame flavor, but almost no heat and no meat! This is a far cry from the rich, spicy, umami flavor of the real deal.
Lamb dumplings. Not the perfect incarnation of this kind of simple dumplings, but maybe an 8/10, very enjoyable. Strong lamby flavor too.
Pan fried shrimp and egg dumplings. Excellent too, hard to tell what is inside these puppies, but it’s good.
Kung Pao Chicken. A decent version. Not amazing, and a little fried, and not too hot, but a good amount of flavor.
Orange Chicken. The American Chinese classic. More like sweet and sour spare ribs, the ultra-fried orange version. That being said, I like this homey dish and this was a very good version of the goopy sweet “type.”
House Special Cumin lamb. Onion, cilantro, cumin, chili oil. Not a bad version of this staple dish. Not super spicy but good lamb flavor.
Mapo tofu. (10/1/16). This mapo had nice soft silky tofu and a thin looking sauce — but there was a decent amount of mala numbing flavor from the Szechuan peppercorns. No meat however, I much prefer it with some ground pork, but this wasn’t a wussy Americanized version either. Sort of a 6/10.
Shrimp fried rice. A passable version. You can’t really go to wrong with fried rice. This version was actually very lightly fried.
Overall, Northern Cafe has some pretty authentic stuff on the menu, it’s not American Chinese exactly — nor is it as good as so many places in the SGV. But it is close, quick, cheap and pretty tasty, so I will go by again soon enough.