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
My quest for decent Chinese food on the west side of town continues unabated.
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.
It’s located right in the heart of Westwood, on Gayley, far from the SGV!
The interior is simple but pretty updated. The clientele was almost all Chinese.
The format is fast casual. You order and pay at the counter and then get a number. They bring the food to the table.
Some cold appetizers. Cold beef and cilantro.
Cold noodles w/ Shredded Chicken. Chicken white meat, sesame peanut sauce, cucumber, chili oil. A bit western-a-fied (chicken?) and pleasant, but pretty mild.
Dan Dan Noodles. Sesame peanut sauce, chili oil, cucumber, peanuts.
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.
Zha Jiang Noodles. Kurubuta pork, black bean sauce, cucumber.
Mixed up. Ok, but not as much flavor as I would have liked.
Vegetable pie. Like a tortilla pie filled with garlic greens!
XLB. Juicy Pork Dumplings. These are good as always. A little thicker dough than Din Tai Fung (which I had the day before!). But the inside was very tasty.
Pork & Celery Dumplings. Classic steamed dumplings. The celery flavor came through loud and clear and I always like this kind of textured dumpling. Pretty good actually.
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.
Spicy wontons. Nice. Again they just tasted pretty good. A medium heat.
Beef rolls. Tasty enough. Not amazing, but certainly a decent version and not too huge.
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.
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