Greater Los Angeles is home to the third-largest Chinese-American population in the United States, so naturally, the Chinese food here is also considered to be some of the best in the country. There’s no denying that a lot of the best Chinese restaurants around can be found in the San Gabriel Valley, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great options in LA proper too.
Both classic and newer spots in Chinatown continue to hold their own, famous chains from China and Taiwan have opened in malls across town, popular SGV restaurants are branching out closer to the city center, and young restaurateurs are opening up shop in a number of neighborhoods. From dim sum and Cantonese barbecue to Sichuan specialties, there are plenty of options to choose from, but these are our 13 favorite Chinese spots in LA.
Pearl River Deli’s chef and owner Johnny Lee made his name from perfecting Hainan chicken over the years. These days, the silky Hainan chicken rice is only served on weekends and must be pre-ordered, but this tiny Cantonese spot in Chinatown serves way more than just that. The short menu is always changing, but among the popular mainstays are the soy sauce chicken and a Macau-style fried pork chop bun, which here comes on a pineapple bolo bun. The sweeter roll combined with the thick, fried pork chop is a sweet and savory combination that is worth the mess you’ll make in your car (it’s best eaten fresh, so yes, we recommend you dig into it ASAP). Just know that they often sell out early on the weekends and seating is limited.
When a chef who worked at spots like Otium and Trois Mec opens a Cantonese restaurant, you end up with a place like Needle - showcasing not only traditional Hong Kong food, but what a Cantonese chef with fine dining training creates when he has access to all the great meat and produce found on the West Coast. The char siu made with Berkshire pork belly is one of the best in the city - it’s nicely marbled (you can choose between regular or fatty cuts), perfectly charred, and instead of the usual hoisin-based sauce, it’s lightly glazed with honey and served with mustard to cut through the richness. Due to the labor shortage, Needle is temporarily pausing takeout service and switching to doing Siu Yeh. Siu Yeh usually means a late-night meal, but at Needle, it’s a reservation-only tasting menu of skewers and snacks on their patio featuring things like pork shoulder char siu (now grilled over binchotan) and octopus slathered in curry.
The West LA outpost of the famous SGV spot easily makes the best Sichuan food in LA proper. They serve all the hits from the original location, including the tender tea-smoked pork ribs and boiled fish filet with rattan pepper (the version with pickled vegetables is a strong contender for those who prefer less spice). The quality of the food is on par with the SGV outpost, but the larger space means you can gather a larger group of friends for a feast. Bonus: this location also has beer and wine.
This small restaurant is located off the main streets of Chinatown, so it doesn’t get as much traffic as it really deserves - even though it’s one of the best in the neighborhood. Jade Wok has that typically large menu found at many older Chinese restaurants, but what keeps us coming back here is the house special tofu, a silky slab of lightly fried, homemade tofu that’s submerged in a mushroom and pork sauce - labeled on the menu simply as “homemade bean curd (best tofu in town).” To balance things out, we also like the tea-smoked duck and bite-sized Shanghai spare ribs glazed with a sweet and sour sauce, which are good to share with the whole table. On top of the good food, most of Jade Wok’s dishes are under $10, meaning you can try a lot without spending a ton. The modest dining room can fill up at lunchtime, so just make sure to plan ahead if you come by in the afternoon.
This busy fast-casual spot in Highland Park serves a tight menu of classic Taiwanese street foods, including rice bowls, noodles, and buns, along with a changing selection of cold appetizers like crunchy lotus roots and wood ear mushrooms. Joy is the sister restaurant of equally popular Pine & Crane, but the menu here is more solo dining friendly and one we find ourselves returning to more often. Part of the menu carries over hits from Pine & Crane, like the minced pork on rice, but also brings some new items exclusive to Joy, like the flaky thousand layer pancakes, best eaten filled with egg, cheese, chili sauce, and basil. And while this isn’t the case with every place on this guide, make sure to save room for dessert - the shaved ice or soft Hakka mochi dusted with finely crushed peanuts and black sesame are both great.
After a long week, sometimes all we want is to swan dive into a large supply of dim sum. But on the days when we don’t feel like waiting in traffic on the 10 to get to SGV, Ixlb comes to the rescue. Everything here, from har gow to shumai, is made fresh daily and satisfies any dim sum craving imaginable (though they sadly don’t serve chicken feet). The translucent har gow have a bouncy skin and are filled with plump shrimp while the egg tarts have a nice, flaky crust, but you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Ixlb primarily does takeout and delivery, but there is a tiny dining area with counter seating for those who can’t wait to get home to eat.
Mar Vista is a rather unexpected location for this hip Taiwanese-American spot, but Little Fatty quickly became a neighborhood staple when it opened six years ago. While it’s dubbed a “Taiwanese soul food restaurant,” the menu here also spans the gamut from Chinese-American to Cantonese dishes, like the chewy, rolled chow fun, which is the perfect vehicle for its garlicky XO sauce. And their honey walnut shrimp is the best version we’ve ever had, crispy and lightly dressed with a citrusy mayo sauce. There’s usually a wait on weekend nights, so the fact that Little Fatty is attached to one of the best cocktail bars on the Westside, Accomplice, is a big plus since you can wait for your table while sipping on an ube colada.
Tang Huo specializes in malatang, a Sichuan street food of spicy hot pot and skewers that’s become increasingly popular over the past decade but is still pretty rare in LA. The setup at this casual spot in Koreatown is similar to many Mongolian barbecue restaurants, where you pick your own proteins, vegetables, and noodles to be weighed at the counter. Tang Huo will then prepare it as either hot pot or dry hot pot to the specified spice level - just know that the mild one even has quite the numbing kick. Besides malatang, Tang Huo also serves crawfish with the same spicy mala flavor, which are 100% worth all the shell cracking.
Husband-and-wife-owned RiceBox specializes in Cantonese barbecue using organic and hormone-free ingredients, updating wife Lydia Lee’s family recipes with the techniques that her husband Leo learned in culinary school. Their signature porchetta crackling combines traditional siu yuk (roast pork) and porchetta, rolling the pork belly with seven spices, letting it absorb the flavors for 24 hours, and then slowly roasting it until the skin is perfectly crispy. The porchetta crackling, along with Canto classics like char siu and soy sauce chicken, are available as rice bowls, while homemade baos filled with cheese and char siu, egg rolls, and chicken wings are each great ways to round things out on your next trip here.
Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
Westfield Century City is home to a lot of great Chinese chains, but Hai Di Lao might just be our favorite. This hot pot spot is a little pricier than others, but they make up for it with more than half a dozen soup base options (try the spicy pork broth), and higher-end meat options including Miyazaki A5 wagyu beef, a DIY sauce station, and free desserts. Even if you’re not splurging for A5 wagyu, you can’t go wrong with the prime rib eye and roe-filled lobster balls. And if it’s your first time, the $4 charge for the “dancing noodle” may be worth the show with the staff hand-pulling the noodles to order by dancing in front of you. Plus, the bouncy noodles are great for slurping up whatever remains of your broth that’s been pulling in the flavors from your meat and vegetables throughout the meal. Or you can wait and just hope that your table neighbors order one instead.
Mason’s Dumpling Shop
This strip mall dumpling shop in Highland Park comes from one of the partners of an old SGV favorite, Luscious Dumplings. The dumplings here are handmade daily and some of the best you can find in LA proper with their firm but juicy filling and freshly made wrappers. The boiled dumplings (especially the ones filled with pork, shrimp, chive, and egg) are the way to go for takeout or delivery, while the pan-fried pork dumplings are best enjoyed fresh in their small but colorful dining room. Mason’s also serves buns and rice bowls if you’re like my parents who believe no Chinese meal is complete without rice.
Even though Din Tai Fung is a large international chain, it manages to keep the quality of the delicately made xiao long bao that propelled them to fame pretty consistent. The location inside Century City Mall is certainly one of the best spots for XLBs in LA, making the inevitable wait for a table worthwhile. Beyond soup dumplings, start with the refreshing cucumber salad in chili oil and make sure to order enough of the chewy, wok-fried Shanghai rice cakes for everyone to try.
This small local chain started in Pasadena in 2018, but has quickly expanded to four locations in Greater LA, including one on Sawtelle, thanks to their handmade dumplings and noodles. The star on Dan’s small menu is the dan mein - the thick, homemade noodles have a nice chewy bite to them and get stir-fried with your choice of protein in a sweet garlic sauce, which we think goes best with the tender short ribs. Besides the delicious dan mein, we like the especially crispy pan-fried dumplings and fried rice, which is prepared with a generous amount of Dungeness crab.