Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hop Li
10974 W Pico Blvd (Cross Street: Greenfield Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA 90064-2115

"Why isn't there any good Chinese food on the westside??"
I've heard this phrase uttered in disgust over a dozen times. And yes, I agree, the best Chinese food is located in Monterey Park, Alhambra and Chinatown. But there HAS to be something closer, to satiate that craving for some crispy noodles on a cold day. And I'm not talking Panda Express, or (shrudder) PF Chang's (Blasphemy!!) Enter: Hop Li.

I know, I know. Hop Li isn't AS CHEAP or AS GOOD as its' competitors on the other side of town. But we all can't have our cake and eat it too. (anyone ever see that SNL skit, "Lothar of the Hill People"? Where they pick apart that saying, but instead of "cake" they substitute "flagon of mead". "I don't understand that saying at all. If I had mead, would I not drink it?" Man I miss that skit. ANYWAYS.)
First up was Wonton Soup. Not bad. The broth was that oily-ish chicken stock, alright but not that intense chicken flavor that some other restaurants have. Those button-mushrooms-from-a-can really give me some nostalgia...I only eat these kind of mushrooms at chinese restaurants. The shrimp floating around were decent sized - not mini, but not monster. The wonton themselves were...okay. Not amazing. Nothing to write home about. Small, not filled with too much flavor. Next up, a banquet favorite: Honey-walnut shrimp. These are the ultimate in indulgence. Fried, very minimally battered jumbo prawns, doused on the outside with honey-mayonaise, on a bed of iceburg lettuce, with honey covered walnut pieces. A little too much mayo - there shouldn't be big gobs of the stuff all over each piece. It's a subtle flavor, and needs the right ratio of each. So while the pieces of shrimp were spot on - huge, at least two bites each - the overwhelming mayo needed to be scraped off.

Tofu clay pot. I LOVE clay pot dishes, there's something so comforting about having that thick sauce, embedded with a mix of fried, soft sauce soaked tofu, chicken pieces, slices of BBQ pork, smaller pieces of shrimp and slices of scallion. It's hard for me to hate any version of this, as I mentioned before, is one of my favorite dishes. They did this very sufficiently.

House special pan fried noodles...YUM. The noodles were just right - crispy, fried, soft when covered with the gravy sauce, covered in tons of toppings - slices of beef, BBQ pork, chicken, canned mushrooms, and bok choy. This is classic - like I remember it from back home.

Hop Li is my answer to edible chinese food on the west side. Not too shabby, although a little overpriced for dinner. The lunch special is the best, because you get one of these dishes, but with a bowl of either hot and sour soup or egg drop soup, and rice, for around 8 bucks.

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