In honor of Chinese New Year, today’s restaurant is Hop Li in West L.A., one of a handful of authentic Chinese restaurants on the Westside. Several years ago, this location was JR Seafood, which featured real Chinese seafood with tanks of live fish, lobsters, shrimps and crabs as a testament to the freshness of the seafood. They proudly hung photos with guests like Chow Yun Fat and Ming Na Wen by the hostess stand. The hostess never failed to tell me over the phone that I had ordered too much food for two people. Rumor has it that the owner was forced to sell the restaurant to pay off his gambling debts which led to its current Hop Li incarnation.
Being an authentic Chinese restaurant, Hop Li offers what you would expect – an extensive menu, brusque service, generic decor and, from time to time, closures by the health department (a true badge of a REAL Chinese restaurant). We usually come here for the lunch specials, all priced under $10, with generous portions (I think they are the same as the portions at dinner but at a fraction of the cost), choice of hot and sour soup or egg drop soup and steamed rice.
Our favorite dishes include Honey Pepper Fish, Sautéed Green Beans and Steamed Fish Fillets .
My daughter usually opts to get the Chicken Chow Fun with Gravy. It’s not listed as such on the menu (nor is it a lunch special), but that’s the way she likes it.
Anything in black bean sauce or garlic sauce is also a good bet. Less successful was the Szechuan Tofu dish. It was a little flavorless, not that spicy, though packed with garlic.
Hop Li also has a parking garage, which gives it an advantage over the other authentic Chinese restaurants – Hop Woo and Mandarin Kitchen. Happy Year of the Sheep!
Location: 11901 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 90025. Also branches in Chinatown, Arcadia and Westwood. For some reason, you never see the Westwood location on the list of authentic Chinese restaurants on the Westside so I’m not sure if the food is different at that location.
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Pesco-Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly – Yes, although you may want to double check that chicken broth isn’t being used in a dish. Chinese often think that you can still eat chicken if you say that you don’t eat meat.
Gluten-Free Options – Yes