The news had spread like wildfire in the Chinese community at UCLA. A mere four days after opening, Northern Cafe, a Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant, was packed at 3pm on a Saturday. All the diners were Asian (at least as far as I could see), which was a good sign. We returned the next day for a very early dinner, at a time which usually only brings out the white-haired folks.
Northern Cafe in Westwood took over the spot previously occupied by the Mongolian BBQ place (Mongolian BBQ places seem to be on the wane these days). It’s a counter service restaurant so you order at the counter, get a number and find a table.
As with the previous day, almost everyone was Asian (with the exception of four people), and predominantly Chinese. I would probably guess that they were all Chinese but didn’t get to hear if everyone spoke Chinese so I’m not sure.
The fish and chive dumplings arrived first. Boiled, which is healthier though less delicious than fried, they tasted mostly of chives and had a very mild flavor. They really needed the dipping sauce that they were served with (and a kick from the chili garlic sauce that was in a jar on the table.
Next came the potstickers. They were a odd shape, a lot longer and narrower than what you usually see.
The dumpling wrapper was a little thicker and chewier too, and the meat filing was very small, only occupying maybe a third of the dumpling.
Shanghai Fried Noodles typically are very greasy, one of those dishes that leaves you with a shiny ring around your mouth. The noodles here were surprisingly free of excess oil, which I liked.
The dish I was most excited about ordering were the Xiao Long Bao, steamed juicy pork dumplings. The dumplings here aren’t as juicy as they are over at Din Tai Fung, but it’s a lot easier to come here.
I wish Northern Cafe had existed when I was at UCLA. I would have been here every week. For homesick students and those who enjoy eating Chinese food, Northern Cafe helps fill a much needed void for authentic Chinese food in Westwood Village.
Location: 1064 Gayley Ave., Los Angeles 90024. Additional locations in Cerritos and Hacienda Heights.
Website – http://www.northerncafeucla.com
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Pesco-Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegan Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes