When ROC Kitchen opened on Sawtelle six years ago, it was a godsend, bringing Chinese steamed soup dumplings (aka xiao long bao) to LA’s Westside, saving people the trek into the San Gabriel Valley.
Since then, a few others places that serves xiao long baos have opened in West LA, most notably the undisputed king – Din Tai Fung. With their recent opening, it seemed like a good time to revisit ROC Kitchen to see how their food was holding up.
We came at lunch and scored one of the last tables. Once seated, you order via a paper menu, indicating the quantities you want next to your desired item.
The fried pork dumplings were deep-fried, which was a bit of a surprise to me as I was expecting them to just be pan-fried on the bottom. Nevertheless, they were good (they were deep-fried, so of course they were), and even my picky teen, who usually eviscerates the meat from the dumpling wrapper (and then doesn’t eat the filling), enjoyed them in their entirety.
Likewise very fried were the scallion pancakes. I’d say they were a bit too fried, though I still ate them.
The veggie fried rice was also not what I expected, with lots of broccoli and spinach, instead of the more mundane cubes of carrots and peas. At least this dish wasn’t oily and felt fresh, thanks to those vegetables.
After eating at Din Tai Fung which has pretty much perfected their dumplings, with 18 neatly folded pleats, the steamed dumplings at ROC looked more clumsy in their execution. The wrapper was thicker than over at DTF, which I actually prefer. Both places have dumplings that are more restrained in their “juice.” The pork and crab dumplings had chunks of crab in the filling that you could actually taste, which was a nice touch.
My favorite dish, oddly enough, turned out to be the green beans, sautéed with garlic, perfectly crispy. I could not stop eating them.
Service was a bit slow, with dishes taking their own sweet time appearing. I will say that they were in no rush to kick us out of our table (which is my nice way of saying that it took forever for the bill to come).
If you don’t mind a little grease, ROC Kitchen still manages to satisfy that Chinese food craving. Just make sure you’re not pressed for time.
Location: 2049 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes