There are so many different Asian cultures represented in the melting pot of people that make up Los Angeles that it's tough to narrow down the Top Ten Asian restaurants in our vast city. With so many choices in so many neighborhoods, there's truly something for every taste. But there are definitely some standouts among the thousands of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Indonesian and Pan-Asian restaurants scattered from the beach to downtown and beyond. Many of the best Asian spots around the city have been serving up delicious family recipes for decades (think Crustacean, Chan Dara, Yang Chow), while others have come onto the scene more recently – like Mint Leaf and Blue Ribbon Sushi & Grill. Angelenos love their Asian food so much they are even willing to travel to get the best; that's saying something in a city where traffic can really get people down. Until the first bite of dim sum you've fought the traffic to get to, that is!
Yang Chow Chinatown
Ask any local to name the best Chinese restaurant in town and Yang Chow is always included. This popular Chinatown eatery now has two more outposts, in Pasadena and Canoga Park. Known for its excellent Mandarin-Szechuan menu, Yang Chow's extensive selection of classics will satisfy even the most authentic of Chinese eaters. The delectable Slippery Shrimp dish is what put them on the map, but there's a lot more to try, with other popular specialties including Kung Pao Squid, General Tseng's Chicken and Sizzling Scallops. Started by five brothers back in 1977, Yang Chow is a classic L.A. eatery with something for the whole family to enjoy. (213-625-0811)
Chinois on Main
Chinois on Main, the second restaurant that Wolfgang Puck opened way back in 1983, has always been a perennial favorite on the Westside of Los Angeles. Located on Main Street in Santa Monica, Chinois was one of SoCal's first Asian fusion eateries, melding Chinese, Korean and Thai flavors with Puck's signature California-French tastes. Classic menu items include Shanghai lobster with curry sauce and crispy spinach, Whole Sizzling Catfish and Szechuan Beef. The famed Chinois Chicken Salad is one of Puck's truly inspired inventions, a dish that has spawned countless imitators across the Southland. But there's only one place to get the crunchy, delicious original, and that's right here, at this beautifully decorated classic spot that's just a few short blocks from the ocean. (310-392-9025)
Sushi Roku Santa Monica
Sushi Roku has been wowing locals and tourists alike in Los Angeles for many years, with the now-shuttered first location near the Beverly Center, followed by Santa Monica and Pasadena. All under the helm of master sushi chef Hiroshi Shima, Sushi Roku started the trend of super-sophisticated Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles, with its rock-and-roll sensibility in everything from decor to music – it's nothing like a traditional, quiet sushi spot. But the sushi and sashimi are always first rate (don't miss the seared albacore sashimi drenched in garlic ponzu) and the fusion dishes combining French and Japanese influences always satisfy. Be sure to try the signature Hanabi, spicy tuna on crispy rice. It's a fantastic taste sensation. (310-458-4771)
Thai cuisine meets Californian atmosphere at Chan Dara, and it's a well-suited match. Thanks to a casual, cool attitude and terrific, spicy Thai dishes, the place is constantly hopping. Hip crowds have filled this place for more then 30 years, kept happy by Clay Pot Shrimp and Scallops, Seared Onaga with Lemon Grass Cream Sauce, Thai Barbecued Pork and Catfish Cha Cha, which gets a kick from a spicy red curry cream sauce. Chan Dara's menu features plenty of Thai classics as well (think Mee Krob and Satays, for example), and noodle, rice and an extensive range of stir-fry dishes (including vegetarian choices) are also on offer. In fact, tasty unique and inexpensive dishes come flying out of the kitchen at a fast pace, and there's enough variety to satisfy every palate. (310-479-4461)
If you are looking for top-notch Indian cuisine, the Mint Leaf in Pasadena is the place to be. Entering the exotic space, you'll feel as if you've stepped right into a Mumbai eatery, with its golden lamps, dark leather banquettes, red tapestry chairs and burnished wood floors. Under the helm of Chef Jayanta Paul, the Mint Leaf offers everything from perfectly cooked Garlic Naan (be sure to try the Mozzarella and Pine Nuts Naan, too) to lusciously spiced dishes including a sensational Goan Salmon Curry and a classic Chicken Vindaloo. Start with an order of Shrimp Pakoras, dip them into accompanying the fragrant mint sauce and you're on your way to a wonderful meal. Finish up with the unexpectedly sweet Carrot Halwa Pudding for dessert with its fragrant cardamom spice and you're sure to be planning your next visit as you pay the very reasonably priced bill. (626-460-8776)
Katsuya by Starck - L.A. LIVE
For some of L.A.'s best sushi and coolest scene going, head over to Katsuya by Starck L.A. Live. This outpost of the restaurant chain helmed by Chef Katsuya Uechi and designed by Philippe Starck must be seen to be believed. But don't let the hip decor fool you; this place is serious about its sushi. Try the signature Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno and don't miss the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna. We'd suggest simply putting yourself in the chef's hands with the omakase ($75); you cannot go wrong. And don't miss the Flaming Mandarin cocktail, for it is a taste sensation like no other. Keep your eyes open, too, for there's always a chance to see a few famous faces at the table right next to you, enjoying their favorite Katsuya delicacy. (213-747-9797)
Typhoon, the sleek modern restaurant that overlooks the runway of the Santa Monica Airport, has long been a place where lovers of Asian flavors congregate. On the menu, diners will find over 70 dishes that hail from China, Japan, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and more Pacific Rim countries. In the mood for Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Thai Garlic Short Ribs? All are on offer, plus a full complement of sushi and sashimi. Feel like eating an insect or two? Bugs are always on the menu at this popular spot that's been serving up crickets, scorpions and other fascinating taste sensations for close to 20 years. Take note of the diners nearby, too, as famous faces like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford keep their personal small planes at the airport and have been known to stop into Typhoon for a bite before a flight. (310-390-6565)
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill at The Grove shopping center does so many things well it's tough to pick a favorite. But then you taste their famed Wasabi Honey Fried Chicken and there's no contest. This stuff is completely addictive and like no other fried chicken you've ever tasted – unless, that is, you've visited one of the other 14 Blue Ribbon restaurants located in New York and Las Vegas, where that signature dish is also featured. Chefs (and brothers) Bruce and Eric Bromberg are the culinary geniuses behind all the Blue Ribbon restaurants, along with partner Toshi Ueki, the Japanese chef responsible for the menus at the six Blue Ribbon sushi restaurants in the chain. And while there is all the sushi you could possibly want here, there are also other unexpected Japanese taste delights, including melt-in-your-mouth good house-made pork Shumai dumplings, seared Wagyu steak and a grilled avocado drizzled with wasabi ponzi. The flavors of the food at this bustling restaurant are often surprising and unique. Dining here is truly a culinary adventure; and note there are takeout versions of that fried chicken, too. (323-352-9300)
Los Angeles is where it all began for Nobu Matsuhisa, the acknowledged king of Japanese cuisine, who now has high-end eateries all over the world. His first restaurant, Matsuhisa, is a tiny place on La Cienega Boulevard; Nobu Los Angeles is further north up that same street; and the prettiest of them all, Nobu Malibu, is perched right on the sand on Pacific Coast Highway in the heart of that posh beach community. Malibu gets our vote for the best of three solely on location, for the gorgeous ocean views and sleek restaurant design somehow make Nobu's signature dishes like Black Cod Miso and Yellowtail with Jalapeno seem even more delicious when eaten there (and they are seriously fantastic no matter where you taste them). (310-317-9140)
Chef Helene An and her family escaped Vietnam as the Communists overran Saigon in 1975 and the rest really is history. She carried out the secret recipes that have made Crustacean one of the top restaurants in Beverly Hills for almost 20 years; and she's even got a secret kitchen-within-the-kitchen where only the few in the know are allowed. Her garlic noodles with prawns are legendary, as is her huge Dungeness crab roasted in secret spices. Plus, there are delicious hot and cold tapas that span culinary genres, ranging from a sweet and spicy meatball to an Ahi taco, a lobster lollipop and a fascinating beef summer roll. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beverly Hills with An's Centennial Wagyu Beef served with a sweet secret glaze that pops in your mouth. And did we mention that the place is incredibly beautiful, with a fish tank built into the floor? (310-205-8990)
About Jenny Peters
Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good things in life. She is a founding/voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, who present the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards every January. Her favorite places to be are on the beach in Southern California playing volleyball, scuba diving with the sharks in warm tropical waters or strolling the streets and soaking in the atmosphere of one of the world's great cities (New Orleans and Florence are her favorites).
Read more about Jenny Peters here.
Connect with Jenny via: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest