Chin Chin – Oh, Just Admit It. You’ve Been There, Too

chin chin, los angeles, ca
I call it The Delicious Life.

As if my every waking moment, from dusk ’til dawn ’til dusk again, I am slipping in (and out of) a fabulous little halter sundress, wrapping my long, slender, perfectly French manicured fingers around the stem of a martini glass on the veranda, then gliding inside, landing like a flutterby on table in a dark, quiet corner to laugh, tilt my head coquettishly and just plain sparkle, lingering over a three hour dinner of delectable little things I can’t remember because it was just too good, but thank God I took pictures and recorded my impressions on a recorder between giggles and the fifth course.


But sometimes.

But only sometimes.

Sometimes, it is.




I don’t want to make my apartment more humid than it is by showering, spending an hour blowdrying my hair that makes me all sweaty again right after showering, applying three coats of makeup to cover the pale, laptop screen-tanned skin, getting all dressed up, then battling traffic out to the area bounded on four sides by Fairfax, La Brea, Wilshire,and Sunset, known as restaurantville (but probably only known as restaurantville to me). I don’t want to drink a wine that’s fine to everyone else but tastes like termite food to me with my nose down in the glass and my pinkie up in the air. I don’t want to spend $200 per person on local, sustainable, seasonal, organic, market basket, organic, olive-oil-poached so perfectly precious that I want to scoop my eyeballs out with the the dessert spoon and replace them with quail eggs.

Can’t a girl get a break from sublime, unctous, delicious?!?! Is that so much to ask? Can I do that? Or is that just “not done.” Sorry, Sarah. We don’t do that here in the food blogosphere. We don’t “do” that.

I just. *sigh* I just want to rummage through the pile of halfway-to-filty clothes on the floor of my closet and throw on the least wrinkled pair of jeans with no name and no shape. I just want to flapflapflap in my flip flops down the street, three blocks. In a baseball cap pulled low. With remnants of last night’s makeup still smeared on my face. Probably wearing grease-smudged glasses. Counting the cash left in my wallet and *sigh*ing with relief that I have just enough to eat at…Chin Chin. That’s all. I just want to slip casually into a booth at Chin Chin for Dim Sum and then Sum.

I ate at Chin Chin many more times than I care to remember when I first moved to California because back then, I was in college. Quality didn’t matter as much. Since I was in college in Berkeley, visits to “hip” LA had to include eating out at Chin Chin because Chin Chin was “hip,” especially since I was always sitting on the “look-at-me-everyone!” sidewalk patio of the location on Sunset Boulevard. Oh gawd. I might even have been wearing my sunglasses out there on the patio. At night.

But since then, I rarely go back to Chin Chin. In fact, I think this was the first time I’ve gone back in years because Chin Chin has a stigma. Like “cheesy.” Like “Western.” Like “Dim Sum and Then Sum!” Like “omghowcouldyoueatChinChin?!??!”

Yes, I ate at Chin Chin. So, what? Chin Chin isn’t bad food.

Oof. Let me re-phrase that.

Chin Chin isn’t poisonous food.

I didn’t go there because I wanted an authentic Honk Ong dim sum experience. If that were the case, I would have driven out to Monterey Park (ha! like I’d ever really do that). I didn’t go there for a fabulous scene. If I wanted to “see and be seen,” I would have downed three cocktails at home to take dumb myself down, then gone to Geisha House.

I just wanted a break.

Chin Chin certainly doesn’t falsely attest to being “authentic,” by using that particular word. However, they do say “traditional,” and perhaps the stout little Asian women standing shoulder to shoulder behind low zoo-view showcase-window glass are there to portray that image. Their deft hands flash across the counter making rows and rows of dumplings, and more than likely, the ingredients and the techniques are traditional. However, as traditional as Chin Chin may strive to be, the illusion is flimsy and disintegrates faster than a block of boullion in boiling water when you see the word “Oriental.”

chin chin, los angeles, ca - dim sum appetizers
assorted, yes. pleasures? not so much
chin chin, los angeles, ca - noodles
almost as good as panda express

We ordered an appetizer platter called Assorted Pleasures that had little individual dim-sum like food items on it – pan-fried dumplings, springrolls, won tons, and gift-wrapped chicken. That most certainly is an assortment, but somewhere between the menu and out table, they lost the “pleasures.” Perhaps too long in the fryer, too long under a heat lamp, too long waiting to be picked up, they were greasy, soggy to the point of chewy in places that should have fell apart in crisp flakes, and hard and chewy in places that should have been tender and soft.

A plate of noodles wasn’t horrible. They were spicy, as promised, though way too salty, even for me. At the sight of it, the noodles looked overcooked. The actual noodles in the dish weren’t really over-cooked, but for some reason, I was sorely disappointed at seeing a garnish of those ridiculous Chung King deep-fried chow-mein noodles that come in a canister at the grocery store in the “Oriental” aisle. Nonetheless, we took the noodles, as we had the “dim sum,” for what it was. Dim sum and then sum.

Oh, give me a break. You know you’ve been there, too. And if not Chin Chin, it was Taco Bell. Admit it. Admit it!

Chin Chin
11740 San Vicente Boulevard (@ Gorham)
Los Angeles, CA 90049

** a year ago today, sagan gave us “suh-biss” and calamari looked like condoms **

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous June 20, 2006 at 7:12 pm

First it’s PF Changs…now Chin Chins…will Sizzler be next?! :) JP.


2 LACheesemonger June 20, 2006 at 7:25 pm

No, cannot..admit it. I did however have the original Chin Chin’s on Sunset, manager/owner in my UCLA extension nightime class on restaurant management, taught by the then manager of the Hotel Bel-Air…Jacqline Canter (daughter Canter, USC sorority grad ;) ) fail in her essay, as she went on and on with verbiage similar to the DL, lol. Hotel Bel-Airs manager said to KISS (keep is short and simple, aka keep it simple stupid…hehe). No, after hearing the faux fusion Chinese/Asian inspired menu from the guy from the original Chin Chin, which was doing business like gangbusters, I vowed never to go…too R ‘Reckless’ R “authentic” for me. *shudders*

calamari condoms? Slow down Sarah, I haven’t finished my follow up post/err ‘essay’ about sexy fun and food pr0n at the local FM’s, that entry is now the last one on the current DL page :( (well, OK, I secretly don’t want anyone else by DS to read it, cause if anyone else does, they’ll get MY mulberries next week, fights are bound to break out!).


3 hermz June 20, 2006 at 7:38 pm

Sure, I ate there. But I was new to LA and didn’t know better. And it was the suggestion of an Asian girl. Now I know better: 1. Don’t eat at Chin Chin. 2. Don’t assume Asian girls know Asian food.


4 KT June 20, 2006 at 7:53 pm

Ha ha! Never done it. But then … I have never lived near a Chin Chin. My food sins are always committed in the name of convenience.


5 onetomato June 21, 2006 at 4:01 am

never eaten at the restaurant, although i had their chinese chicken salad at an asian food festival…after numerous sake shots and various wine tastings…so i guess i can’t trust my opinion on that..


6 sarah June 21, 2006 at 9:16 pm

jp: silly, this is a series of chinese…which means next up is PANDA EXPRESS!!

l.a.c.: well of course you’ve never eaten there. but you thought about it. i know you did.

hermz: 3. don’t assume asian girls know anything at all

kt: my food sins are always committed in the name of late night sobering up.

onetomato: chin chin was at an ASIAN FOOD FESTIVAL!?!?

i don’t know why, but that makes me laugh.


7 santos. June 22, 2006 at 6:24 am

wtf is it about chin chin these days? it’s replacing the salton sea as Random Californian Thing mentioned at least once a week by different people.

somebody brought me takeout from there tonight, actually. it was less salty than i remember, but other than being completely overcooked and erratically spiced, it was okay.


8 sarah June 26, 2006 at 7:47 pm

santos: chin chin. why? WHY?!?! whyohwhyohwhy?? lol! i swear, they have been around for 20 years. maybe 25. how?!??!


9 Hilary June 26, 2006 at 10:30 pm

A few months ago, I was craving their cold spicy peanut noodle salad and called to place a pickup order of dim sum and then some. Alas…the Sunset Plaza location no longer offers dim sum and then sum.

So I scoured the Internet and found a recipe and it was just as good. In fact, even better.


10 sarah June 28, 2006 at 11:59 pm

hilary: she bakes AND she cooks! you need to open a bakery cafe, girl. a bakery cafe!!


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