|A communal table sparks conversation at Fat Dragon|
Residents of the Silver Lake and Los Feliz area have spent decades waiting for good Chinese food to hit the area. Tired of hearing “Just go to Chinatown,” or “Monterey Park is only 15 minutes away,” we were thrilled when Pine & Crane opened a few years ago and significantly upped the Chinese food game.
Now along the same stretch of Sunset Blvd., Fat Dragon has joined the party, adding those guilty pleasure dishes like orange chicken that so many people crave, but with a light and modern approach.
Located in the same mini-mall that houses boho brunch spot Trois Familia, Fat Dragon has no lettered sign, just a neon dragon glowing above the storefront. As at Pine & Crane, you step up to the counter to order and the food is then delivered to the table. Some people are confused by the prominence of the tea menu on the board behind the counter, thinking it’s just a teahouse, and Fat Dragon does have a wide selection of teas. But don’t be fooled. There’s a full menu of crowd-pleasing Chinese dishes carefully prepared using high-quality ingredients like Mary’s chicken and Angus beef.
This isn’t San Gabriel Valley-style Chinese -- spice levels are on the subdued side, and there is no toothpick lamb or braised eel to be found (five-spiced quail is probably the most adventurous dish). Most dishes are clean-tasting with lots of fresh vegetables, though there are still plenty of indulgent and/or deep-fried choices. Honey walnut shrimp is almost dessert-like and too rich for just two people, but a few bites of the beloved banquet dish are just right. Orange chicken is deep-fried like the familiar mall version, but fresh orange slices and a light touch with the sauce keep it from being cloying.
|Ma-po tofu at Fat Dragon|
Some less common dishes well worth trying include Dragon fried rice, with Chinese sausage and bacon combined with the unusual addition of kohlrabi; and pork jowl stir-fry with dried tofu. Mapo tofu and Szechuan eggplant are both exceedingly solid versions. Mild-flavored moo goo gai pan and pan-fried noodles include plenty of vegetables, while dry-fried string beans, cauliflower and orange tofu are among vegetarian choices. The menu isn’t large -- hot and sour soup and more dumplings would probably be popular additions. And the Szechuan spicy wontons are perfectly good, but won’t make anyone forget the ones at Chengu Taste.
Crucially, Fat Dragon, which is part of the Sticky Rice group of restaurants, works with a number of delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar and Postmates, so that Holy Grail of good Chinese delivery is now accessible to the Silver Lake-Los Feliz area. But the food, especially fried items, is even better when eaten in the restaurant, which has a large communal table in the center as well as tables along the wall. There’s no beer and wine, but cold brew wild berry hibiscus, lychee lime green tea, and Hong Kong milk tea keep the drinks interesting. And not to be ignored: the housemade fortune cookies with irreverent sayings blow any mass-manufactured ones out of the water.
Upscale ingredients and a central location mean a meal for two will run at least $50, but the quality and flavor makes it well worthwhile.