Counter Intelligence: Empress Pavilion reinvented, Beverly Hills food crawl

Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times


In the springtime, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of dim sum. A somewhat older man's fancy turns to thoughts of the dim sum he loved when he was a somewhat younger man. Which is to say, the vast Hong Kong-style seafood palace Empress Pavilion, home to 600 chairs, a thousand wedding banquets, and more dim sum breakfasts than it is possible to count, is back among us. Can youth be recaptured in a single pan-fried cheong fun? It is difficult to say.

In other restaurant happenings, the French Laundry temporarily moves its kitchen into repurposed storage containers, Jenn Harris reports on a truck slinging Spam croissants, and S. Irene Virbila visits Beverly Hills and eats all the things. Do you still have room for a red velvet cupcake from the new downtown Auntie Em's? We thought you did.

And be on the lookout for Wednesday's In the Kitchen newsletter, with cooking tips and news, including new recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen.

Jonathan Gold

A dim sum palace in Chinatown

Empress Pavilion used to be the place for dim sum in Chinatown, an enormous seafood palace with lines on the weekend, and wedding parties featuring bird's nest soup. Then it deteriorated, closed -- and recently reopened. Jonathan considers whether it's reclaimed any of its former glory. Because although Chinatown is going through a considerable revival now (see: Pok Pok), it may well be that these days it's still worth heading to Monterey Park for dim sum.

What to do with all those shipping containers

Because Thomas Keller never does anything exactly the way you'd expect he would, the chef has dealt with the current remodel of the French Laundry by using shipping containers in lieu of a traditional kitchen. While he waits for the remodel to be finished, Keller and his chefs are running their kitchen out of four shipping containers, which pretty much exactly match the size of the old kitchen. (Your Robert Redford "All Is Lost" joke here.)

Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times

Where to eat in Beverly Hills

S. Irene Virbila checks out Beverly Hills, which can still feel like the small town it once was — at least if you stop shopping and head to some of its restaurants and food shops. There's Spago, the Bazaar and Maude — which can be deceptively fun  — but there's also Nate 'n Al and the Sprinkles ATM. Yes, cupcakes for you (and your dog) from a machine. If that's not reason enough to head to this part of town, there's also shops for excellent cheese and that Japanese chef's knife you've always secretly wanted.

Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times

Octopus pops come to Grand Central Market

Amid all the high-profile chefs opening in downtown's circa 1917 Grand Central Market food court, Amy Scattergood writes that some of the construction is by vendors who have been there for years. Thus La Tostaderia, a new Mexican seafood stall opening in a few weeks, is from the folks at Las Morelianas, the carnitas stall that Fernando Villagomez opened at GCM in 2008. He and chef Sandra Felix will be serving ceviche, tostadas, seafood tacos -- and octopus pops. Maybe the lines should start now.

Hormel Foods / PR Newswire

Spam from a truck

If you still think Spam is old-school poverty food, you haven't been to Roy Choi's restaurants lately. It's been having a serious renaissance, which of course means that the stuff now has its own devoted food truck. Jenn Harris reports that yes, Hormel, the company behind the brand, is launching its first SPAMERICAN tour with a food truck -- which will be starting its tour in L.A. 

Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times

Auntie Em's Kitchenette opens

Fans of Terri Wahl's Auntie Em's Kitchen in Eagle Rock can now venture downtown — and still get her avocado toast and red velvet cupcakes. Because last week Wahl and Brandi Lozano Miller (who runs Two Bits Market) opened Auntie Em's Kitchenette, an outpost of the homey restaurant, on 5th Street. Now you can eat your cupcakes on the giant wooden table that the two inherited from the Gorbals, which takes up much of the beautiful lofty space. 

Javier Cabral

Notes from the food and drink underworld

Looking for good al vapor tacos? You may need to head to Lynwood, where Tacos Estilo Guadalajara serves up excellent versions — and not much else. 

Julie Verive

Sure, you can drink craft beer at any of the many excellent brewpubs, breweries and bars around town. But why not raise a pint with the elephants at the L.A. Zoo, where they're now serving the stuff too.


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