Newsletter: Counter: Chinese banquets and Watts ‘fast food’

If you’ve been paying attention to the world of L.A. food, you’ve probably been reading a lot about Watts this past week, as Locol finally opened on Monday. The new project from chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened its screened-in doors auspiciously on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and drew not only many locals and people from across town, but former NFL great Jim Brown and Mayor Eric Garcetti. Which is what happens when you say you want to change the world, one “yotchay” at a time.

A world away in Temple City, Jonathan reviews a Chinese seafood banquet palace, where the meals will cost you A LOT more than Roy Choi’s $4 burgers. We also consider the minimum wage, which is set to increase this year, and the issue of tipping, both of which have been hot topics lately in restaurants both here and across the country. And then we have tacos, because you cannot have too many good tacos, especially very late at night, or early in the morning, when there are few things as marvelous as a good chicken neck taco in East L.A.

Amy Scattergood

Grand Harbor

Fresh lobster congee at Grand Harbor in Temple City.

(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

Grand dinners at Grand Harbor

This week, Jonathan considers Grand Harbor, a newish Chinese banquet hall and dim sum restaurant in Temple City. There he finds a tasting menu that’ll run you just short of $10K. If that’s not quite your budget for, well, dinner, there’s a menu for $418, and plenty of dishes for the rest of us, including a black chicken herbal soup, which won’t run you that much at all. This is a Hong Kong-style seafood place, so maybe order some lobster congee — which is a bargain compared to the whole geoduck congee, which could cost you $150. It’s that kind of place.


A business sign for LocoL is being installed.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

A Watts revolution

On the other end of the dining spectrum, I went to check out Locol with most of the rest of the world. Locol is, of course, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s most ambitious project — to re-create so-called fast food their way, using healthful and well-sourced ingredients to make food that tastes great and is inexpensive. Watts is their flagship location, the place where the pair has chosen to start what they don’t hesitate to call a revolution.

The custom of tipping at restaurants could be on the way out. There are ideas for change on the table, including set service charges and all-inclusive pricing.
(Fuse / Getty Images)

Minimum wage and the problem of tipping

Evan Kleiman, longtime host of “Good Food” on KCRW, takes up the issue of the minimum wage, which is finally rising and which will likely dramatically change the way restaurants do business in the future. She argues for an “all-in” model, in which we abolish tipping altogether. To put the issue into perspective, food writer and lawyer Tien Nguyen considers the FAQs of tipping.

Late-night tacos

Chicharron tacos from El Taquito Mexicano.

(Gabriel Carbajal / For The Times)

Late-night tacos

In this town, a craving for tacos is a kind of permanent condition. Fortunately, there are myriad great taquerias and trucks, even upscale restaurants, to help us out. But what about late at night or even early in the morning? Contributor Gabriel Carbajal checks out 10 taco joints that are open after 1 a.m., when the craving can be exacerbated by long hours, not enough food, or sometimes too much to drink. Though, really, who needs a reason for a good chicharrón or chicken neck taco.


From left, Kali co-owners Drew Langley, who also will serve as the restaurant's wine director, and chef Kevin Meehan. 

(Rachel Jacobson)

More fun in Larchmont Village

Deputy Food Editor Jenn Harris reports on the opening of Kali, the upcoming restaurant version of a popular supper club. Kevin Meehan and Drew Langley have some serious creds (L’Orangerie, Bastide, Citrine, Providence) and are developing a brick-and-mortar that will focus on à la carte dishes instead of tasting menus. Escargot toast and shrub cocktails!

Seed Bakery

A tray of freshly baked rye and maple Danishes awaits customers at Seed Bakery in Pasadena.

(Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times)

Great bread in Pasadena

The trend of small bakeries that actually deserve the adjective “artisanal” continues, with the recent opening of Seed Bakery in northern Pasadena. There, baker Joseph Abrakjian is baking bread using whole grain flour that he mills himself on a small stone mill at the back of the bakery. There are loaves of einkorn, spelt, rye, buckwheat, kamut and other grains, as well as pastries, including chocolate croissants and rye-maple Danishes.

Jonathan Gold’s 101 

Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers.

Check us out on Instagram @latimesfood

In the Kitchen: Sign up for our weekly cooking newsletter

Check out the thousands of recipes in our Recipe Database


We’d love to hear from you. Email us at