Yang Chow (Mandarin)

Chinese food is the red-headed bastard stepson of Asian cuisine. Whereas Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese each boast distinctive flavors, textures, ingredients and condiments, Chinese offers grease, oil, starch and goop. And, of course, the migraine-inducing MSG in just about everything. Actually there are two things distinctly Chinese that are uniquely delicious – dim sum and Peking duck. But anything else is generally just a bland mess.

Yang Chow on Broadway in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown is a perennial “Best of” pick for Mandarin and Szechwan fare and, although less goopy than its peers, still suffers the indignity of the culture’s heavy-handed blasé-fare.

A variety of soups and porridges, like most entrees, are enormous and fit for three or even four persons. The sizzling soup with rice crispies floating along the surface is good for three bites before those crispies become soggy sponges. And while the sunken shrimp are snappy, the slices of ham and chicken seem to have been plucked from a package of processed lunch meat.

Yang Chow is renowned for its slippery shrimp, so if you like your crustaceans so overly coated with a sweet and sour crust, and drenched in a mayo paste that the meat inside is anyone’s guess then have at it. Squid in a black bean sauce is tender but so salty as to launch a thousand Slurpee headaches.

Not even a gallon of water can save the lingering effects of the slippery shrimp

Better to play it straight with one of the lightly sautéed shrimp dishes, the one with beautifully large, crisp broccoli being among the best.

Of the dozen noodle dishes, stick to the pan fried selections to get less starchy, crispier noodles. The Lo Meins are bland and too sloppy wet with chewy beef and starchy shrimp.

For the most appealing dishes that don’t overwhelm with condiment additions, try the silky, tender velvet chicken or, better yet, the chicken shreds over braised spinach in a spicy garlic sauce. Placed over one of the warm and comforting fried rices (each with a different protein combination) this is a one-two Chinese punch as good as you’ll find this far West of Shanghai. One warning: if you’re on your way to a Laker game, make sure you’re very close and comfortable with whoever will be sitting next to you. The spicy garlic will leave deadly vapor trails the rest of the night.

Yang Chow

819 N. Broadway

Los Angeles, CA 90012