Though char siu and Hainan first earned Johnny Lee's Pearl River Deli citywide acclaim, the ever-changing bill of fare and punk rock approach to cooking are what keep this new-school Chinese restaurant among L.A.'s very best. Now firmly established in a larger space on Hill Street, the casual eatery is a worthy dining destination thanks to chef de cuisine Laura Hoang's mouthwatering baked goods and whatever else the kitchen is into at the moment. Mostly, Lee and his team churn out Cantonese classics like pan-fried seafood chow mein and beef stew, but dishes from across the Sinosphere have been known to pop up from time to time—think Singaporean nasi lemak, Japanese tenshindon and Hawaiian poke made with ginger-scallion sauce. Note: Citing creative exhaustion, Lee has indefinitely taken the ultra-popular Hainan chicken off the menu.
L.A.'s Chinatown may not bear the same pedigree as its massive counterparts in New York and San Francisco, but there’s still plenty for your tastebuds to discover in the Downtown neighborhood that, in the last decade, has become home to a handful of destination-worthy gourmet eateries. (Of course, there's also plenty of excellent old-school spots.) During KCRW events in the summer and Lunar New Year celebration every late winter, the neighborhood population temporarily swells as revelers from all over come in, packing the normally quieter dining and drinking establishments.
For those willing to wander, Chinatown offers plenty of off-the-beaten-path treasures. The area isn't just known for Chinese cuisine—it now offers several amazing sandwiches and Vietnamese fare as well. Outside of dining, you can even pick up vintage finds at East Meets West and cookbooks at Now Serving inside Far East Plaza. With three main shopping plazas (Central and Mandarin, as well as the aforementioned), there's plenty of great food and drink to found using our guide to Chinatown’s best restaurants and bars.
RECOMMENDED: See more in our full guide to things to do in Chinatown