Noodle soups are some of my favorite food, whether it’s Japanese ramen, Vietnamese pho, Thai boat noodles. Unfortunately, with the exception of ramen, it is relatively difficult to get authentic noodle soups on the Westside, particularly Chinese noodle soups. However, one restaurant, opened just a few months ago, has been a game changer on that front.
Qin West Chinese Cuisine, of the smoking hot Far East Plaza in Chinatown, home of Chego, Scoops, the newly opened Pok Pok Phat Thai, and soon Ramen Champ, opened a second location in October on Westwood, just down the street from UCLA and its large Chinese and Chinese-American student body. TonyC here broke the news on Eater LA, as discussed here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/992474
While one can find such (Americanized) Chinese restaurant staples as Orange Chicken and Broccoli Beef on the regular menu--I hear (but have not found out for myself) that the restaurant does a decent job on those dishes--it’s the 5-item specials menu, with three dishes from Shaanxi province, and two from Guangxi province, reflecting where the restaurant owner’s family lived in China, that deserves special attention!
On my first visit, Ciao Bob, phamschottler, and I worked our way through the four noodle dishes on said menu:
Liang Pi: A dish that literally means “cold skin”, this handmade “dry” cold noodle dish from Shaanxi, topped with bean sprouts, cucumber, peanuts, and sauce, was interesting. Something in the flavoring of the sauce hit an Italian note in my brain, like oregano and chili flakes, but not quite. On my Instagram post of the dish, I received a few comments that it didn’t look like authentic liang pi. There was also some debate on the Chowhound thread linked above. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the expertise to judge. I did enjoy it, but not as much as I did some of the other dishes.
Guilin Soup: Also known as Guilin mifen (rice noodles), named after the city in Guangxi, the noodles were round rather than flat, and about the same thickness as spaghetti. They were essentially identical to Vietnamese bun. The broth had a gentle heat (I believe we ordered it medium spiciness) and a mild tang from the pickled cabbage. The slices of braised beef were tender.
Saozi Noodle: From Shaanxi, where the noodles are hand pulled, the bowl of was topped with diced pork, potato, and tofu. Unlike the other two noodle soups on the specials menu, this one came with thin, flat-ish, wheat noodles, rather than round rice noodles. Not sure if they were hand pulled or not.
Liuzhou Soup: Named after another city in Guangxi, the Chinese name is actually luo si fen, or snail rice noodles. The broth is traditionally made by boiling snails and either pork or beef bones, though no snail meat is served in the soup, and that is how it is served here. The flavor is briny, and sharper than any of the other noodle soups here, with the addition of sour bamboo shoots and lily flowers.
Chinese Mo: On a subsequent visit, after getting my fill of Liuzhou Soup, I did try the last item on the specials menu, known as rou jia mo (meat sandwich) in Chinese. A Shaanxi dish, like the Liang Pi, there’s some question about how authentically it is prepared, specific in regards to the bread. It is very thin and crisp here, but I’ve been told (on Instagram and Chowhound) the bread should be a bit thicker, better to soak up the stewed pork. Speaking of which, the meat filling wasn’t very memorable at all.
Of the five items on the specials menu, the clear winner, for me was the Liuzhou Soup, so much so that, after my first visit, I actually went back the very next day to have it again! That time, I ordered the soup extra spicy, and I added on slices of beef, both of which just made it that much better!
Chinese Cold Dish: Since I love all things offal, I did have to give one dish from the regular menu a try. Chinese cold dishes appetizers are a staple of Chinese cuisine. The dish here consists of braised, sliced pig ears, stomach, and cucumbers, in hot oil, a real treat (for me) on the Westside!
To illustrate just how much I’ve taken to Qin West and their fantastic noodle soups, I believe I’ve had more bowls of noodle soups there than I have ramen from all establishments combined in the past few months. In fact, I’m itching to go back. The food is delicious, filling, inexpensive (all the dishes above are less than $8).
The small parking lot, with a tendency for people to get parked in, and the occasionally-tough street parking make it sometimes difficult to eat there, but really no more so than trying to go to Tsujita (original or Annex) on Sawtelle. The somewhat bigger drawback is the lack of restroom on the premises, so make sure you go before you go.
To close, here’s one last shot of my favorite dish at Qin West:
If you like Vietnamese bun bo hue or Thai boat noodles, you’ll probably like it too! Not that it’s like either of those noodle dishes, but it strikes similar tangy, spicy notes in my mind.
Qin West Chinese Cuisine
1767 Westwood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
310-478-8829 or 310-478-8827