It’s no secret that the Little Tokyo Shopping Center on the corner of 3rd and Alameda is something of a fortress. Much like Macy’s Plaza in the Financial District (downtown’s other “indoor mall”), Little Tokyo Shopping Center is a throwback to a different era. Its harsh grey concrete walls turn their back to the streets and its windowless exterior remains hostile to pedestrians who attempt to engage it from anywhere outside of its adjoining parking structure.
Despite its design drawbacks, the current mall owners have invested heavily into attracting a range of new businesses including Tom N’ Toms, which will feature a much needed exterior patio, and others. Chynna Dim Sum Lounge, located on the ground floor adjacent to the parking garage and Woori Market, is the latest eatery to open its doors.
Chynna’s concept is actually quite simple: It offers a familiar selection of dim sum available all day and evening long, a full bar with some in-house cocktails, and a casual lounge setting. While the menu does feature a greatest hits collection of traditional Chinese rice, noodle and meat/seafood based entrees; the dim sum is really the star of this show.
On my recent visit I sampled a range of dim sum dishes including the Shrimp Har Gow, Pork Siu Mai, BBQ Pork Bao, Potstickers and the Shanghai Pork Dumplings among others. Having experienced great dim sum in popular San Gabriel Valley etablishments, I have to admit that I was initially skeptical of the whole affair. After a few bites, however, I was completely impressed with the taste of everything I tried. Each dumpling and bao was perfectly cooked with flavors that were just as good as anything I have tasted in nearby Monterey Park or Arcadia. The Potstickers were a favorite of mine and I quickly found myself having withdrawal symptoms after savoring the last one.
Complementing the dim sum selection is a full bar and an excellent cocktail menu created by bar manager Janice Paik, a self-proclaimed “junior mixologist.” After a few sips of her smooth, tea infused drinks, I knew that there was nothing junior or amateur about them or her menu. Each cocktail brings a great mix of flavors to the table – her home made ginger ale with freshly grated ginger was especially tasty.
In all, I found myself pleasantly surprised by what Chynna has to offer. If you crave good dim sum at 10PM or if you want to enjoy your Siu Mai with an adult drink, Chynna is your place. It’s a great addition to the mall and the other restaurants in the burgeoning area, and the menu is affordable with dim sum priced at $4-$5 a plate and noodle and rice dishes priced at $10. The most expensive items on the menu come in at $12, which is very reasonable when you consider that most of the dishes are large enough for 2 or more people to share. — Lawrence Aldava
For the full menu, check out Chynna’s website.
All photos by Brigham Yen.