Chef Shirley Chung serves up “progressive Chinese American cuisine” at Ms Chi Cafe, her newly opened all-day restaurant in Culver City. With dreams of pastrami-stuffed scallion pancakes and cheeseburger potstickers dancing in our heads, my colleagues and I endured the long trek across the city for a distinct take on Chinese American fare.
Prior to opening Ms Chi, Chef Shirley competed in seasons 11 and 14 of Top Chef and spent time in the kitchens of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and Jose Andres’ China Poblano. There’s another Ms. Chi outlet at The Fields downtown, but she considers the Culver City location the flagship.
After placing orders at the counter, our group nibbled on mochi doughnuts ($2.50) while we waited for food and drinks to arrive. All three varieties—black sesame, matcha green tea, and chocolate—boasted admirably chewy textures and true-to-form flavors. The dusty black sesame was tops.
Also excellent was the “Hot Dog Bao” ($3.50), a snappy Kosher dog encased in steamed milk bread. I have entered the hot dog season of life in recent years, and thus I appreciated this Chinese American take very much.
And then came a trio of dumplings to share! First up were the “Chicken Jiaozi” ($8) with scallions and five spice…
…then “Wontons in Chili Oil” ($9) stuffed with pork, shrimp, and Sichuan pickled vegetables…
…and lastly, “Sizzling Pork Potstickers” ($9) with scallions and fennel. The scratch-made parcels were varied and satisfying.
A few colleagues enjoyed the “Hong Kong Minced Beef” ($13) for their main course. Appealingly homey and mushy, the rice came with caramelized onions, a soft egg, and bits of crispy garlic.
The communal Beijing-style “Chilled Sesame Noodles” ($10) boasted some bite, along with shredded chicken and chili oil.
For my main course, I selected one of the scallion pancake “sandwiches” served with a side of tater tots. Dotted with a confetti of minced chilies and salt, the tots were nothing short of addictive.
It’s hard to say which element of the “Mr. Chi” ($13) I adored more—the rich and flaky scallion pancake exterior or the Chinese-spiced pastrami, hazelnut pesto, and Beijing mustard vinaigrette filling. Both elements were thoughtful and well executed.
All of the dishes that we tasted this afternoon were as palate-pleasing as they were personal—a balance of both form and function. Ms Chi’s unique brand of Chinese American cooking is a solid addition to Los Angeles’ ever-evolving dining scene.
Ms Chi Cafe
3829 Main Street
Culver City, CA 90232
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