Several months ago, while spending the day with my BFF up in LA, we decided to have lunch at Pine and Crane, a restaurant I had read about located in Silverlake. A few weeks ago, while up in LA for a conference, I returned again and decided to see if my return visit warranted the same love I felt on my first trip here. It absolutely did.
It is hard not to love Pine and Crane. From the moment you step inside the clean, minimalistic decor of this modern eatery, a feeling of serenity washes over you. Pick up a menu by the door, and when you’re ready, walk up to the counter and order.
On my first visit, we order Dan Dan Noodles ($7.50), usually served cold or at room temperature. The one here is warm, tossed with a sesame peanut sauce, chili oil and topped with julienned cucumbers and crushed peanuts. We order this on the second visit as well and I noticed a lot more noodles this time around, not always a good thing because there wasn’t enough sauce to go with it. The noodles are delicious and nicely al dente.
Beef Roll ($6) is the staple of any respectable Taiwanese meal at a restaurant. The one here is very tasty, but on the small side. Usually, when ordering this at a restaurant, I like to have at least three to four people to finish this. Here, you can easily polish an order off on your own. The pancake is not greasy and the beef not overly sweet. Just perfect. (please excuse this photo as I took it with my phone).
“San bei ji” is Three Cup Jidori Chicken ($12) while I love this dish, traditionally, it is served bone-in and tedious to eat. Here, only chunks of chicken meat is used with one of the lightest, yet so very flavorful soy and rice wine sauce combos around. Chinese basil (or Thai basil) adds to the aroma of this savory dish. We loved it (sorry, this photo was taken with my phone too).
On my subsequent visit, we enjoyed Zha Jiang Noodles ($8), something my mother makes all the time when I was growing up. Here, a ground Kurobuta pork with black bean sauce mix sits atop the noodles with julienned cucumbers and scallions. It tastes pretty close to my mother’s version and the best part? The hints of fresh garlic! — at home, we would take a nibble off a fresh clove of garlic and then a bite of noodles.
I love Mapo Tofu ($9) and even though I try to make it at home, it never quite comes out the way I want it to. Here, bits of ground Kurobota pork is nestled between the soft cubes of tofu seasoned with Sichuan peppercorns. It is not greasy at all! In fact, everything here is not greasy, a really difficult feat to make Chinese food taste good at a restaurant.
Don’t forget to order some greens, which comes from the owners’ farm in Bakersfield. Sweet Potato Leaves ($6) is my favorite as I don’t often find it at the farmers market. So tasty and addicting I can polish an entire plate on my own.
We didn’t eat the next two items, but I asked some people sitting at the next table if I could take a photo of theirs. Pork Dumplings ($5) look just the ones I’m used to eating — very respectable! I’m definitely trying these next time.
Beef Noodle Soup ($9) is usually on the oily side, but I did not detect a drop of oil in this bowl of deep, dark, beef broth swimming with beef shank, baby bok choy and preserved mustard greens. I wish I was bold enough to ask if I could taste it — but that would have been rude.
Pine and Crane is one of those places I wish was right here in Irvine, but then again, I’ll be broke because I would eat here every single week — maybe even several times a week!
Pine and Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026