My son found this place on Yelp, and we stopped in for a quick bite before heading to the Getty Museum. Northern Café is located next door to Whole Foods Market in Westwood, and is a fast-casual spot. From the looks of it, the restaurant is doing very well from the hustle and bustle of the on-goings that day. It was interesting to note that every worker in the kitchen is Chinese, something you don’t typically see in California.
Our order arrives rather quickly, and just as well because we were salivating from the aromas wafting around the dining room.
Juicy Pork Dumplings ($7.50) or Xiao Long Bao are decent, albeit slightly thick on the outside, but juicy and flavorful.
We love this northern Chinese dish which typifies the cuisine from ethnic minorities in China. House Special Cumin Lamb ($12) is piping hot and the aroma of cumin is strong and distinct. Seared in a scalding wok with onion, cilantro, cumin, and chile oil, it is mouthwatering good. We dig in, but were quickly told that they had given us the wrong plate.
The dish is quickly swooped away and another plops down in its place. We are told that the earlier arrival is ‘not spicy’ and we are presented with one that clearly is hued with red hints throughout. Surprisingly, we preferred the non-spicy version as the abundance of chile masks the beautiful flavor of cumin and lamb.
My son loves Beef Roll ($6.50) which comprises a scallion pancake rolled with braised beef, and cilantro. The pancake itself needs a little more time in the pan to give it a crisper texture, but otherwise, good.
One of my favorite dishes growing up is Shanghai Fried Noodle ($8.50). The version here is solid, tossed with shredded chicken, cabbage, and bean sprouts. The flavors of both dark and light soy sauces permeate throughout.
The closest we have in Orange County is Paper Lantern, but a far limited menu in comparison. I look forward to trying more items when we are in the area next.
1064 Gayley Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90024