R.O.C. Star or Kitchen “Soup Dumplings” on Sawtelle
Although I sit across the street and have wondered what was being put into the space, I’m still unsure of the restaurant name. A crowd formed instantly when the “soft launch” was happening in late October, into November. There’s still not a sign, but it’s open for business. I’ve already heard repeatedly, “there’s no need to go to San Gabriel Valley for Chinese food” or “finally, a good Chinese place on the Westside.” For those who have experienced “SGV” knows what “real” Chinese food can be and it’s far, at near 20+ miles from the Westside of Los Angeles. Yet this is different. R.O.C. isn’t Republic of China. It’s Republic of California, which should tell you that this might have hybrid elements.
Of course the caveat begins in an instant by many. “It’s not SGV prices.” and the answer: “Of course it’s not. The rents are also many times higher.” On the Westside, a “C” rating isn’t respectable or “legit” as it is in the SGV. Mopping the floors and keeping vermin away, doesn’t mean your edibles are better or worse. But long story short, this is the first of it’s kind perhaps in all of LA. If you want the venerable Din Tai Fung, prepare to drive nearly an hour just to get there, and then wait another length of time. If you want something else along with your xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, forget it, you’re doomed. R.O.C. offers other dishes that are equally intriguing.
I’ve tried xiao long bao many times in Arcadia (Din Tai Fung), NYC (Joe Shanghai with David Choe – link) and even in China! (link) R.O.C. makes it decently and it’s still a work in progress. Could it have a little more “soup”? maybe, but the flavors are there and they’re still learning. I overheard the wait staff tell a group of diners, “if you don’t like it, we’ll take it back and not charge you for it.” Does this happen in the SGV?2049 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Here’s a rundown of what I tried at R.O.C.
Fried Pork Dumpling. It’s stuck together. I’ve had it this way a few times including in Japan, and it’s fun to see it this way and taste great too. Presentation counts. It looks stunning.
Xio Long Bao – I tried it with just pork and also with crab and pork. It’s all under $10. I believe the pork is $8.
Green Beans. Clean and tasty. It’s not overly oiled or sauced. It’s not a huge portion at $7, but you shouldn’t be grazing for green beans when you’re there.
Scallion Pancake. $4 seems to raise some gasps, but it’s significant and a good appetizer. What do you expect it cost? $3? $2?
Spicy pork dumpling. It’s not that spicy but it’s a winner and a fun starter. If you’re going for dumpling madness, you have to try this one too.
Three Cup Chicken – (sorry about the blur). It’s the loudest dish of the six I tried. It’s the 2012 version of teriyaki. The carmelized red onion sweetens the dish more. You need this one with rice and for those who like sweet and savory, this will be your favorite item on the menu.