Few things bring me as much joy as dumplings. I like to think of them as little wrapped presents that I open in my mouth. Well-crafted Chinese dumplings are especially nice gifts, the kind that I buy for myself after a particularly grueling work week or as a reward for doing my best to navigate the chutes and ladders of modern life. Sometime I gift dumplings to myself for no special reason at all, and occasionally I will even purchase them for others.
The best place for Chinese Dumplings is the San Gabriel Valley, but when I don’t have time to schlep out that far, I usually go to ROC Kitchen in West LA’s Asian food mecca known as “Little Osaka.” ROC opened last December and, despite a recent expansion into the space next door, there is almost always a wait for a table. The decor is modern and minimalist, with the focus, as it should be, on the food.
A meal at ROC should properly start with Xiao Long Bao aka Shanghai Soup Dumplings; little doughy sacks of broth and meat that explode in your mouth as you eat them whole. After that, I recommend moving on to the Crispy Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp — eight fried dumplings that have been fused together to form a crispy pancake of sorts, followed by some fluffy Steamed Pork Buns. Take a brief respite from the carbs and try the Three Cups Chicken with Fresh Chilies, Thai Basil & Roasted Garlic or the Pepper Beef. Both are excellent. For dessert, you can resume carbo-loading with sweet red bean or taro dumplings.
ROC Kitchen is located at 2049 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles (in West LA).