With a spot that’s focused on fusion, Ms.Chi is the answer to the California dinner party challenge; this friend is vegan, that one is gluten-free, the other one is a dedicated carnivore, and the other other one just wants something new and different. And if you have a friend who craves kid-food (or maybe even an actual kid) this is the place to bring them all, and feast.
Open on Main Street in the space formerly occupied by Hanjip, the bright pink marquee is the first sign that this is different in all kinds of ways. Breakfast and lunch are DIY counter service, dinner is served by waitstaff, and the options cover Americanized dim sum, some classic Asian dishes, and some truly fun fusion.
Chef Shirley Chung is a reality tv winner, famed for her Top Chef victory with Jumbo Cheeseburger Potstickers with Tomato Bacon Jam. Any red blooded meat eater could call this a meal, and it’s starring place on the menu is absolutely deserved. But there is much more to enjoy.
On my first visit I went for dinner, and as it was cold, we thought some hot sake would be just the ticket. There was sake, yes, but only cold. Happily, we ordered enough spicy food to get the inner furnace working – vegan Mapo tofu, Kung Pao Cauliflower – and were quite pleased.
Another adventure was just for dim sum, and everyone got to sample; the famous cheeseburger potsickers, chicken jiaozi, sizzling pork potstickers, red scallop dumplings (filled with beets), baby chi pork bao, and the vegan garden. Even the carnivores thought the vegan dish was the best, and while the pork and chicken were nicely spiced and flavored, the texture of the wrappers seemed a bit off. Nevertheless, all plates were empty by the end of the meal, and not even a drop of dipping sauce went unclaimed.
Lunch on the front patio was lovely once the weather warmed – shrimp chow mein and vegetable chow mein were both ideal, with fresh and flavorful veggies, a perfectly seasoned sauce and perfectly textured noodles. Chinese chicken salad was the picture postcard perfect version of that dish. We finished off with another example of fun fusion; mochi donuts. Why no one has done this yet is a wonder, but Chung has done it so well the results are almost magical.
Take all your most ingredient-challenged friends, and tell them you have found a Chinese-American cafe with some wonderful gluten-free, vegan, spicy, meaty, sweet stuff. They are going to love it.
3829 Main Street
Culver City 90230
Pictured – Vegan Mapo Tofu