Little Hong Kong Café
2129 Sawtelle Boulevard (between Mississippi and Olympic)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.478.7329 or 310.391.8958
When your first meal of the day is at 2:00 in the afternoon, dressed in an oversized sweatshirt to cover the ridiculously wrinkled outfit that looked great when you first left the house sixteen hours ago, remnants of glitter and gloss mixed with eyeliner smudged across your temples, you sexy thang, that's a pretty good sign that you had a great time last night at Vanguard, even if you don’t remember much of the drum nor the bass after alcohol-induced antics on the patio.
We went to Little Hong Kong Café on Sawtelle for breakfast. Technically, Little Hong Kong Café doesn't serve breakfast in the traditional bacon-and-eggs sense of the word “breakfast.” If we’re getting technical, then technically, Benito’s at 4 am was really breakfast. But wor won ton soup and spicy pan-fried noodles was our first meal of the day, so it was a breakfast of (dance) champions for us.
Little Hong Kong Café is exactly what its name suggests. Catering mostly to a younger Dragonball Z Asian crowd who, I suspect, attend UCLA, it serves café-style Chinese food in a far less formal atmosphere than a regular Chinese restaurant. It fits right in with its casual strip-mall neighbors like Hurry Curry, Blue Marlin, and The Place. The menu offers a little bit of everything – a few small fried appetizer things like won tons and eggrolls, some soups, fried rice, and even slightly more complicated “House Specialities,” fried fish filets, chicken cutlets, and other deep-fried, stir-fried dishes. However, one does not go to Little Hong Kong Café to eat slightly downscale Royal Star nor slightly upscale Panda Express. One goes to Little Hong Kong Café to snap out of a hazy stupor with steamed white rice or chow fun noodles drowning in sodium-spiked, oily, greasy deep-fried, spicy corn-starch thickened – delicious? depends – sauce.
Little Hong Kong Café is not awesome Chinese food. In fact, I can confidently say that Little Hong Kong Café is not awesome food, period. However, it holds a special place in my stomach because there are many a hazy, hungover memory attached to it.
You see, everyone has their own tried-and-true morning after medicine. A lot of people turn to a nurse named Bloody Mary. Some people swear by two tylenol chased with an effervescent Alka-Seltzer cocktail. Others will have nothing but a double-tall double-caffeine mocha java lattebucks. There’s a reason why delis and diners are full on weekend mornings, too. Sausage and eggs scrambled in bacon grease and flooded with maple syrup will “soak up the alcohol.”
Me? After a long, glorious night out, I want nothing less than a giant bowl of spicy, salty, brothy soup.
In the past, it’s been yook-gae-jahng, a beef and green onion soup that’s so super spicy that red hot chili oil floats on top in a massive, deep slick that would excuse the Exxon Valdez. Unfortunately, Koreatown is a long way from the Westside, especially the morning after, so I settle for local Chinese food. As I always say, “Boozers can’t be choosers.”
The wor won ton soup is a very simple clear broth that any other time, might seem slightly bland and uninteresting, but at the right time, is utterly refreshing and purifying. Steam opens my sinuses, filled with cigarette smoke that never quite gets properly ventilated out of the club. I can breathe. Since I have gotten my sense of taste back, I simply add hot chili sauce to the broth to add real flavor. Won tons aren’t the usual thick-skinned dumplings sparsely-stuffed with some token unidentifiable “filler.” I have no idea what “wor” means, but it must refer to a tissue-like wrapper that barely holds a little ball of meat. Again, they’re a little bland, but nothing a little chili and soy sauces can’t fix.
While I love the wide, flat rice noodles called chow fun, we tried the thin, pan-fried noodles on this last recent trip to Little Hong Kong Café. They were crisp, almost to the point of crunchy at some parts, which made for better saturation with the disgustingly delicious sauce. Of course the chicken was a little dry; no doubt some of the vegetables were slightly overcooked; certainly the sauce was laden with enough sodium to send my pulse through the roof.
Exactly the kind of kickstart my body needed.