- Reporters Desk
By Gretchen Williams, Dining and Cuisine Writer
The Northern Cafe is an undiscovered treasure on Western Avenue. Nestled in the shopping mall on the harbor side of Western and Trudy Drive, the Northern Cafe maintains a low profile while turning out exceptional Chinese dishes. The light and airy dining room is comfortable and inviting, though the steady flow of take-out customers tells of a very lucky neighborhood.
Handcrafted dumplings have made the splendid reputation of the Northern Cafe, with the juicy pork dumplings heading the list of popular dim sum. Shrimp, pork, egg and chive dumplings are favorites, along with fish and chive dumplings. Lamb dumplings are unusual and speak of the Northern Chinese, who will use lamb as well as pork or beef. Vegetable dumplings are juicy and packed with flavor, making any vegetarian happy.
Kung pao chicken is state-of-the-art here, spicy with jalapeño, onions, hot bean sauce and garnished with peanuts. Competing for zing, Chongqing crispy chicken has chili powder, onions as well as jalapeño to add heat. The true standout on the menu is the fish in hot chili oil. Tender white fish is poached and then “blessed” with hot chili oil, served on a thick bed of fresh bean sprouts and napa cabbage and served with steamed rice. The vegetable dishes are amazing at the Northern Cafe and braised eggplant with garlic sauce is a superb favorite. Mapo tofu is sautéed tofu with hot broad bean sauce, green onions and ground pork, a savory marvel, it is also delicious ordered vegetarian style without pork.
Three-way tie is the only way to describe the phenomenal vegetable dishes at Northern Cafe. Sauteed string beans with black beans, garlic and onions are fantastic, cooked to perfect al dente’ texture. Fresh baby bok choy is crisp and light, steamed just right and great served hot or cold. Garlic broccoli rounds out the special trio with emerald green freshness, steamed to perfection and stir fried with garlic. Each of these veggies are money in the bank—take some home for building meals around later in the week.
Small plates are not small on taste. Do not miss the green scallion pancakes for one of the best things on the menu. Made to order, these savory pancakes are big on flavor and big on value as well—eight slices for $4.50. Potsticker dim sum are $8 for 10 pieces, a real deal. pork or shrimp wonton with spicy sauce are 10 for $6.50 and $7.50 — just made for parties!
29050 S. Western Ave., Suite 100, Rancho Palos Verdes