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Food Expert Declares LA's Chinese Restaurants Are on Par With Vancouver's

Why North America's epicenter for Chinese cuisine has fallen in recent years

Outside Mian, San Gabriel
Outside Mian, San Gabriel
Wonho Frank Lee
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Los Angeles hasn't always had the best Chinese food in North America. For many experts around the country, the best Chinese restaurants were always considered to be in Vancouver, thanks mainly to an exodus of Hong Kong chefs who made their way over to British Columbia in the late 90s. That exodus, which came ahead of the British handover over Hong Kong to the rest of mainland China, produced a terrific scene in Canada's western metropolis.

However, local food expert David R. Chan, who's eaten at literally thousands of Chinese restaurants, has declared on Menuism that LA's Chinese restaurant scene is at least as good as Vancouver's. Chan starts out with explaining two significant reasons for LA's rise in the Chinese restaurant department:

The main factor is that Chinese food in Los Angeles has gotten so much better in the last decade...More recently, I met a Chinese foodie from Vancouver who was in Los Angeles for a visit. He told me that he was surprised at how good the dim sum at Happy Harbor in the San Gabriel Valley was. I like Happy Harbor, but I would probably rank it around #7 in the Los Angeles-area dim sum pecking order.

The second reason is that Vancouver's scene hasn't really improved, and has maybe diminished because some chefs are returning home to Hong Kong:

Vancouver Chinese food has appeared to have plateaued...first of all, there has been a degree of migration from Vancouver back to Hong Kong, as fears as to what would happen to Hong Kong under Chinese rule have so far turned out to be largely unfounded. I've encountered a number of these Canadian returnees in my travels. Among the returnees were some of Vancouver's top chefs

Chinese food writer Clarissa Wei first surmised that LA's scene had surpassed Vancouver's in recent years, detailing that buying power, competition, and the engagement of the younger generation has produced a great overall collection of Chinese restaurants in San Gabriel Valley.

Chan summarizes his argument by saying that while Vancouver still has excellent Cantonese restaurants, LA wins in all the other regions:

This doesn't mean that people living in Los Angeles should forget about occasionally visiting Vancouver for Chinese food. Vancouver still has the larger selection of high quality Hong Kong-style restaurants, which offer dishes found in Hong Kong, but not available in Los Angeles. On the other hand, as the focus of Chinese dining around the world turns away from Cantonese-style food, Los Angeles has clearly taken the lead from Vancouver in this category.