The Best Chinese Chicken Salad in Los Angeles
Sure, Los Angeles is home to a robust Chinese community with a bevy of delicious restaurants specializing in all sorts of of dishes. But few things better reflect the well-meaning spirit--bastardization, if you must--of a phenomenon ultimately dubbed Cal-Asian cuisine than the Chinese Chicken Salad. Come on--how much more L.A. can you get than a power lunch favorite that has a Hollywood backstory?
Legend has it the Chinese Chicken Salad was popularized in L.A. the 1960s at Madame Wu's, an eatery that closed in 1998. Reportedly, Cary Grant requested the salad go on the Madame Wu's menu, and the rest, they say, is history. It's been done for decades by Wolfgang Puck, who is still tossing it up for $15 a plate...or you can get it packed in plastic at the airport or your college cafe. Still, when you want a Chinese Chicken Salad, by rights you should have a good one. Here are our picks for the best Chinese Chicken Salad in L.A.
Chinese Chicken Salad from Joan's On Third (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
Joan's on Third
At this ever-popular seen-and-be-seen food lovers' scene, the Chinese Chicken Salad has a loyal following. While you wait for your table--and your bowl heaped with shredded lettuce, sliced breaded chicken, and wonton strips tossed in a smooth, mildly sweet dressing--you can do some prime people watching.
Joan's On Third is located at 8350 W 3rd Street, Mid-City 90048 (323) 655-2285
Green Street Restaurant
If you were in L.A. in the 1980s and 1990s, you might nod your head in agreement with this pick: Pasadena's Green Street Restaurant's version of the Chinese Chicken Salad is their venerable Dianne Salad, which has kept loyal patrons mmmm-ing over the dish for years. The Dianne is shredded lettuce served tossed in their signature dressing with sliced toasted almonds, crisp Asian noodles, white chicken chunks, and sesame seeds. It's served with a slice of their famous zucchini bread, too. Both tastes just don't seem to go out of style.
Green Street Restaurant is located at 146 S Shoppers Lane, Pasadena, 91101 (626) 577-7170
Feast From the East
The Chinese Chicken Salad from this veteran Westwood restaurant is mightily cherished. The dressing is delightfully well-balanced, and, should you really take a liking to it, you can bring it home in a bottle. The salad is made of darker greens, thinly shredded white meat chicken, slivered almonds, and wide wonton strips that, if eaten alone, taste a wee bit like Wheat Thins crackers (but work nicely in the tossed salad).
Feast From the East is located at 1949 Westwood Boulevard in Westwood, 90025 (310) 475-0400
Chinese Chicken Salad at Tender Greens (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
Props to the Tender Greens chefs for creating a contemporary more artisanal version of this nouveau classic L.A. dish. Shredded lettuce is replaced by Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna, and the salad is studded with cilantro, golden pea sprouts, carrot, and green onion, and the crunch comes from wontons and roasted peanuts. They can get a touch heavy-handed with the sesame dressing, so you may want to ask for "easy" dressing or dressing on the side.
Tender Greens has six L.A.-area locations, including in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Marina Del Rey, and Pasadena.
Chinese Chicken Salad at Chin Chin (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
When the waiter at Chin Chin came to take my order, I told him I was there for one thing only. "Chinese Chicken Salad," he replied, not even adding inflection to indicate a question. He affirmed they get many requests for this signature menu item of theirs based on cravings. It's a very gingery version of the dish, with hearty chunks of chicken and wonton. Great to share while you order up more nostalgic Cal-Asian casual fare with a companion, or a solid solo lunch dish. Craving satisfied!Chin Chin has L.A. locations in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Studio City, and West Hollywood.
Chinois on Main
"This salad has been one of our most popular dishes at Chinois since we opened," says famed chef Wolfgang Puck of the recipe for his version of the dish. If you're feeling culinarily adventurous, you can whip up a batch of your own at home, or if you'd prefer to leave it to the pros, the Chinois Chicken Salad is on the menu at Chinois on Main for both lunch and dinner.
Chinois on Main is located at 2709 Main Street, Santa Monica, 90405 (310) 392-9025
California Chicken Cafe
Here the Chinese Chicken Salad is an ol' reliable, and is served up in a portion big enough for two to share, or can be ordered up in a wrap. Their tried-and-true version is made with lettuce with white meat chicken, almonds, Chinese noodles, plain pasta, green onions, Mandarin oranges, and carrots, tossed in what they call Chinese dressing.
Seriously, don't scoff. Yes, this is a buffet-style chain serving up salads and other bites for fairly cheap. But their Chinese Chicken Salad, which, at some point was given the rather goofball name Wonton Chicken Happiness, is worth a big heaping on your self-serve, all-you-can-eat plate. It's not your typical iceberg lettuce affair, rather, this has dark lettuce, and, consequently, a slightly earthier depth.
Souplantation has several locations in the Los Angeles area.