Popular new Liu’s Cafe is a stylish spin on the Hong Kong cafe, with Taiwanese and Chinese classics

Liu’s Cafe

A new Taiwanese and Chinese cafe in Koreatown is serving spins on classic rice bowls, tea service, egg tarts, milk buns, sandwiches and sides — a stylish take on the Hong Kong cafe, now open on 6th Street.

Liu’s Cafe comes by way of Long Hospitality’s Patrick Liu, Alex Park, Eddie Lee and John Kim, much of the team behind modern Korean tapas spot Tokki, which opened in Chapman Plaza in 2021.

At Liu’s, the bright 30-seat cafe features an open kitchen, a pastry case and casual all-day setting, where hospitality director Lee has helped shape a menu that includes braised pork belly, a spin on the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, and handmade wontons in a house chile-and-peanut sauce.

“We always wanted to do something that was authentically Taiwanese and Chinese,” said Liu. “And as with Tokki, we wanted to do something that was very approachable. … We never want it to feel like you have to be fancy.”

Because the owners of Liu’s Cafe are Asian American, the menu is a blend of cultures, Liu said, which results in plenty of twists: The braised pork belly swaps the traditional mustard greens for thinly sliced cucumbers, the Taiwanese pickled cabbage includes hints of Sichuan peppercorn, the Chiayi chicken rice bowl is topped with crumbles of chicken skin, and the croquettes are filled with corn and bacon in a nod to Korean corn cheese.

Eddie Lee, the group’s culinary director, helped conceptualize a menu of dishes such as braised pork belly with egg alongside house chile oil.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Pastry chef Isabell Manibusan — formerly of Maude, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse and SoFi Stadium — also incorporates elements of surprise into her baked goods, lining the pastry case with the likes of Sichuan peppercorn peanut cookies.

“We wanted to strike a balance of traditional goods, like a different interpretation,” Manibusan said. “I’ll either take a method or a flavor, and then run with it.”

A cookies-and-cream bao is in the works, made using traditional Chinese technique. For the egg tart, Manibusan uses pastry cream and vanilla bean in the filling. The milk bread is a hybrid of the classic tangzhong and brioche, and is the jumping-off point for pineapple buns, sandwich bread and more.

The hot tea program includes a range of specialty and imported teas as well as blends, each listed with tasting notes. The house tea drinks often involve flourishes such as torched strawberries adorning the iced strawberry rooibos tea. The team tested more than 100 blends and ratios for the milk tea alone, Liu said, and the restaurant also offers premium teas that range from $19 to $43 per pot.

In the future, look for tea service that pairs to plated desserts. Breakfast combo sets also are planned, with items like congee and Hong Kong-style, custard-stuffed French toast.

Liu’s Cafe is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A grand opening, with additional items, is slated for the end of the month.

3915½ W. 6th St., (213) 568-3686, Los Angeles, liuscafe.com

Slab Pasadena

The anticipated Pasadena outpost of Slab is now open with smoked chicken, hearty beef ribs, a variety of wings and some of the city’s most succulent brisket. The restaurant first opened on West Third Street in 2018 as a partnership between h.wood Group and pitmaster Burt Bakman, the founder of popular pop-up Trudy’s Underground Barbecue. Bakman’s menu leans Texas-inspired but offers a number of original spins, including bonito-tinged collard greens, wings coated in truffled hot sauce, and his thick-cut, Monday-only pastrami sandwiches on rye. The latest location is next to the new Howlin’ Ray’s, while another outpost is slated for a stall at Topanga Social food hall in Canoga Park. Slab Pasadena is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

812 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, (323) 545-6783, slabbarbecue.com

three drums with a side of curry creamed corn from Tokyo Fried Chicken

Tokyo Fried Chicken — previously found only in San Gabriel Valley — is now operating a restaurant downtown for fried chicken, Japanese-inspired sides and more.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Tokyo Fried Chicken downtown

After a late-summer closure of its Monterey Park restaurant, Tokyo Fried Chicken has found a new home downtown. The 101 List-acclaimed operation, which weaves Japanese inspiration through its menu of fried bird and sides such as curried corn and dashi-braised greens, is open for takeout at the base of the Atelier Apartments complex on Olive Street. The new location, which has been in the works since before the pandemic, seats roughly 30 guests and is expected to open for dine-in within the next month. The menu features buckets of chicken and meal sets, plus a la carte options including a chicken sandwich. Owner Kouji Yamanashi has reprised a few fan-favorite items that were on pause during the pandemic — such as bone-in chicken and the nori-topped baked mac and cheese — and will be experimenting with and rolling out new items, including a Japanese riff on French onion dip and, later, soft serve. Yamanashi hopes to reopen the Monterey Park location at some point. Tokyo Fried Chicken is open downtown Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with plans for extended hours in the future.

801 S. Olive St., Unit C, Los Angeles, tokyofriedchicken.com

Lei’d Cookies

A micro-bakery with a Smorgasburg residency is now a bricks-and-mortar cookie shop in Culver City. Lei’d Cookies, from founders Leilani Terris and James Lewis, began as a pandemic-spurred hobby, then took off with pop-up appearances and a Sunday stall at Smorgasburg, which is ongoing. The pair specializes in gooey, chewy and often filled cookies with global flavors, such as a take on mango sticky rice that involves mango filling and a frosting of coconut sauce; a cannoli cookie of pistachios, chocolate chips and orange ricotta; a Belizean-inspired guava goat cheese option; and matcha cookies stuffed with mochi. Lei’d is open in Culver City Wednesday to Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.

8588 Washington Blvd., Culver City, leidcookies.com

Stuffed cookies surrounded by and decorated with flowers

With cookies stuffed with cream, mochi and more, Lei’d is now open in Culver City.

(Michelle Terris / Lei’d Cookies)

Gyoza Bar

A dumpling destination from two ramen chef-entrepreneurs is serving freshly made gyoza, tsukemen, tofu and rice bowls in Echo Park. Gyoza Bar is the latest project from Hiro Igarashi and Nori Akasaka, the duo behind the HiroNori Ramen chain, which operates more than a dozen locations across the state and recently garnered a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand (value) nod. At their latest concept, a red-lighted space where guests take a seat at a concrete L-shaped bar, the focus is on gyoza that’s made in-house daily, filling the dough with the likes of pork and leek or vegan soy-based “meat” and ginger. Izakaya-style small plates such as chilled tofu in chile oil also are on offer, as is sake and a form of the pair’s ramen: tsukemen, or dipping noodles, here with fish broth and poached egg. Gyoza Bar is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m.

1501 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 265-7015, gyozabar.com

Planta Brentwood

An all-vegan chain with outposts in New York City, Toronto, Florida, Chicago, Atlanta and more recently Los Angeles has expanded to Brentwood with plant-based sushi, pastas, snacks and brick-oven-fired fare. Planta touched down in Los Angeles earlier this year with Marina del Rey’s Planta Cocina, where the pan-Latin menu includes hearts of palm “crab” tostadas, coconut ceviche and other reimagined classics — some of which have made their way to Brentwood’s Planta. While the new restaurant is not a Cocina branch, it serves that ceviche and Cocina’s beetroot “tuna” tartare, along with the brand’s vegan sushi, plus pastas such as squash agnolotti with brown “butter” and pumpkin seeds, tagliatelle with mushroom cream, and lumaconi in spicy rosé sauce with cashew mozzarella and almond parmesan. A brick oven provides dishes such as stuffed artichoke hearts, vodka-sauce pizzas and eggplant rollatini. Planta is open in Brentwood Sunday to Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.

11754 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (925) 515-2984, plantarestaurants.com

An overhead view of three tacos on paper on a silver tray

Fast-casual Eagle Rock restaurant Taco/Social serves a range of tacos, including fusion options such as banh mi, left, Korean barbecue and chicken tikka masala.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Taco/Social

A casual restaurant serving globally inspired tacos, frozen drinks and margaritas on tap is open in Eagle Rock, with a menu designed by a “Top Chef” winner. Taco/Social, with the consultation of chef Ilan Hall, offers “freeform” tacos such as tikka masala, Korean barbecue, cheeseburger, banh mi, po’ boy and Greek chicken in addition to nachos, street corn and cookie tres leches cake. The endeavor has a number of notable investors, including John and Chris Bicos (the Original Tops, Gus’s BBQ), Rick and Elise Wetzel (Wetzel’s Pretzels, Blaze Pizza) and André Vener and Michael Montagano (Dog Haus). The restaurant’s full bar is tequila-forward, and its specialty cocktails — with options such as frozen mangonadas, whiskey hot-honey lemonades and blood orange margaritas — were conceptualized by Phil Wills of “Bar Rescue.” Taco/Social is open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

1627 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, tacosocial.com

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