Chopstix is one of those new wave, high-tech, high-energy clones of Chin Chin, yet another (but not related) clever Chinese dim sum spot already too successful for words.
The doors were flung open a few weeks ago and crowds rushed in as if a bargain-basement sale had been announced. Which only goes to show how hungry everybody is for winsome dim sum.
Why not? At Chopstix you get the easy-to-eat, relatively low-cost dim sum standard-bearer--things like chicken salad (one diner ordered three at a sitting, it was so good--or maybe the single serving was too meager, we're not sure), cold peanut butter noodle salad (also very good), Sichuan firecrackers (chicken-filled won-ton dumplings), pot stickers, shrimp toast, spare ribs, egg rolls and such. The food cooked by the small, bustling army of Chinese chefs lining the work counters from end to end is very good--fresh, on the minute, and tasty.
It's a lunch-to-late-night eat-in or takeout place with a long counter and a few tall tables with stools so high you think you're doing a high-wire act without a net when you jump off. But let's face it, those stools will get you out faster than if they had been human size and comfy. And that's the idea.
The menu, slightly upgraded and expanded from the one found at Chin Chin, is the work of Hugh Carpenter, an author and Chinese cooking teacher in Los Angeles, and except for the cutesy titles, it's rather interesting. Even "really risque rice" (fried rice), "lollipop chicken wings" (batter-fried) and "chopstix strip tease" (marinated pork strips) can be addictive.
If you're hungry--and I know very few dim sum diners who are not--you'll want a selection from a few, if not all, categories--the salads (South Seas papaya and shrimp salads in ample amounts among them); the really real dim sum such as the hot and cold dumpling and won ton dishes; the mu shu and stir-fry selections, including the standard Peking pancake mu shu; and the noodle and rice section, which has a wonderful coconut-shrimp saute and noodles tossed with barbecued meat or shrimp.
There are good spare ribs among the meats, we hear. We have yet to have a taste, as they were not available during any of the three visits. Why? Who knows? Even the seafood dishes as well as the standard barbecued chicken (this one is marinated with lime, chiles and honey) are decently priced within the $3.75 range. A satay and gingered seafood is also a good buy at $3.25 for three small skewers, enough to accompany one of their "New Wave Noodles" or "Radical Rice" dishes, for a terrific meal at about $7.
In addition Chopstix also has an individual Oriental pizza glazed with a spicy Oriental sauce and topped with barbecued duck, Chinese mushrooms, green onions and ginger. It will do just fine as a meal with, maybe, their undersized soup they call Stock Exchange, made with won tons and enough soup stock in it to feed your kitty. Or the hot and sour Sichuan, which is also undersized but very tasty.
They have my referendum for bigger--much bigger--portions of soup, double if not triple the existing size, no matter what the added price. It's a question of compassion. Is there anything more disconcerting than being served two spoonfuls of soup when the soul needs comforting?
By no means should you miss the almond cookies, which are about the best we've had anywhere. You get two for $1, and the temptation is to do what the young women sitting next to me did. They had four.
They were out of fortune cookies on one visit, but one of the waiters was happy to read my palm in lieu of the cookie. He was good too. Accurate as heck. He said I enjoyed my lunch. And I really did.
Chopstix, 7229 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 624-7789 (or 6CH-PSTX). Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Reservations not needed. Major credit cards accepted. Parking in rear. No MSG or other additives, except for trace amounts in some products from China. Dim sum from $2.75 to $3.95 to eat in or take out.