With the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong dominating the news lately, now is the perfect time to take advantage of L.A.'s Chinese offerings.
Food is a major point on this itinerary, so it pays to start the weekend on a light note with the very best hybrid California-Chinese dish: the Chinese chicken salad. Everyone has an opinion on who makes the perfect combination of crispy fresh lettuce, subtly spiced chicken, tangy sesame ginger dressing with scallions and crunchy wontons or rice noodles. Our suggestions: Feast from the East, 1949 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 475-0400, $6.44; Chin Chin, locations in West Hollywood, Brentwood, Studio City, Marina del Rey and Encino, $6.95; New Moon, 102 W. 9th St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 624-0186, $7.50.
Families can visit the UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art's "Chinese Festival: Celebrating a Culture." The festival begins at 11 a.m. with a performance of Chinese classical and folk dancing by the San Gabriel Chinese Cultural Dancers and continues with storytelling at noon. At 1 p.m., children can create puppet dragons and Chinese lanterns in hands-on art workshops. At 2 p.m., soloists from the Chinese Orchestra of Southern California will perform, and at 3 p.m., UCLA political science professor James Tong will present a lecture on the social, political and cultural changes expected in Hong Kong now that it has returned to Chinese rule. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 443-7000. Free with regular museum admission: $1-$4.50.
For a tasty Chinese dinner in Woodland Hills or downtown L.A., Yang Chow is a delight. To start, the melt-in-your-mouth pan-fried dumplings ($5.95) are worth the wait--even if they end up arriving at the table with the rest of your meal. The peanut-buttery sesame noodles ($5.95) are a hit with kids, and the slippery shrimp ($11.25) are actually crispy-fried with tangy sweet sauce. Get ready to roll out of the restaurant. Yang Chow, 819 N. Broadway, Chinatown, (213) 625-0811, and 6443 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 347-2610.
Join the throngs of people who have already discovered the tradition of Sunday dim sum brunch. One of the best places around is Empress Pavilion in (where else?) Chinatown. There's validated parking and it's easy to find. Even though there are more than 500 seats, still plan on a 10 to 30 minute wait starting about 10 a.m. Try the pork buns (sweet glazed buns filled with smokey barbecued meat), steamed chicken buns (chicken pieces encased in a spongy dough) and the sticky sesame buns (chewy buns coated in honey and toasted sesame seeds). Empress Pavilion, Bamboo Plaza, 988 N. Hill St., Chinatown, (213) 617-9898. Dim sum priced from $1.95-$5.20.
After marathon eating, how about some marathon shopping? Around the corner and down the street from Empress Pavilion is Ginling Way, an outdoor arcade of shops located in an alley off Hill Street west of College Street. These shops are great for finding the Chinese-inspired looks made fashionable by Prada this season--but for less money. Mandarin collar silk shirts are $29.99-$49.99 at Golden Dragon Gifts, (213) 687-3974. There are also beautifully-patterned sewing kits and coin purses ($1.99-$4.99) as well as funky necklaces, bracelets and hair ornaments. Nearby, Imperial Dragon Gifts, (213) 628-4782, has lovely beaded velvet slippers in rich burgundy, blue and black for $4.95 a pair.