But it's damn good XLB of a quality that is hard to beat, for Westsiders unable or unwilling to trek to the SGV (before you get all up in arms, yes, there are in fact people whose offices are on the Westside who cannot take 3 hour excursions in the middle of the work day to eat in the SGV - it is not always a matter of ill-informed choice or 'poor value judgment' of traffic avoidance vs amazing authentic eats for cheap).
They arrive with the requisite shredded ginger and vinegar. They're so juicy they squirt on cue when you bite into them. Mims and I had the Pork XLB (8 pcs. for $7) and Shrimp & Pork XLB (8 pcs. for $9) - both were excellent. Next time we need to try the ones with Dungeness Crab & Pork, and Fish (I've never seen XLB with fish filling before, but apparently those who have had it at ROC Kitchen love it)
For variety, there are other dishes besides the Shanghai Dumplings like shao mai (dim sum dumplings with shrimp & pork or pork & rice), scallion pancake, noodles, and rice cakes. We tried the ROC Rice Cake with Chicken, Napa Cabbage and Spinach ($10) which had a self-explanatory name. I would NOT recommend this dish - it was pretty single note in flavor (like the generic "brown sauce" too often used in westernized Chinese take-out quality food), and the rice cakes were rubbery. And the fact that it cost more than the far more delicious XLB honestly kind of pissed me off. It's possible that the kitchen was just having an off day, but at $10 I'm just not going to risk it again.
Everyone at the next few tables turned to see (and ask) what that dish was as our waitress brought it over...
All in all, the dumpling dishes were all very tasty and well crafted. True, it's very expensive compared to most SGV eateries (but pretty much on par with Din Tai Fong in terms of price) - after drinks, tax, tip were taken into account Mims and I each paid close to $30 each, which was painful. But, remember that the restaurant has to deal with Westside rent, which is much higher than SGV. So, the price we pay is for the convenience of having close access to at least authentic and good quality XLB and dumplings. Will I be coming back every day for lunch? No, I can't afford it. But when I get that inevitable craving during a week day? I'm very glad ROC Kitchen is there.
So, is it a destination, say - on the weekend? I live in the SFV, almost equidistant from West LA/ROC Kitchen and Alhambra/Monterey Park. On any given weekend, when I'm not working - would I drive back to West LA just to go to ROC Kitchen? It's a no-brainer - I would drive to the SGV.
But on a weekday, when I only have an hour for lunch on the Westside? Bring it on, ROC Kitchen - as in, another steamer or two full of XLB, please.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 5.5 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 5 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 90%
2049 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles,CA 90025
Parking: free valet on Mississipi Ave.