Cheat Sheet: Pine & Crane

By Lesley Balla  |  July 1, 2014
Credit: Lesley Balla

Welcome to the Cheat Sheet, a back-pocket guide to restaurants you need to know.

The Gist: In the heart of Sunset Junction at Sunset Triangle Park, Pine & Crane is a spacious, casual spot for some fine dumplings, noodles and seasonal vegetable sides and salads. With chef Allan Lai cooking authentic specialties, it offers a slightly updated taste of Chinese fare without a trek to the San Gabriel Valley.

The Vibe: It's modern by design with blonde woods, cement walls and a slight Zen yet edgy feel. It is Silver Lake, after all. You order at the counter and the fast, friendly servers shuttle everything to you as it's ready. The communal table is great for groups, though we saw a few solo diners stop there for a quick meal. There's a lot of to-go happening, too. Lucky Silver Lakers.

Eat This: The menu has enough Taiwanese and Chinese dishes to choose from that you'll be hard pressed to order just one or two things. The beef rolls are light with flavorful, slightly sweet and spiced meat, cucumbers and herbs wrapped in thin, not-greasy pancakes. The potstickers are gorgeous oblong dumplings that are crisped on the bottom, while spicy shrimp wontons are a real treat, although the heat is pretty mild. Vegetables are a highlight as many are sourced directly from co-owner Vivian Ku's family farm — think pea shoots that are so fresh and green, you'll want them with everything.

Drink This: While the beer and wine license is still on its way, teas are emphasized, like jasmine green iced tea, fresh passionfruit green tea and taro milk tea. If you're really jonesing for booze, El Condor is practically right next door.

Skip This: The dan dan noodles aren't Sichuan-style, but made with a sesame paste and more akin to peanut noodles than anything. We wouldn't say skip them, but our bowl needed a blast of chili oil for some oomph.

The Tab: Cold salads from the case, with ingredients like wood ear mushrooms and chiles, start at $3.50; small plates and vegetables are $4-$7.50; noodles, soups and rice dishes are $7-$9.5. 

The Verdict: This is what Silver Lake, and everywhere, really needs. The food is fresh, somewhat seasonal and always changing, but traditionally prepared. It's contemporary Chinese food for the hipster enclave (and they're eating it up).

1521 Griffith Park Blvd.; 323-668-1128

Prior Cheat Sheet coverage on Zagat LA:
Ristorante Al Mare
Tavern at Figat7th
Glazed Donut Bistro
Gracias Madre
Wexler’s Deli
Cindy’s Restaurant
The Oinkster Hollywood