Down there on Pacific Avenue, in Venice, just a very short “march” north of Windward Avenue, there is to be found, amongst the “struggle of the urban proletariat,” that is the canvas of the street, a rustic restaurant serving home- made Chinese country-style cuisine, aptly named (at least for the location), Mao’s Kitchen (for the unitiated, it is named after Mao Zedong, the Chinese revolutionary, political theorist and Communist leader). I recently decided to “commune” at this eatery, and must say that the experience was rather delightful indeed.
Mao’s Kitchen is basic (opulence just wouldn’t seem fitting), with plain fold-up chairs and tables that would not look out of place in the homes of the peasantry during the Cultural Revolution. Mao’s boasts (well, proclaims) a menu that covers most of the options that one would expect at such a Chinese restaurant (we wouldn’t want to be spoiled for choice, would we?). A handful of starters includes such staples as Beijing Spring Roll (vegetable roll, $1), Crunchy wonton (fried crisp with morsels of seasoned chicken inside – served with sweet & sour sauce and spicy mustard, $6), Egg Flower Soup, (delicate egg, zucchini, snow pea, carrot, cilantro & tomato in home-style chicken broth, $5), and the intriguingly named Peace Not War Wonton (mushrooms, shrimp, chicken, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, carrots & chicken wonton dumplings in our delicious home-style chicken broth, $8).
I scoured the entrees, and as I did, I gazed for a while at the trio of posters adorning the minimalist wall (of China?) that celebrated the venerable Chairman himself, gazing approvingly upon the diners below. The entrees offer a more than satisfying selection, however, I was in one of those “Gemini” minds (unable to make a definite decision), so I asked my “worker amongst workers” server, who had emanated from the busied throng of “workers controlling the means of production,” in order to take my order, er, I mean my request, what would be a good “choice” that day. My server, or rather “co-participant in sustenance selection,” the most delightful Janelle, smiled in a most un-Maoist glamorous fashion, and suggested that the Fresh Vegetables Over Lo Mien (thin wheat-flour egg-noodles with bok choy, tomato, bean sprout, shredded carrot, mushroom, onion & choice of beef, pork, chicken, soft tofu, fried tofu, almond, peanut or cashew as well as, for an extra buck, cha shao bbq pork, shrimp, sole or smoked tofu, $8.00) would satisfy my desires. How could I possibly display dissent?
As I waited, I sipped upon my green tea, crunched upon the crispy wontons, I wondered what Mao would have thought, and concluded that it didn’t matter, because he wasn’t here, but by then my meal was, courtesy of Janelle, with the warming smile.
Presentation was pleasing, portion size was more capitalist than communist (large!) and I was beginning to enjoy a certain material happiness! The noodles were nicely textured, and the sauce complimentary. The vegetables were plentiful, with some super fresh bok choy, and generous pieces of my choice of the very tasty smoked tofu.
With prices that have mass appeal, a unique ambience, and very cool food, I imagine that Mao’s Kitchen may well be around longer than the man himself (or, perhaps, his ideology?)
1512 Pacific Avenue., 310.581.8305.
Mirror Contributing Writertim@smmirror.com