MANDARIN CUISINE IN BEVERLY HILLS
I have to confess that when I first heard about dining at Philippe, often referred to as Philippe Chow or Philippe Chow Beverly Hills, I was excited thinking I’d be eating at the much-lauded Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills. That wasn’t the case.
A simple mistake confusing two posh Chinese restaurants, right? Well, I soon learned there’s history and rivalry between them—Mr. Chow sued for trademark infringement, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and misappropriation of trade secrets, among other counts, and in 2012 Mr. Chow was awarded $1 million in damages.
While that makes for fine gossip, I was more concerned with the quality of the Chinese cuisine—in this case, Mandarin to be exact. After a quick Internet search, I found mixed reviews, which is often the case, no biggie, as I always prefer to be my own judge and jury when it comes my dining opinion. Walk into Philippe and you’ll spot a funky red bar to the right. It’s definitely not swanky for Beverly Hills; instead it comes across as retro and a little low key but definitely comfortable and chic despite itself.
The front dining room (there are two dining rooms but this night one was closed for a private party) is a different story. Narrow and confining with bare white walls, funky lighting and two gaudy art pieces, it doesn’t come across as stylish, although the young bougie urban set didn’t seem to mind. Even still, while aesthetics can be pleasing to the eye, it’s all about the food.
And the food really had to be on point since the cocktails, for me anyway, were a bust. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks and the Philippe libations are sugary concoctions that completely miss the mark. The Thyme Stamp and Lychee Blossom martini were sickenly sweet, and the Beijing Mule was way too light. The signature Philippe drink was boozy, which I like, but poorly balanced. Thank goodness they have nice wines, albeit a limited selection.
From Chef Steven Fang, we started with the Vegetarian Flat Noodles with sliced green and red bell peppers, celery, King Oyster mushroom, black mushroom, bean sprout and flat rice noodles. This is a hearty dish and a decent starter.
Next we tried the Beef Satay—skewered, flash fried and served with “famous” cream sauce (cream, butter and peanut sauce). The beef was a nice touch, something different than the regular chicken or shrimp. Not a bad little appetizer.
The Chicken Lettuce Wraps, sautéed with zucchini, black mushroom, bamboo and served with duck sauce (ground bean sauce: soy bean paste, wheat flour, sesame oil, sugar) and iceberg lettuce cups were rather bland and not anything special. Pass.
While I was really looking forward to the Drunken Sea Bass (I’m a big sea bass fan), this dish, served with Chinese Rice wine sauce, which contains chicken broth, salt, sugar, Chinese rice, white pepper and vinegar, and wood ear mushroom was disappointing. Perhaps I just expected more from a sea bass dish but it was just off…not filling enough, nor tasty enough.
The Salt and Pepper Prawns—wok-fried shelled prawns, dusted with salt and pepper—were solid, albeit pretty spicy. Take a bite and immediately cough afterwards from all the pepper. But I must say the taste is unique—if not just really peppery.
My favorite dish, along with the Pork Fried Rice, served with Chinese BBQ pork, Chinese broccoli, soy sauce and an egg, was the Beijing Chicken—squares of white meat chicken, sweet red bean paste sauce and served with walnuts (slightly sweet and savory). Not a very photogenic dish, this chicken plate is extremely delicious. This one is a winner. You’ll want to soak up all the saucy goodness with the rice.
While the menu is extensive, the only dish we didn’t try that I really wanted was the Peking Duck but it’s a whole 7-lb duck and probably too much for a party of just two. Compared to other high-end Asian restaurants around town like Crustacean or even Chi Dynasty (I only know Mr. Chow by reputation), Philippe Chow Beverly Hills is too pricey for what it is. I’ve had a better night out of drinks and solid (not phenomenal) Chinese food at Twin Dragon or Yang Chow—I know, not really swinging for the fences here. Apparently happy hour offers reduced drink prices and is severed in the bar until 8pm. Not a bad deal at all if you’re looking for cheap drinks and good food in the Beverly Hills area.
My takeaway from an evening at Philippe Chow is to forget the whole Beverly Hills connection, that’s all smoke and mirrors anyway, instead think of it as a place for good, pricey food. Don’t go for celebrity sightings or to be seen; don’t go for quality handcrafted cocktails; instead venture out for some pleasing Mandarin fare in town. This isn’t San Gabriel authentic Chinese cuisine instead it’s posh dishes in a lofty setting that please most of the time. The dollar value you want to put on a night out is up to you. Some people will want to go just to dine in the trendy zip code, others will be interested in the controversy, and others just want a good meal and let the critics and price be damned.
Philippe Chow Beverly Hills is located at 8620 Wilshire Blvd. Open for lunch Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 3pm serving a 3-course lunch. Dinner is served 5:30pm to 10pm; 11pm Friday and Saturday. Open Sunday from 2pm to 11pm. Call 310 289-3500.
Story by Jose Martinez
Some photos courtesy of: Philippe Chow Beverly Hills