Ryan Tanaka

“We’re going to a fast-casual world. This is a good way to present what we’re doing to a lot of people from L.A.”

Andy Wang
April 03, 2018

Shirley Chung is getting ready to rock.

The Top Chef runner-up is working to open L.A.’s Ms. Chi Café, a restaurant that will focus on housemade dumplings, assorted Chinese snacks, and caffeinated beverages. Ms. Chi should debut in Culver City later this year. In the meantime, Chung will be offering a preview of Ms. Chi’s food at the Coachella music festival on April 13 to 15 and April 20 to 22. (The festival's full food lineup was just announced.) 

“We’ll have three different types of dumplings at Coachella,” Chung says. “Beef, chicken, and vegan dumplings, which you can get steamed or fried. We’ll have also have shrimp chips with citrus salt.”

The lines for food at Coachella can get long, especially when star chefs are involved, and Chung is excited for a couple weekends of madness alongside other prominent vendors like Roy Choi’s Kogi, Chego, and Pot Pizza Joint, David Chang’s Fuku, Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, Wes Avila’s Guerrilla Tacos, and Jerry Greenberg’s HiHo.

“We’re going to a fast-casual world,” Chung says. “This is a good way to present what we’re doing to a lot of people from L.A.”

Ryan Tanaka

Beyond Ms. Chi, Chung says she’s developing a couple other L.A. restaurants that will offer Chinese flavors. So at Coachella, Chung will also be making Chinese food for a four-course Outstanding in the Field dinner with her triumphant Top Chef rival Brooke Williamson on April 14. (Other prominent L.A. culinary stars like Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson of Kismet and Pawan, Nakul, and Arjun Mahendro of Badmaash will also participate in Outstanding in the Field.) Expect seasonal vegetables and inspired takes on dishes like beef and broccoli as well as miso eggplant with duck.

“I’m bringing my Chinese cuisine to L.A.,” Chung says. “So Brooke and I are both cooking Chinese at Coachella. It’s a fresh California take on traditional Chinese flavors.”

Chung opening Ms. Chi in Culver City is part of a delicious trend in L.A. Not so long ago, L.A.’s Westside seemed like a wasteland when it came to Chinese food. But the recent arrival of high-profile newcomers, like the outpost of soup dumpling colossus Din Tai Fung that just opened at the Westfield Century City shopping center, has made the Westside a place with all kinds of good Chinese food.

There’s GuYi with serious Sichuan dishes in an unlikely Brentwood Gardens location, above a California Pizza Kitchen. At Kato, chef Jon Yao has brought in big crowds with his occasional beef noodle soup nights and his bolo baos with foie gras and pineapple. There are outposts of Meizhou Dongpo (also at Westfield Century City), Northern Café, Qin West Noodle, and Tasty Noodle House. At Little Fatty, chef David Kuo serves up modern riffs on Taiwanese food, including a new brunch with dim sum, moo shu burritos, and fried Hainan chicken and waffles. ROC, a soup dumpling mainstay on Sawtelle Boulevard, has expanded to Playa Vista and Beverly Grove. It’s become a lot less necessary for Westside residents to spend an hour driving to the San Gabriel Valley for Chinese food.

“All of a sudden, everybody’s coming into the Westside,” Chung says. “It’s very exciting. There’s more and more of us leaving the San Gabriel Valley hub and expanding to more of L.A. It’s great. We really need it.”

Chung, in fact, recently moved from the San Gabriel Valley to a home not far from her forthcoming Westside restaurant.

“I’m excited to be part of this neighborhood,” she says.