Authentic Asia is definitely not giving up on the foodies of LA. This is the lesson that I learned while looking for a place to have a nice dinner with my friends after a long, fun day of shopping at Macy’s. Needless to say we were tired, hungry, and ready to indulge ourselves with something exotic yet nutritious. Call it luck or a happy coincidence, but the first place we bumped into was Wokcano Asian Restaurant & Lounge, just across the street and right on the corner of 800 W 7th St and 710 S Flower St.
When I hear people say “pan Asian cuisine”, my imagination automatically draws a picture of cozy small restaurants scattered across cities in nearly every corner of this world. Asia is made of a well-balanced and spicy mix of cultures, traditions, and profound philosophies. Naturally, Oriental food is a cultural mirror of the region and represents it with a remarkable combination of delicious flavors and bright colors. It is never boring and always different.
Best Asian Fusion restaurant in Downtown LA…?
It is no secret that Downtown LA is quite a busy place on a Friday night, but given that day’s atmosphere of total luck, we managed to get a table at Wokcano without a reservation. According to our experience, walk-ins work perfectly there, but reserving a table in advance is recommended. Just a few minutes after our happy company of 4 was seated, people started walking in and I don’t think the flow ever stopped. Wokcano has a very simple and easy to use reservation form on their website (works perfectly when accessing from a smartphone) and also accepts reservations via telephone.
Ambience, not just food
Some say that a customer makes the decision whether he is going to like a restaurant or not just seconds after walking in. I prefer thinking that food is the defining factor for that, however, the role that staff plays in creating a certain atmosphere should not be underestimated. Seconds after we walked in, I got the feeling that the hostess was reading our minds. I’m starting to think that this profession requires super powers of some sort. When the hostess saw the amount of shopping bags that we had, she smiled at us and led us to a cozy table. We sat down and found ourselves in a very private atmosphere, just what was needed after a long and loud day at the shopping mall. A pleasant waiter brought some water and menus in a matter of minutes, and we started browsing.
Founders Michael and Marcus Kwan
Wokcano was founded by two brothers, Michael and Marcus Kwan, who emigrated from China to LA back in 1989. They always felt a passion for food and a strong desire to share their knowledge and experience with people. They opened their first dining place in 1995, which gave them a great start and slowly led to the opening of Wokcano in 2001. The creation of this Pan-Asian menu was inspired by their mother’s cooking, which they smoothly and professionally integrated with sashimi, exclusive and creative sushi rolls, and some Korean and Thai dishes.
Wokcano’s design and setting can fit guests in all kinds of moods. If you feel like dining in a relaxing atmosphere while sipping on a glass of wine, there is definitely space for that. The interior design speaks of democratic coziness by being simple and tasteful at the same time. The combination of dark wooden furniture together with some light decorative elements create a pleasant feeling of “wanting to stay here longer”. However, if you feel like the start of the night and are up to eating out with a loud company of friends, there are bigger tables suited just for that. Wokcano took care of communal tables for large groups, which also works great during happy hours daily from 3pm to 7 pm and late night from 10pm to 2 am.
The interior is thought out pretty well, making Downtown LA Wokcano a great location for lunch, while mood lighting makes it suitable for a fancy dinner for two. The sushi chef makes rolls in an open kitchen, which is very typical for an Asian restaurant and is always entertaining.
The waiting staff is very kind and highly professional, dressed in tidy dark uniforms. They look very calm, smile a lot, and contribute to the atmosphere.
After sitting at the table and seeing your waiter, the next experience one usually gets in a restaurant is getting to choose dishes from the menu. I believe that the way a menu looks and feels can tell a visitor a lot about what the food is going to be like. I bet that every person has at least once said something like “this sounds delicious!” after just reading the name of the dish. The menu at Wokcano gives that great feeling of respect to the client. One of the most unpleasant things a restaurant can do is confuse a guest with a messy menu, and fortunately Wokcano’s menu doesn’t seem too crowded with words or pages, despite the wide selection of dishes.
Here are the breakdowns of food categories at the Wokcano Asian Fusion Restaurant Downtown LA:
- Soups: from basic Miso Soup to gourmet Spicy Seafood soup
- Salads: from a simple Garden Salad to delicious Mixed Sashimi Salad.
- Cold appetizers: a variety of cold appetizers including Seared Salmon in White Truffle Oil, Seared tuna wit jalapeno and even Kumamoto Oysters.
- Hot appetizers: a wide range or different hot appetizers such as Chinese classics – Peking Duck Wrap, Crispy Pepper Calamari, American favorite – Crispy Garlic Chicken Wings, vegans choice – Vegetable Tempura, Spicy Garlic Soy Edamamde and muc more.
- Hand rolls: Wokcano offers a pretty standard selection of rolls with tuna, salmon, scallop, yellowtail, crab and even lobster.
- Sushi and Sashimi (Served 2 pcs): guests of this Downtown LA restaurant have a choice of 8 Sushi or Sashimi dishes: shrimp (Ebi), Albacore tuna, Freshwater Eel (Unagi), Salmon (Sake), Tuna (Maguro), Yellowtail (Hamachi), Salmon Roe (Ikura) and Sea urchin (Uni).
- Wokcano Sushi Rolls: this innovative Asian Fusion restaurant gives its guests a choice of at least 20 rolls, which include the typical Philadelphia or Green Dragon and signature rolls such as The Black Pearl roll or the Late Night Party roll.
- Seafood: obviously, an Asian restaurant would not be able to make it without seafood. Wokcano takes good care of seafood lovers and offers to experience all kinds of flavors: from spicy Curry Shrimp to tender Grilled Salmon.
- Beef/Pork: for those of you who don’t like the protein, which comes from the sea that much, Wokcano has prepared a range of meat dishes including Asian Style sweet and sour pork, tender Beef Mignon, Korean style Short Ribs and more.
- Vegetable sides
Some offers on the menu were very interesting in terms of treating each client or group on an individual basus. The restaurant offers a vegan dinner menu, a special sushi dinner menu, and a long list of To-go party tray menu for big, loud companies.
The savory tasting cannot be complete without a delicious drink. Despite a pretty standard beverage menu, I was actually able to find something I haven’t tried before, a particularly refreshing and crisp Far East Side cocktail that just may be one of my new favorite drinks.
Creativity in Classic Asian Food
After the 4 of us had finally made up our minds and placed our order, we only had to wait for about five minutes until our drinks came out. To be honest, we were enjoying ourselves with the drinks and the atmosphere so much that we didn’t even notice how long it took the waiter to start serving our food. Well, given that most of us were still enjoying cocktails, it was probably not more than another 10 to 15 minutes depending on the dish.
I heard a lot about how the process of cooking and actually eating food is treated in a very special way in Asia. I think that Wokcano did a great job demonstrating these principles to me and my friends. Some of the food was served on dark mat plates and some on simple white ones, but both contrasted with the colors of the food, making it look even more beautiful. The combination of Asian minimalistic style and the chef’s creative approach worked together perfectly! The food looked great and tasted even better.
My Food Choices
I love trying new things, especially when it comes to seafood, but there are some things I stay loyal to – and one of them is classic miso soup. I have tried it in numerous restaurants in LA and abroad. The Miso soup at Wokcano did not disappoint me. It was well seasoned and served hot.
As for the appetizer, I chose Vegetable Tempura. What I enjoyed the most about this dish was definitely the sauce. A mix of sweet, sour, and spicy became a fantastic finishing touch to deep fried vegetables.
One of my friends and I decided to share a Rainbow hand roll and California roll. Well, I must admit California roll was nothing to be amazed by. A very decent roll, which, in my opinion, is still not that common. After having tried sushi and rolls at many different places, I have to be fair and say that the California roll at Wokcano is good. But what did amaze me was the Rainbow roll. Interestingly, it is actually the California roll we started off with but wrapped in tuna, salmon and yellowtail with the addition of avocado and Ponzu sauce. If there was anything that could make up for the average taste of California roll, it was its innovative transformation. This difference actually became a topic of discussion at our table, making everyone want to try a bite to compare. It felt almost like the chef was telling us: “here I take a regular sushi roll and turn it into an explosion of taste”.
I had no space for dessert, but one of my friends tried a chocolate chip cheesecake from the sample tray and said it was mouth watering. I think after my Rainbow roll and Far East Side cocktail experience I will have to believe her.
I’ll be back to eat at Wokcano Restaurant!
Like I have already said, we were not specifically looking for Asian food, but have no regrets of the choice. The location turned out to be just perfect for us at the moment and is generally close to all main attractions in the city. Pleasant ambiance, friendly and helpful staff, and great food make Wokcano Downtown LA a perfect spot for a business lunch, a good choice to go on a date, and a nice place to throw a birthday party. The food served was fresh and felt like it was made with love and seasoned with creativity. The mix of tastes and textures would not leave anyone indifferent. Given everything written above, I would rate Wokcano 10 out 10 and recommend it to friends and guests of the city. But remember to make reservations before I go ahead and take your table myself. Bon appetit!
P.S. – they also do delivery and catering!