The chefs at China Grill Bistro, an outpost of the Chong brothers' local restaurant empire, serve up traditional Chinese dishes alongside creative fusion creations. Kung pao chicken and spicy hunan beef share menu space with banana leaf-wrapped chicken tamales and paella on saffron rice, a combination that pays tribute to the brothers' Chinese heritage and childhood spent in Latin America. The cooks never add MSG to any of their dishes, because they believe it obscures the flavors of their top-notch ingredients. To complement these flavors, there's a wine list made of up nearly 100 California varieties.
The Flame Broiler founder Young Lee found himself eating out of paper bags quite often. His career required a great deal of travel during the day, which made eating from fast food restaurants a habit. Unfortunately, his options for healthier, quick-service fare left him craving something different. In 1995, he took matters into his own hands and opened the first Flame Broiler location, serving Korean-style slices of beef and chicken that were free of dairy, trans-fat, HFCS, and added MSG. He didn't just take away harmful ingredients, though—he also added his signature Flame Broiler marinade and sauce, beds of white and brown rice, and slices of crisp vegetables. This more nutritious take on fast food caught on, as diners can now eat at 135 Flame Broiler locations in four different states and two parallel universes.
From Chick 'N Chow's tables, which flaunt the rosy crimson hue of a bowl of sweet-and-sour sauce, soups launch warm steam alongside kosher and vegetarian dishes. Entire rotisserie chickens emerge from trips to a fryer with a golden cloak and satisfying crunch, and the menu also cheers dieters with low-calorie steamed dishes topped with broccoli that spells out encouraging affirmations. Beneath a fan painted with a traditional landscape, diners gather to-go containers, and delivery drivers tote bags laden with lo mein and memos from telecommuting fortune cookies.
Le Chine Wok sizzles up an MSG-free spread crowded with spicy Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. Fresh and natural ingredients pepper the menu, turning taste bud against taste bud in intense palatal debates between sea-centric plates such as the candied walnut shrimp or spicy soft-shell crab with serrano peppers ($15.95 each). Dishes, such as the basil eggplant chicken ($12.95), send sweet aromas drifting through the dining room, and the boneless smoked duck is prepared over burning tea green-tea leaves to absorb complex flavors and fortune-telling abilities ($16.95).
Liliya China Bistro's comestibles curators craft authentic Mandarin and Korean-Chinese cuisines using fresh ingredients for dinner and lunch. Four vegetable egg rolls make for flavorful starters or hair curlers, paving the way for heartier eats, such as mongolian beef ($12+) or spicy shredded pork soused in hot garlic sauce ($12+). Otherwise, diners can select from the large stock of seafood spreads, noodle dishes, or vegetable-based entrees, which include a spicy mabo bean curd ($12+) and bok choy mushroom ($12+). During afternoons, guests can peruse the cast of savory midday eats, including bulgogi bedecked with marinated chicken ($9.50), beef ($10.50), or pork ($9.50). Or they can opt for a helping of shrimp, which comes to tables performing an aquatic dance within a sea of lobster sauce ($9.25). Each lunch entree arrives at tables equipped with a savory regime of salad, rice, and soup of the day.