My Chinese Fried Chicken Tour has taken my taste buds on a wild ride. From foggy nights in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park at San Tung, to the historic Foo Chow (a location for such Hollywood classics as Rush Hour, and… Rush Hour 3), to the majestic view of a Downtown dog park: Liliya on 2nd Street. Liliya China Bistro features “a fresh take on Traditional Asian cuisine”, with Chinese dishes as their specialty. I was looking forward to trying out Liliya. When you live Downtown, the only surefire way to get great Chinese food is to hit Chinatown. Otherwise, your options are pretty slim: A few cut-rate greasy chopstick spots along Main, and a couple of hifalutin restaurants closer to Staples Center that focus on plating their entrees higher-and-higher until the dinner specials resemble an edible Jenga puzzle. But Liliya is more conveniently located in the Downtown Core – on the same block as the always fantastic Pitfire and nextdoor to the Indian equivalent of an inside-joke, Badmaash (good looking out, Eddie Kim).
My hopes were high when I visited Liliya for the first time, easing into one of their comfy booths and thinking, “This is nice.” After we ordered, the server brought some Asian chips and salsa (fried wonton wrappers with a sweet and sour dipping sauce), which was a nice touch. We ordered the cream-cheese-filled wontons, chow fun, Tang Shu Beef (there was so much sauce, it seemed like it was set in aspic)… but the whole point of this trip was to try the Liliya chicken wings.
Liliya’s menu specifies “wings”, while most fried chicken offerings at Chinese restaurants serve a mixture of legs and wings. This didn’t seem like a very good deal since wings are typically very puny, and the Liliya version is priced at the higher end of the scale. For example, Foo Chow’s fried chicken is $8.95 for roughly 10-12 pieces (this fluctuates depending on how polite you are to the staff). On the other hand, Liliya charges $6.50 for 7 (?) wings and $9.50 for 12 wings. Seems pretty much even, but Foo Chow’s inclusion of drumstick and thigh pieces gives you much more bang for your cluck. You’re paying for the substantial ambiance – and live sports channels playing on several flatscreens – at Liliya, anyway (the mood lighting and the decor are very soothing, too, like Wong Kar Wai opened a sports bar). In contrast, Foo Chow just has greasy snapshots of Chris Tucker on the wall.
Judging the Liliya wings based on quality, I would give them a D (for “Damn, these wings suck”). The pieces were way too crunchy and the meat in every piece was completely dried out. Some pieces were overcooked, but I realized that they were more than overcooked: This chicken was refried. The wings were previously cooked, then fried again to freshen them up, rendering the wings nearly inedible (and I’ll eat just about anything, so that should tell you something). Several of the wings’ bones were broken, which was gross. The description for the wings says, “Seasoned with spices”, but these wings were just plain bland.
I was so disappointed with everything at Liliya. And I felt like such a sucker paying through the nose when I could have spent the same amount at a much fancier restaurant (with tastier results), or I could have just gone to KFC. Live and learn. Next up, Yang Chow on Broadway.
Liliya China Bistro is located at:
108 W 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
You’re gonna want to go down Main Street. Between 3rd and 2nd, there is a great spot with yellow curbs (across from the Downtown Independent, and The New Jalisco drag bar) for doing slappadocious slappies. A little further down the road, there is a parking lot with massive bank-to-walls. Get your licks in now before they demolish them… and before you eat those Liliya wings – they just may kill you.