The Little Jewel of New Orleans, er, Chinatown
It’s been interesting to watch the revitalization of Chinatown. I was born in Chinatown and grew up on the Eastside. When the Chinese found their way to the San Gabriel Valley, other ethnic groups settled in (just like the Chinese settled what was formerly mostly Italian and French) but it was still ostensibly Chinatown. It was the place you’d go for dim sum if you didn’t want to drive all the way to the 626 or catch a bowl of pho. There was always Phillipe’s and the Eastside Market if you wanted non-Asian/ Chinese food. About a decade or more artists moved into the neighborhood. The galleries didn’t seem that successful and a couple remain. I’m very excited by Velveteria, the velvet painting museum I first found in Portland, Oregon. I’m glad the owners moved “home” to Los Angeles (they are originally from San Marino).
But here’s the secret to change a neighborhood up- put in “hot” new restaurants. Chego was the first with Chef Roy Choi then came Starry Kitchen with their own massive following. Then you got Scoops and pretty soon there will be two Pok Poks. I’ve talked with friends in other cities and LA is destination number one right now. You could go with Downtown L.A. where there’s still plenty of space or maybe something quirky and more manageable like Chinatown.
And now Chinatown has a new gem, or Little Jewel of New Orleans, to be exact.
Little Jewel sells food as well as groceries if you feel like making your own Cajun or Creole food. I loved looking at all the shelves and resisted the impulse to buy jars of okra and big ol’ bottles of Tabasco branded Bloody Mary mix.
Instead we ordered up a mess of food. All were wrapped to go but we ate it there. I ordered the catfish plate which came with hush puppies and cole slaw. Oh man, I love some good fried seafood. The catfish “fingers” were nicely flavored and had some good crunch from the batter.
And those hush puppies! They were my favorite things I ate that night. I had never been much of a fan but I had never had such light and fluffy ones before.
My friend got the chili fries with hot dog. This was the only dish weren’t so enthusiastic about. We thought there should have been actual slices of hot dog but we were told it’s blended into the chili with an immersion blender. So what’s the difference then to get regular chili fries? I also would have liked the fries to be fried just a bit more since these are real, hand-cut fries but they could have also gotten mushy being boxed up. It can get steamy!
The specialty that evening was jambalaya. Lots of shrimp and sausage. Lots of forks diving into this one.
My friend’s brother went for the poutine po boy. Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds- poutine in a soft roll. I can’t say I’d order this myself since I never look at veggie options first. But I suppose this is extremely comforting.
We were so busy with all our other food we ended up taking the coleslaw home.
The Little Jewel Deluxe Half and Half is the best po boy. It has both fried shrimp and oysters. It brought me back to a happy dinner in NOLA where I ate myself silly with fried seafood. I’d get this again and won’t share.
There’s been much buzz about the cochon de lait (pork) since Little Jewel smokes it in house over pecan wood. I recently learned a hack about the sandwich. Make a BBQ pork sandwich by adding a little BBQ sauce (and maybe even hot sauce!). I enjoyed it as is but wouldn’t mind a few dashes of Crystal hot sauce.
Oh those hush puppies again…
I’ve been refreshing the Little Jewel Facebook page like a madwoman. When they get muffalettas, I’m marching in.