More the Dim Sum of Its Parts
Santa Monica, CA
San Francisco Restaurateur Chris Yeo spins together the classic Chinatown dim sum bar with sharable pan-Asian plates and American comfort food substance. The result is fresh, flavorful, and fun.
395 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
CSQ Contact; Alexis Rho
Lunch / Dim Sum Daily 11am-4pm
Late Night Menu
Weekends until 2am
By Elyse Glickman
Asian food, and Chinese food in particular, is an enigma. Everybody loves it, but individual diners have their own opinions about how it is best enjoyed. In Chris Yeo’s career, with his Northern California-based Sino and Straits restaurants, he has endeavored to address these concerns quite artfully.
In Northern and Southern California alike, some diners are absolute sticklers for authenticity, especially if they grew up with home-cooked Asian food or their business travels have taken them to Asia. Others are as nostalgic for dim sum and familiar dishes like Kung Pao Chicken they way they are for a good cheeseburger or an oven-baked pizza. Still, there are others who favor Asian fare because they like its healthier aspects (use of vegetables) or consider themselves spice hounds.
In breathing life into Xino, his L.A. outpost, Yeo has managed to create a menu that reconciles and negotiates the needs of various Asian food fans quite artfully. This bodes well for those looking to impress larger groups of their colleagues and clients, enjoy a well-deserved celebratory lunch or dinner with their departments, or plan a little something special for date night. The restaurant design, like the food, is intended to address the many different ways we have grown to like Chinese food—some spaces ideal for large groups and meetings, others reminiscent of trendy Hong Kong and Shanghai nightclubs and little pockets that echo but update the beloved old school Chinese banquet room.
Though the San Gabriel Valley east of Downtown L.A. is widely regarded as “dim sum central” for hard-core purists, Xino’s dim sum menu brings highlights of that “East Side” experience to the West Side, right in the middle of the futuristic new rendition of Santa Monica Place (as a full-blown, self-contained destination for visitors and locals in its own right). Though the dim sum selection is fairly small when compared to San Gabriel’s sprawling eateries, a mix of familiar favorites (Shrimp Har Gow, Pork Shu Mai, various potstickers, and stuffed veggies) and chic variations (lotus-leaf wrapped sticky rice, lobster pot stickers) are there for the asking, There are also light, traditionally inspired soups and market-Asian hybrid salads offered, too.
However, for curious diners and corporate groups, original (if not totally traditional) starters and mains from the lunch and dinner menu is what makes Xino a great go-to restaurant for Asian spice and sauce. Sliders may not be Chinese, but the beautifully done Kobe Beef Sliders are ideal for a guest craving a burger or not as much of an Asian food enthusiast as others in the group. Crispy Chili Calamari will also appeal to many palates, thanks to lovely breading and a light, aromatic sauce that replaces heavier, cloying mayonnaise-based dips. Kung Pao Chicken Lollypops, Chicken Lettuce Cups, Xino’s Seafood Risotto, Char Siu Sea Bass, and Chili-Glazed Pork Spare Riblets also take some flavorful liberties with recipes we think we know well from other upscale Asian restaurant meals we’ve enjoyed in the past. With the desserts, the Banana S’Mores best captures the restaurant’s essence, mixing East & West in accessible, visually, and flavorfully arresting ways.