A lone paparazzo stood under a neon sign just outside the large red doors of Chi Lin on Sunset Boulevard, where the new Chinese restaurant opened Monday night. He looked around, camera ready, reminding patrons they were on the Westside.
Alas, there were no celebrities immediately in attendance when Innovative Dining Group unveiled its newest offering, located adjacent to another in its fleet of restaurants, Italian spot RivaBella. The IDG team, also responsible for BOA, Katana and Sushi Roku, enlisted the culinary help of L.A. restaurateur Cecile Tang (Joss) for the Hong Kong-inspired dishes.
Dumplings, including the xiao long bao with uni, come three to an order ($17) served in bamboo steamers, and with an eyedropper for dispensing vinegar. The Mongolian lamb rests on top of crispy rice cakes ($26), and the Brussels sprouts ($8) are served cold with vinegar and chiles.
All eyes in the dining room shifted when a waiter dramatically presented a platter of Peking duck ($72), served with plum sauce, cucumbers and scallions to the table -- before returning it to the kitchen for carving. A food runner also made a show of the jia-jiang mein house-pulled noodles ($14) by offering to toss them tableside.
Cocktail offerings included a Hot & Sour martini made with Cazadores blanco tequila, yellow Chartreuse, lemon, serrano chili and dried Chinese plum and the Kowloon Cooler made with jasmine liquor, Atlantico rum, shiso, lime and Prosecco.
Opening night attracted a mostly over-50 set to the dining room, surrounded by a wall of mounted butterflies in all sizes and colors. A table of overdressed ladies sat at their corner booth transfixed by the butterflies. There were businessmen in suits, couples out for an early dinner and a round of martinis on almost every table.
Patrons were greeted by a female staff dressed in high-neck gold tops standing ramrod straight. Handmade lanterns lining the ceiling and a small bar and lounge area where a bartender busily filled martini glasses with pink and pale yellow concoctions did little to illuminate the darkened interior.
The only thing being passed around more than the cocktails were smartphones. The restaurant was so dark, nearly every table could be seen perusing menus with a flashlight app or an actual mini flashlight.
Open nightly at 5 p.m.
9201 Sunset Blvd., (310) 278-2068, innovativedining.com/chi-lin