China Live is more emporium than restaurant, an Eataly for Chinese ingredients and vendors–and a sit down meal is part of the experience.
Tell us about your first impressions when you arrived.
China Live is more emporium than restaurant. Often compared to Eataly, it’s a multilevel, 30,000square foot building with a mix of shops and places to eat. Oolong Cafe on the bottom floor is a graband-go spot with Chinese teas, coffees, and pastries. Downstairs, there’s also a marketplace with kitchenware, spices, condiments, tea, and more. Upstairs you’ll find Eight Tables, chefowner George Chen’s chic spot serving a high-end, seasonal tasting menu.
What was the crowd like?
It’s a mixed crowd. Mostly friends coming to catch up, but you’ll also notice business meetings or children dining with parents. Because the menu is so vast, it attracts customers with different interests—some came for a cocktail and a plate of potstickers, while others came for big meals and sample foods from different stations. Regardless, small children are rare—it caters more to adults.
Main event: the food. Give us the lowdown—especially what not to miss.
Most diners eat in the expansive Market Restaurant. With seating for 120, it’s a modern, open space. “Most restaurants have two woks and an oven, and call it a day,” Chen says. Not so at China Live. The Marketplace restaurant is built around four different food stations—dim sum, barbecue, wok and seafood, and dessert—and the menu is divided accordingly. Diners can sit at the long communal tables, at individual tables sized for small groups, or at barstyle seating by a station. This is where we sit: there’s nothing like watching big, steaming batches of sticky dumplings made fresh before they make it to your plate. And if you’re there, also give the sesame balls with redbean paste or moon cakes a try.
Wait times for food may depend on the station from which you’re ordering, but service time efficient.
Some of the dishes are a ChineseCali hybrid and can be surprising, especially since the menu doesn’t list ingredients in their entirety. If you ask your server for a description of what you’re ordering, the knowledgeable staff are happy to help you out. – Conde Nast Traveler (12.22.18)