Hollywood East Cafe (Full Review)

Reopened Hollywood East is a welcome departure in Wheaton

It’s often hard to find an interesting meal in a shopping mall, but Hollywood East Cafe—which just relocated to Wheaton’s Westfield Mall after being closed nearly a year—is a welcome departure from most mall dining options. The restaurant’s red walls and golden dragons—not to mention the tanks of giant crabs and lobsters—set the stage.

Dim sum, available to order every day and from rolling carts on weekends, has always been Hollywood East’s main draw. But the regular menu offerings are sometimes as exciting.

An entrée of honey-walnut shrimp is a wonderful mixture of lightly fried shrimp with candied nuts, sesame seeds, and a sweet, creamy sauce. A silky steamed lingfish topped with matchsticks of scallion covers nearly the entire plate. And chicken casserole with Chinese mushrooms brings the earthy flavor known as umami.

Dim sum here is popular. Don’t miss the baked pork buns and the roast-pork-filled sesame pastries, both featuring lots of the rich, sweet meat. Eggplant stuffed with shrimp; fried shrimp with pepper; shrimp-and-snow-pea dumplings; and shrimp balls all did right by the crustacean. Excellent green beans, flash-fried in the wok, were spiked with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and a hint of spicy chili pepper.

The only misses were the gristly spare ribs in black-bean sauce and a duck-and-vegetable dumpling that oddly tasted like an Italian ragu.

Meals end with a flourish: The carrot-shaped doughnuts filled with custard are whimsical and tasty. If only all mall food were this good.

-August 2010