Profile: Wah’s Golden Hen
The air is thick with the summertime heat as the locals stroll along the boulevard, trying to escape the Easy-Bake ovens that their apartments have become. Looking for Wah’s Golden Hen can be a bit of a task in the oft overlooked area of Virgil, the only beacon of culinary hope being Cha Cha Cha. After mistaking the location for a Laundromat I finally find it on the corner of Virgil and Melrose, catty corner from Cha Cha Cha. The neon flickered “Open” a few times, so I entered.
I was warmly greeted by the host and given the VIP table in the back of the restaurant where a large round table sits in an alcove of the main dining area. I imagine many a shady dealing has been made in this location, much like the dark intimate booths at the Pacific Dining Car. The furnishings of Wah’s somewhat tries to replicate this with the dark cherry wood tables and chairs which oddly contrasts with the Chinatown tchotchkes that adorn the walls.
The main clientele of this joint are the locals of the area, making it somewhat of the neighborhood meeting spot. People walk in and are greeted on a first name basis by the hostess, who has been working at Wah’s for 35 years. The hostess informed me that Mr. Wah would have greeted me himself if he wasn’t on his first vacation since the restaurant’s inception. The concept of working 35 years with no vacation totally blew my mind. Gotta love the Old World work ethic.
The menu at Wah’s is pretty standard with any Chinese chow spot, with the sweet and sours and orange chickens, but I am looking for something distinct, something that screams: WAH’S.
The hostess with the perma-smile on her face promptly brings me a kettle of tea. Flustered with not knowing what I want yet, she chimes in.
Hostess: You will have the House Special Friend Rice.
Me: I am?
Well, I can’t really argue with an endorsement like that, so I follow her orders and also randomly pick out the Salted Shrimp. She nods, takes my menu and is off to the kitchen, all with a smile that would’ve made the Black Dahlia proud.
The food arrives quickly and I am impressed with the portions as it could have easily fed a family of four. The house special fried rice [ photo ] was the first dish I attempted, as it was pretty much ordained that I eat it. The rice was slathered in oil, and was a bit tough and stale. The “meat” of the dish was an amalgamation of little bits of non-descript fried chunks. Was it pork? Was it chicken? Was it beef? Was it shrimp? Who knows, but I guess that’s what makes it special. After coating my tongue and throat in a layer of 3 day-old grease, I moved onto the salty shrimp. If you are familiar with this Chinese food staple, you would expect whole shrimp, head and all, fried and seasoned to perfection. Here at Wah’s however, they have taken it upon themselves to de-head their shrimp, I suppose for their non-asian clientele. The shrimp isn’t horrible, though tasted like Sizzler was taking a stab at authentic Chinese cuisine.
The thing with Wah’s is that it’s truly a neighborhood dive. The joint has been around for 35 years, and the staff knows the patrons on a first name basis. On my exit the hostess gave me a bag of almond cookies [ photo ], and asked if this was my first time at the restaurant. I responded yes, which prompted her to embrace my arm and exclaimed that I need to come back. I smiled and nodded, not knowing if I ever would come back, but left with a warm fuzzy feeling that something in LA can exist for 35+ years. Hope you have a great vacation Wah, wherever you are.
Wah’s Golden Hen
709 N Virgil Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029