Born in China, Top Chef Season 12 winner Mei Lein was whisked away as a child into the very different, auto-manufacturing community of Dearborn, Michigan. Here, her family opened a Chinese restaurant where Mei learned her way around the kitchen. And though her time in Michigan was formidable, she credits a stint at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Vegas, and the invaluable time at Ink with mentor Michael Voltaggio, for her Top Chef status.
Mei’s impressive blending of Chinese comfort food with learned Mexican flavors—like in her congee garnished with Mexican carnitas, hot sauce, peanuts and egg yolk—enabled her to seal the deal on Top Chef. But the title-snagging dish was a strawberry-lime curd with toasted yogurt, milk crumble, bee pollen and yogurt-lime ice. According to judge Tom Colicchio, it was “the best dessert I’ve ever had on Top Chef, period."
As she prepared to open her Asian-influenced debut restaurant in L.A., Mei shared her favorite Chinese food spots in the East—Eastern Los Angeles, that is—with Citizine.TV:
101 Noodle Express
Mei Lin: "Order the Beef Roll. I’m always willing to travel for great food, and this beef roll is a perfect example of that. A Chinese "burrito" if you will, filled with tender beef, cilantro, hoisin sauce. Perfection in my book. OR The Pork & Sour Vegetable Noodle Soup ( with Hand Torn Noodles). One of the other reasons why I come to 101 is for these noodles. All the noodles are made In house, but the pork & slivers of garlic, with the sour mustard combination are my favorite."
Mei Lin: "Order the House Lobster. I grew up eating this dish and I'm so glad I can come to a restaurant and have it be spot on with the one I ate growing up. So well done and simply delicious."
Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
Mei Lin: "Order the baked BBQ pork buns. These amazing morsels are so good—one is just not enough!"
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