Friday, April 3

Revolutionary dining awaits at Mao’s

Low prices, healthy choices make up for limited menu options

  Illustration by HINGYI KHONG/Daily Bruin

NAME: Mao’s Kitchen
512 Pacific Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
Sunday – Thursday
11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
(310) 581-8305
PRICE RANGE: $5.00 – $8.00

By Michael Rosen-Molina
Daily Bruin Senior Staff

It is said that it’s never a good idea to mix politics
with food. Whoever said that obviously never ate at Mao’s

With its walls covered in Chinese propaganda posters proclaiming
the glory of the people’s revolution, Mao’s Kitchen
certainly makes no attempt to hide its political leanings.

While many Chinese restaurants try to recapture the ambience of
the ancient East with statues of the Buddha and the Koi ponds,
Mao’s Kitchen takes the opposite route, celebrating the
social and cultural accomplishments of modern China and its ruling

In all honesty, Mao’s Kitchen does not seem to be run by a
gung-ho adherent to Mao’s little red book. Rather, the
restaurant’s communist decor ““ from the communist star
to the stern menu picture of the chairman himself decked out in an
apron and chef’s hat ““ suggests a somewhat communist

Specializing in “Chinese country-style cooking with red
memories,” the restaurant features unusual dishes, such as,
“the people’s potstickers,” “gang of four
fried shrimp,” “good citizen noodle soup,” and
“countryside commune eggs.”

Although some of the more esoteric names might be lost on those
diners who aren’t students of Chinese history, it is hard not
to smile at some of the clever descriptions. The “eggplant
power-plant,” for example, is “a reactor core fueled
with chicken and jicama, complete with melt-down sauce and cilantro

Although the menu is funnier than most restaurants, it is also
more limited. The selection pales in comparison to fancier
restaurants, but Mao’s Kitchen is not about catering to the
fancy tastes of the bourgeoisie. It’s about bringing good,
simple food to the proletariat; and it accomplishes that mission
with flying colors. The small selection is varied. Only the most
finicky patrons will be unable to find something to suit their

Mao’s Kitchen operates by the principles of the Great
Liberator himself: strive to serve the people, or as Mao would have
said, “Wei ren min fu wu!” Scholars may disagree about
whether or not Mao abided by those words, but there can be no
argument that Mao’s Kitchen does.

The restaurant definitely has not sold out to the decadent
capitalist system. This is evident in its reasonable prices. The
lunch special served from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. includes an entree,
hot and sour soup, steamed rice and your choice of side salad or
eggroll, all for $6.50. Large, filling portions are the rule.

Served steaming hot, the mushroom chicken dish comes with tender
chicken strips, crisp snow peas and juicy black mushrooms all
bathed in a tangy white sauce.

The Qingjiao Rousi consists of crispy shredded pork, chewy
marinated tofu cubes, and zesty green and red bell-peppers. The hot
and sour soup lives up to its name, being deliciously hot in both
temperature and taste. The house salad, although somewhat of an
oddity in a Chinese restaurant, is also available. It provides a
fresh blend of lettuce, carrots and cucumbers drenched in a light
vinegarette dressing.

Mao’s Kitchen also encourages healthy eating by featuring
a vegan menu. Most dishes are also available in vegetarian, or
steamed incarnations. Dinners are even offered with the option of
sauce on the side.

With a variety of light dishes, an economical lunch special, and
a convenient location one block from Venice Beach, Mao’s
Kitchen makes for an excellent lunchtime stop in the middle of a
busy day of sight-seeing.

Despite the numerous propaganda posters that plaster the walls,
Mao’s Kitchen itself is not much to look at.

The spartan decor consists of very little besides the
aforementioned posters, but that’s the way Mao would have
liked it. None of that unnecessary extravagance, just good food and
posters depicting the smiling children of the revolution and their
benevolent communist uncles. If there were more restaurants like
Mao’s Kitchen, communism might just yet work.

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  • DisgustedinLA

    Hello? Mao Zedong was a Communist dictator who killed tens of millions during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Are we so ignorant now that we are celebrating a mass murderer by naming restaurants after him? what’s next? Hitler’s Oven? Pho de Pol Pot? How can you call this place “revolutionary”? “Mao’s Kitchen” is a great insult to the tens of millions of Chinese families who have lost loved ones under Mao’s reign of terror.