New Broadway Cuisine restaurant opens in the former Plum Tree Inn space
When Chinatown’s institution, Plum Tree Inn, closed its doors for good in July 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, longtime Chinatown residents and hospitality veterans, Chef Yi Long Yu and his wife, Wen Yu, wanted to preserve the restaurant’s 40-year-old traditions. After closely following the progress of the pandemic for nearly a year, the couple finally signed the lease for 913 North Broadway last June (with two silent business partners) and opened Broadway cuisine in the former Plum Tree Inn area at the end of August.
The Yus hope to continue the legacy of the Plum Tree Inn as an easy option for weekday lunches and a reliable destination for group dining in Chinatown. âPlum Tree Inn has been in business for quite some time, so its closure was like the loss of another resource, another dining establishment where families can come together,â says Wen, as translated by her daughter, Michelle Yu. âWe want to be able to continue that – that’s how Broadway Cuisine was born. Hope we can be a restaurant where families can dine and serve the community so Chinatown can come alive again. ”
News of the closure of Plum Tree Inn last summer sent shock waves through the community of Chinatown. Although closed storefronts have become increasingly common in recent years, as the neighborhood experiences immense social and economic challenges due to gentrification, the pandemic has exacerbated the already dire situation. The closure of Plum Tree Inn hit the Yus particularly hard given its importance to the community and the couple’s personal history with the restaurant. Yi Long cooked for a short stint in the restaurant’s kitchen while it was still operating from its original location at the end of Hill Street. Wen worked as a cashier in the Broadway building before Plum Tree Inn took over it in 2007; it was called Gourmet Carousel in 1998 and served dim sum on carts. The Yus have dined at the Plum Tree Inn for casual dining and multi-course celebratory banquets over its four decades.
Now in their late fifties, the Yu embark on a daring and largely unforeseen venture during a difficult time. However, the importance of providing an essential service to their community and ensuring that Chinatown remains accessible to its longtime residents continually motivates the couple. âThere just aren’t that many restaurants. Most Chinese families usually go to the San Gabriel Valley to get their Chinese food, âsays Wen. âPlum Tree Inn was really special for the community because they could bring Chinese food to the locals, especially for those who can’t make it to the San Gabriel Valley, like the elderly.â
Although the Yus immigrated from China a decade apart – he in 1982 and she in 1992 – their lives in Los Angeles have followed parallel paths. Upon arriving in Los Angeles from Guangdong Province, they both lived in Chinatown and found work in Chinese restaurants. While he spent his days arguing over hot woks, she stayed at the front of the house working as a waitress or cashier. The couple married in 1989, moved to Chinatown, and raised two daughters. Most recently, Yi Long spent a decade as a chef in a Chinese-American restaurant. Bamboo kitchen in Sherman Oaks, while Wen worked in front of the house at the dim sum spot Golden Dragon Restaurant in Chinatown for 13 years. Broadway Cuisine is the couple’s first restaurant together to own and operate.
Los Angeles’ Chinese restaurant scene has evolved since the launch of Plum Tree Inn in 1979. In particular, the Chinese restaurant epicenter has shifted geographically from Chinatown to the sprawling suburb east of downtown in towns like Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rowland Heights. The popularity of ornate banquet halls that can seat hundreds of people waned and gave way to more humble dining rooms for everyday meals. The hearty menus that cover the kitchen’s biggest hits, like the one once served at the Plum Tree Inn, have been refined over time and have been replaced by more regionalized offerings. Along the way, the tastes of the Angelenos changed, with the appetite for Sichuan cuisine and dim sum feasts now rivaling that of kung pao chicken and fried rice.
With its 6,000 square foot dining room and 242-item menu, Broadway Cuisine feels like stepping back in time. Chef Yi Long runs a long list of Cantonese classics and Chinese-American staples with former Plum Tree Inn cook Manuel Sanchez Lee. Organized by protein type (seafood, beef, poultry, pork), with separate sections for noodles and rice, the menu follows the classic Chinese restaurant pattern. Robust offerings, which draw on Yus’ extensive catering know-how, are intended to satisfy both “American tastes” and “Chinese tastes” and include Chinese-American hits like the egg. foo yong, chop suey and moo shu pork. , as well as the iconic Pekin duck at the Plum Tree Inn. Lunch specials are offered on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include a small bowl of soup and steamed white rice.
A handwritten menu of âClassic Traditional Chinese Foodsâ is also available for those who can read Chinese (or who dine with someone who knows). The dozen or so house dishes originate from Guangdong Province and include Taishan cauliflower prepared with pork jowl, Japanese tofu mushrooms, beef daikon pot, delicately steamed chicken with ginger and green onions, and seasonal vegetables like snow pea tips and onion choy. There’s something for everyone on the Broadway Cuisine menu, and a full liquor license is planned for the coming months.
Inside the sprawling space, the Yus revamped the 300-seat dining room and added a few upgrades, including karaoke machines in the private dining rooms. The couple believe that this kind of large-scale old-fashioned Chinese restaurant is still needed and want to serve not only their immediate neighbors, but also tourists and downtown workers.
While it’s too early to say how business will fare at Broadway Cuisine in the months and years to come, the restaurant’s goal has never been clearer, even with just one month of operation under its belt. . When the elevators nearby Manoir Cathay – Chinatown’s first federally subsidized senior housing project – stopped working for almost two weeks in early September, the Yus climbed 15 flights of stairs to deliver 300 meals to senior residents living in the 273 unit development. As longtime Chinatown residents and newly formed business owners, the couple felt responsible for taking care of their neighbors during a time of crisis. While the creditworthiness and longevity of Broadway Cuisine are uncertain, Yus’ deep sense of duty to the community will continue to be the driving force behind the restaurant – it is there to serve Chinatown.
Broadway Cuisine is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.