A tasting menu of Hong Kong-style street food skewers seared over an outside grill, à la carte casual fare with comforting fusion dishes or family-style platters of elevated Cantonese food for private dinners. All of these various concepts encompass one sensational restaurant: Needle. The only consistent aspect of this restaurant is its signature vivid green exterior that brightens the corner of Hyperion and Sunset in Silver Lake.
Needle, owned by Chef Ryan Wong, opened in late 2019, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In the three years since it’s opened, the restaurant has undergone many transformations, from constantly changing menu items to shifting service styles. Needle’s ever-changing design is a reflection of a new era of restaurants, post-COVID-19, where restaurateurs deviate from a traditional makeup of a restaurant by experimenting more with pop-up menus and experiences.
On my first visit to Needle, my family and I weren’t given a table. Instead, we stood on their patio, facing a high-top table, a scene supposed to mirror the experience of eating street food from Hong Kong’s hawker stalls late in the night. Though at first we were a little baffled at the thought of standing for an entire meal, we soon realized that this is the best way to take part in this type of experience. The meal was a Siu Yeh set tasting menu, comprised of over 10 skewers and bites. Since servers were regularly bringing dishes to our table, we never became restless from standing in one place. The servers are friendly and engaged, eager to talk extensively about any of the dishes they deliver from the kitchen.
The food incorporates local California produce while maintaining the integrity of Hong Kong cuisine’s flavors and cooking techniques. We tasted a beautifully tender grilled octopus, covered in a curry sauce that allowed the quality of the octopus to shine, and a juicy chicken thigh, the skin so crispy it curled up, with a flavorful ginger scallion sauce dolloped on top. Every bite was uniquely wonderful but the real star of the show was the cheung fung: a Cantonese dish of steamed rice noodle rolls. Wong’s version is smothered in peanut and hoisin sauce and then seared over the grill, giving the normally soft and chewy roll a wonderful crunch and more textural variety.
Since then, I have been back numerous times, keeping track of the rotating dishes by stalking their Instagram, @needle.la. A dish added to the menu today is not guaranteed to be there next week, which is why you need to go again and again in order to secure all their incredible items. When Needle’s most iconic dish, the pork bun, was featured on the restaurant’s Instagram story, I immediately got in my car and drove right there. The pork bun’s main component is a succulent pork chop, nestled between two milk bread buns, accompanied with a relish, pickled cucumbers and a mustard sauce. The vinegar and acidity from the toppings perfectly balance the rich pork flavor. Another phenomenal signature dish is their char siu, coated in a honey soy glaze, which can be ordered based on the amount of fat content you prefer in your pork: “regular fatty” or “extra fatty.” Needle sources their pork from Peads and Barnetts, an amazing sustainable local pork farm, which is why you will have a hard time finding a better-tasting and higher-quality pork dish in Los Angeles.
Not only is the food spectacular, but all of the employees and chefs are also lovely, and display evident passion and love for the restaurant they have created. Whether it be takeout or a 15-course meal, Needle’s team laboriously crafts, tests and perfects each dish on their curated menu. I am excited to see what Chef Wong has in store next for his restaurant, and I will probably rack up many miles driving to Silver Lake for Needle’s newest star dish.