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Moderately Priced Ethnic Restaurant for Graduation late lunch/dinner? (in from out of town)

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My little sister is graduating from USC in a month and my entire family of 14 is coming into town. We are renting a house in the "hills, near Universal City" area (forgive me, I don't know LA at all). And the graduation is obviously at USC. I don't think that those two are nearby, so I think location isn't such a huge deal. I am a faux-foodie, but my parents never really eat out save for ethnic food. Can anyone recommend a nice place? Maybe a chinese place (authentic would be appreciated by everyone) or somewhere in Koreatown that is nicer than casual? suggestions for other types of restaurants would be appreciated if it jumps out as somewhere that you would host a graduation dinner. Thanks!

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  1. I see on your profile that you're from Phili. What kind of ethnic food do your parents usually eat? Any particular ethnic cuisines you are willing to try outside of what you've mentioned? And let me preface my post by saying that I'm only the tip of the iceberg. There most likely will be some serious intervention here with recs coming from some serious hounds.

    The hills near Universal City might be Studio City. Whether it is or not, there's a place that recently opened in Studio City on Ventura Blvd (the major thoroughfare that cuts through the length of the valley) called, Mantee. I haven't been yet but it's gotten praise up to this point. It's traditional Armenian cuisine, which means a lot of what would be recognized as Mediterranean will be there, plus some things that will more or less resemble dishes from Greece and West Asia, some not so familiar pasta dishes, and great lamb.

    http://www.manteecafe.com/

    The general area you will be staying is very close to very reputable Lebanese and Persian places as well. Thai food is also readily available. Do any of these interest your group?

    Korea Town is very close to USC. You might want to look up Park's if Korean barbecue interests you at all. They're a Chow favorite in this category. Heck, they're just a Chow favorite over all.

    http://www.parksbbq.com/

    Mo-Chica is very close to USC. This is a Peruvian restaurant that serves that cuisine with a contemporary twist and a strong focus on refinement. If you've never had Peruvian food, then this would be a great place to start. They're located in the Mercado La Paloma food court off Grand Ave.

    http://www.mo-chica.com/

    Another place in the same food court is Chichen Itza. In case you're exposure to Mexican food is casual, this place might be a real eye-opener for you. Mexican cuisine is very broad, influenced by regions, cultures, climate, etc. What most of the country considers to be Mexican does exist here as well, but the real joy of enjoying "Mexican" cuisine in LA is the depth and breadth, with specialists offering regional cuisines from north to south, from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Chichen Itza is regional cuisine basically from the Yucatan Peninsula, and this place hits pretty high on the scale of focus and deliciousness.

    Chinese cuisines are best represented in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). Depending on what time and what day you travel to there from either the Universal City area or USC, traffic might be a concern. In my mind, it's more than worth the travel - about 20-30 minutes from USC, and maybe a little more from Universal/Studio City. If your group is serious about trying anything out there, you will be well-rewarded with a ton of recs.

    Assuming that since you folks are staying in a pretty nice part of town, and your sis has been purging your parents' bank accounts by going to the University of Spoiled Children (I kid - well, sort of :)), you've got the budget to hit up some pretty nice places in the SGV, which for what you get is more than reasonable. If going to a celebratory dinner here, most groups of your size will either have a banquet with a multi-course set menu, or have a nice seafood experience that would be very difficult to find elsewhere in the US. Dim Sum is another option, but this is during the morning through early afternoon. Some of the heavy hitters that could offer you any or all of these options are Sea Harbour, Elite, 888, Ocean Star and NBC. Dim sum is the most reasonable in price, set multi-course can vary from down-right bargain to dipping deep in the pocket, and specialty live seafood dinners can make you a little dizzy.

    I'd suggest pondering some of these suggestions as well as others of course, narrow things down, and go from there.

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    Mercado La Paloma
    3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

    Chichen Itza
    3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

    Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
    3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

    Mo-Chica
    3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

    Mantee
    10962 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

    3 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      My parents love Lebanese and middle eastern. MoChica looks really good, but I think we need something a bit nicer - tablecloths at least? Suggestions in SGV would be appreciated. As far as $$ goes, I am poor, my parents are pretty cheap, and my older siblings are rolling in it (well, they aren't doing paycheck to paycheck like me - so maybe they'll get stuck with the check :)). Thanks for the suggestions!

      1. re: annabelle818

        For Lebanese you could head to Phoneicia, or Carousel in Glendale. My personal favorite is Phonenicia, but Carousel has a wider array of mezzes to choose from.

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        Carousel Restaurant
        304 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

        Phoenicia
        343 N Central Ave, Glendale, CA 91203

        1. re: annabelle818

          There's a wealth of Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine close by to where you are staying. Poster losfelizhound's recs as well as these following ones are all in the city of Glendale, literally on the other side of the hill from where you are staying. For Persian, Raffi's, Shamshiri and Shiraz would be suitable as well. All of these recs are used to celebratory meals so you folks will do well here. I'm not sure who will be picking up the check, but they are all reasonably priced as well. Two Lebanese places you should keep in mind for additional meals are Skaf's (in Glendale) and Hayat's Kitchen. They probably wouldn't work for your celebratory dinner, but these two places are considered some of the best around the LA area. Another is Alcazar in Encino (about 15 minutes west of where you are staying) - they would be suitable for celebration but is further away. Israeli cuisine has a couple of big stars as well. Itzik Hagadol (also in Encino in the same mall and would be suitable for celebrating) and Hummus Bar & Grill (in Tarzana - another 5-10 minutes further west).

          For Chinese in SGV, I've already mentioned the places I'd check out if I were doing a Cantonese-style multi-course banquet or wonderful Cantonese seafood meal. If budget is a priority, I'd skip the live seafood (easily $100+/person) and stick with a set multi-course banquet. I'll list the restaurants in order from least expensive to most expensive, based on my general experience:

          NBC Seafood Restaurant
          Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant
          888 Seafood Restaurant
          Elite Restaurant/Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant

          Don't let the "Seafood Restaurant" description get you to thinking that all they do is seafood. I don't know their pricing, but if I had to guess, you could range anywhere from the mid-$20s to mid-$30s per person and get a fantastic 11-course banquet. If you're willing to go to $40-$55 per, then I think this will set you in the premium category, which may include one or two seafood dishes from the live fish tanks (usually lobster and some form of live ocean fish). This is a lot of food no matter which level you choose. You can look up these restaurants, call them and have them fax you a menu. One barrier you may run into is language. These places cater to the local Chinese communities so Mandarin and Cantonese are widely spoken. All of these places have English speakers, but they may or may not be the first to answer the phone and even still - the accents can be thick. Another thing to consider is food allergies or dietary requirements. People with allergies often have problems with Chinese cooking because of the use of seafood (shellfish, crustaceans) and nuts, particularly peanut/peanut oil. Pork is extensively used as well. Just a heads-up.

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          Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant
          145 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 201, Monterey Park, CA 91754

          NBC Seafood Restaurant
          404 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

          888 Seafood Restaurant
          8450 E Valley Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770