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Nov 16, 2012 08:33 AM

Earliest Authentic Chinese Restaurant Outside of SF City Limits?

I've been working on the chronology of the spread of authentic Chinese restaurants in the Los Angeles area, where the first authentic suburban Chinese restaurant opened up in Monterey Park around 1975. Aside from Oakland Chinatown, does anybody remember when the Bay Area started seeing these? I remember going to a place around the same era, I believe right off I-280 in the Daly City area, kind of on a hill. However I wasn't tracking Chinese restaurants back then. Thanks.

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  1. The first one I remember hearing about as being worth the schlep from SF was the original Flower Lounge in Millbrae, which opened in1984.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Thanks for the info and links. I was hoping to hear from you!

    2. I don't know if it qualifies as "authentic" as I haven't been before, but I live close to Chef Chu's in Los Altos which supposedly has been open since 1970.

      1. I don't know what "authentic" means, either. But the first new wave/non-Chinese-American restaurant I patronized was King Tsin on Solano Ave. in Berkeley in the late 1970s. We used to go with my roommate's boyfriend, who was taking engineering and computer science classes with half the waiters, who were on student visas from China.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Mandarin Garden and Tsing Tao were contemporary with King Tsin.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I remember going to King Tsin as early as 1975, and I think it had been around a few years then. But there were also other places in Berkeley at that point (I remember one on College just south of Ashby, whose name eludes me).

          2. I remember being very impressed with what I thought was the authenticity of Chef Chu's near Palo Alto (Los Altos) when my Stanford friends would take me there on visits from the Chicago Area during the early to mid 1980s. It's website says it opened in 1970. I also remember HKFL in the 1988 time frame and maybe earlier.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Thomas Nash

              Chef Chu's has some extremely non-Chinese dishes on the menu (notably crab rangoon), so maybe it was one of the earlier generation of places where you could get real Chinese food if you knew what to order, or ordered in Cantonese, or chewed out the chef in Cantonese if he tried to serve you Americanized stuff.

              I think Chandavki is looking for the newer-style places with purely Chinese-Chinese menus.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Yeah, I think you're right... The clientele seems to be decidedly caucasian. That being said, there are a number of more "authentic" dishes, but also its fair share of crab rangoon, general tso's etc.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  That's certainly the case now. But in the 1980s Chef Chu's had some of the most authentic and interesting Chinese (Northern/Sichuan) one could find anywhere in the US (including NYC and Chicago at the time). It was not all Caucasian at the time. Many Chinese patrons along with some Stanford types.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    In the 70s they didn't have dishes like crab rangoon on the menu.

                    When Stanford's will provision blocking alcohol sales within a certain distance of campus was over turned in the 90's (?), Chef Chu got a liquor license and changed up their menu.

                2. I think this pretty well defines the kind of Chinese restaurants that existed before the ones Chandavki's asking about:

                  "When some frustrated non-Chinese friends of [Jim Lee, author of the 1968 Jim Lee's Chinese Cookbook] found they could not on their own order the same lobster Cantonese at the restaurant he had taken them to, he went back and listened to what the waiters hollered to the kitchen. Eventually he deciphered three phrases. Plain 'lobster Cantonese' produced a bland concoction topped by a lot of pasty sauce; for those who asked for 'real' Chinese food, 'lobster Cantonese, Chinese style' had a little more garlic and less sauce. And 'lobster Cantonese, Chinese style, eaten by Chinese' was the real McCoy, boldly seasoned and served with the natural juices from the stir-fry."


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Olivia Wu, who wrote the article linked, is now an executive chef at Google, Inc. I found her interviewed on youtube:

                    Her son Wu-Bower is chef at Avec in Chicago.