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Good Chinese restaurant NOT in SGV?

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I know SGV is much better but I am planning a graduation dinner for a Friday night and traffic will be awful from UCLA. So I'm trying to find something a little closer to the westside, such as in Chinatown. I couldn't find much on the boards about non-SGV options so here goes:

My family is Chinese (and picky!) so it has to be authentic, not americanized Chinese (or at least, places that offer plenty of authentic dishes, and whole fish). Within a 15 mile radius from Westwood. Preferably not too divey since its for a graduation, but as long as its reasonably clean that's fine. Decent parking is always a plus. 4-6 people.

I would appreciate suggestions for places or comments on these places that I looked up. Thanks!

Sam Woo - Van Nuys (have only had Sam Woo in SGV and its just ok)

Chinatown: (the only place I've been to in Chinatown was empress pavilion for an event and it was just ok. Definitely looking for something better)

Chinese Friends
Fortune Gourmet
Yang Chow
Mandarin Chateau
Master Chef

thanks!!

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  1. One of the Hop Li locations.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JAB

      +! for hop li in chinatown

    2. Best bet in Chinatown would be one of these 3 options in Chinatown: JR Bistro, Hop Li or Full House.

      None will please, much less wow, your family, but when life gives you shit to work with, you try to wipe your ass as quickly and cleanly as possible and just move on.

      25 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Full House is not the same Full House it used to be.
        J.R. might be as good as Chinatown gets.
        If OP prefers to stay further west, Hop Li, in the former JR location, might be the best by default.

        1. re: carter

          JR is def an option in ctown, but I find their cooking to be a little - heavy, not very good on the wok hei. But their crispy fried chicken is prob the juiciest around, but also pretty greasy.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          goodness ipsedixit, that bad? I thought ctown would be decent...

          1. re: silverlainy

            Nope.

            Even the more discerning cockroaches have left.

            1. re: silverlainy

              You also realize that Chinatown, while considerably closer than the SGV, will also likely take an 1hr+ to reach from UCLA, esp on a Friday night? =(

              1. re: ilysla

                I've never been, but someone recommended Xian in Beverly Hills. Is it any good?

                1. re: jgilbert1000

                  Xi'an is pretty good, unless you want Chinese.

                  (And this is not to be confused with Xi'an Kitchen in Rowland Heights, which does a pretty good version of cumin beef and can hold its own when it comes to hand-pulled noodles. Just FYI in case anyone is paying attention.)

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    What about Joss in BH? Didn't one of its chefs moved over to Chi Lin along with the chef of Yujean Kang?

                    1. re: TripleAxel

                      Joss would definitely be better than Xi'an, esp. for Chinese food.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Chi Lin is better than Joss and obviously better than Xi'an. But to put things in perspective, Chi Lin is not as good as Tasty Garden, at three times the price.

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          Yeah, but Chi Lin does over-the-too gaudy interior decor better than Shanghai No. 1, at only about 1.5x the price.

                          Quite the bargain.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Yeah, but it's a little too dark in Chi Lin. At least you can see where Shanghai 1 spent their money.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              That assumes that I actually *want* to see the decor.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                If its delicious eye candy, then so be it.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  ?? Shanghai #1 decor = eye candy? NOT! The inside looks like Wild Wild West meets Haunted Mansion in Macau.

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    Or a brothel from the World of Suzy Wong... but their XLBs and Pan Fried Pork Buns are pretty darn good.

                              2. re: Chandavkl

                                And this shit makes me hunger for Sea Harbour.

                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                  Has anyone tried their uni crab XLBs?

                                  1. re: TripleAxel

                                    uni crab xlbs ?

                                    That means I have not been there in some time.

                                    1. re: TripleAxel

                                      They are at Sea Harbour right, or Shanghai No. 1 ?????

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        Chi Lin.. at $15 an order (reduced from the initial price of $17) of 3 or 4, I believe...

                                        1. re: TripleAxel

                                          those are some pricey xlbs .

                                          1. re: TripleAxel

                                            Passed on them. Was disappointed in the ROC XLB so I wasn't going to risk any more money on Westside XLB.

                                        2. re: TripleAxel

                                          Link to Clarissa's description of uni crab XLB

                                          http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-n...

                                    2. re: Chandavkl

                                      'Nuff Said.

                      2. I'd go with Master Chef in CTown. Previously I would have easily said Golden City, but the owners (also own Full House), turned it into an HK cafe, replaced the waitstaff with a bunch of youngsters, and the food was really disappointing.
                        Full House is god awful, even though it still gets a lot of business.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: pley

                          MasterChef ain't that good either. When it comes to noodles (won ton or chow mein), I think New Dragon is pretty good. They're hit and miss with other dishes, but not bad salt pepper calamari...

                        2. Wow! Talk about the tallest midget in the circus! J.R. Bistro, Master Chef and Golden City are the restaurants I'd go to if you put a gun to my head. Maybe Mayflower but that's cash only. Forget Chinese Friends, Yang Chow and Mandarin Chateau.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            That tall midget is still going to be ... ugly.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              Mayflower?? I'd have to have more than a gun to my head to go there.

                              1. re: pley

                                Mayflower's food is okay but the service is always unbelievably horrible every single time I went.

                              2. re: Chandavkl

                                Chinese Friends is my guilty pleasure for 2 dishes only: kung pao chicken and mu shu pork. I think it has to do with falling in love with those dishes when I first tried them there (and at Hunan Restaurant and Green Jade Restaurant) as a tween/teenager...

                              3. How about Sea Empress in Gardena? Better than any of the downtown places.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                  My choice would also be for Sea Empress. Lots of free open parking and they do accommodate large parties with private rooms. Stay clear of LA Chinatown. Not the same as years past and the parking is horrendous!

                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                    Sea Empress does various levels of banquets and is pretty good. Parking is easy but my concern would be traffic. It takws us about 25 minutes from the 90/405 to that part of Gardena. Add another 30+ from UCLA at that time?

                                  2. Agree that this is a hard request, and that I am about to get hammered by the hounds on this board, but...
                                    I have found that there are places on the Westside that can get it "close-to" right, which may not be right enough for your family, if you -- or someone who speaks Mandarin if you don't -- calls in advance, explains what dishes you would like and they make it special.
                                    Your best bet is probably
                                    Palace Seafood & Dim Sum
                                    11701 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
                                    Brentwood Plaza Shopping Center
                                    (310) 979-3377 () ‎ · palaceseafooddimsum.com

                                    33 Replies
                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                      Yes, but it'll take 30 minutes to get your car from the valet. (Or in my case, one hour.)

                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                        I've never had that experience. 1-10 minutes. But I'm a decent tipper (that's what $5 bills are for) so the guy usually parks my car up front.

                                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                          must...resist...jokes...

                                          1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                            Ten minutes is more the standard in that lot. And one time they misplaced my car key for an hour. They gave me a ride back to my office, while my wife waited for them to find the key.

                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                              How is that acceptable in any reality? Alternate or otherwise.

                                              How does a valet misplace car keys.

                                              That's like a bartender misplacing her cocktail shaker. For an hour. During happy hour.

                                              WTF.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Attendant eventually found the key in his jacket pocket.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Tampa Garden is good for the San Fernando Valley, which means you're so happy to see the dishes on their Chinese menu that you don't particularly care how they taste.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Well you have to get to downtown first (Santa Monica Fwy. east) before you can get to the SGV. My co-worker makes the daily drive between WLA to Monterey Park. It's an hour to an hour and a half on any weekday, probably longer on Friday. I know the 405 south is also rotten, but perhaps there are alternate routes to the freeway to get to Sea Empress.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      They do have fish maw soup!

                                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                                        Any thoughts about the Hop Li on Santa Monica Blvd. near Bundy? When I worked in West LA, I used to go to Hop Woo for some quick Chinese fix.

                                                        1. re: TripleAxel

                                                          Hop Li was a severe comedown from J.R. Seafood. The two saddest moments in WLA Chinese food history were the closing of Royal Star, the Ocean Star branch in Santa Monica, and J.R. Seafood turning into Hop Li.

                                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                                            I remember Royal Star in what is now the Douth location, right ?

                                                            Anyhow. I guess I'm guilty as charged since I never visited the joint.

                                                          2. re: TripleAxel

                                                            I do like Mandarin Kitchen though.

                                                          3. re: Chandavkl

                                                            I noticed a relatively new Chinese restaurant that took over the spot where Winchell's Donuts used to be in the mini-mall on the southeast corner of Sepulveda and Santa Monica. Has anyone tried this place?

                                                            1. re: TripleAxel

                                                              New Moon Chinese.
                                                              Awful.
                                                              I stopped in to peek, and -- foolishly -- picked up an order of pan fried dumplings before a band rehearsal. The usual Westside Cheapo Garbage that is supposed to pass for Chinese food. The pan fried dumplings were terrible, the sauce was a sweet-and-sour sugar fest. Only the chili oil I asked for had any flavor. The menu is the same as any of the others around town. I believe I read somewhere, probably Yelp, that it is owned by Hop Li.

                                                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                Thanks for taking one for the team.

                                                                Even though you and me probably both knew that it would stink.

                                                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                  Actually it's called Moon House, so not as to besmirch the name of the historic New Moon chain here in Los Angeles. Moon House may have some possibilities. I had the cha shu bao and it's definitely among the top 5 in WLA. Wait--can you get cha shu bao at five places on the Westside? Maybe not. But they are planning a Chinese language menu, so who knows. (On the other hand they don't appear to have a Chinese name.)

                                                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                    Probably you can only get it at two places in W. LA ?, right.

                                                                    i still have to try that fish balls restaurant in wla, i think it was an ayce joint.

                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                      Yes, the fish balls are still at Union Buffet. Mackerel, too. But the place changed ownership, raised prices $2, and isn't quite the same. I still go there once in a while.

                                                                    2. re: Chandavkl

                                                                      They do. If I remember, it seemed to be Fuk Man Low... not to be confused with the long gone Man Fuk Low on San Pedro in the flower district....

                                                                  2. re: TripleAxel

                                                                    It looks like it would suck.

                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                      I was really hoping for something decent near-ish to West LA Studio Services on Pontius...I get tired of Zankou weekly.

                                                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                        There's always Shunjis. :)

                                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                                          Like many Hounds, Ciao Bob & I try out new eateries every now & then.

                                                                          Like many Hounds, Ciao Bob & I feel that many new eateries are not very good, and leave a less-than-favorable impression.

                                                                          Unlike many Hounds, Ciao Bob & I then go to Shunji's to erase these bad experiences from our palates.

                                                                          1. re: J.L.

                                                                            must be nice to be a whale-hound (and I mean that in the nicest way possible)

                                                                            1. re: ns1

                                                                              :-)

                                                                        2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                          Is that the joint around the corner from Javan restaurant ?

                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                            No
                                                                            It is on the East Side of the 405

                                                                          2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                            I haven't seen it mentioned so, it may not be there anymore but, if it is, Sesame House, on San Vicente in Brentwood is your best bet for Chinese food in the area.

                                                                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                              Have you been down to the Hop Woo at Olympic and Sepulveda?

                                                              2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                "or someone who speaks Mandarin if you don't"

                                                                ...or cantonese.. since most of the recs are cantonese seafood/dimsum places.

                                                                1. re: blimpbinge

                                                                  che che

                                                                2. re: Ciao Bob

                                                                  We went here for a banquet about 1 1/2 years ago. It was actually pretty good for non-SGV. And as you mentioned, arranging with the manager in (I think it was) Cantonese is a plus.

                                                                3. Your options are limited, but if you want to improve the odds, talk with the manager/owner at the restaurant you choose. Inform that person that your Chinese family wants *authentic* Chinese food, not the Americanized versions. Either ask what they can prepare or choose the items yourself. If it's not on the menu, just ask if they can cook it. Order in advance so they can prepare the ingredients properly.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                    That's a great idea.

                                                                    1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                      In theory this is a good idea, but there are two problems in practice that make it, well, unlikely to be a good idea.

                                                                      1. Being able to cook an "authentic" dish does not, ipso facto, mean that they are able to cook the "authentic" dish well.

                                                                      2. Ingredients. Lots of times restaurants of this ilk will not have the necessary ingredients to make "off-the-menu" dishes.

                                                                    2. Hop Woo (Olympic & Sepulveda), or Hop Li (on Santa Monica Blvd., same plaza as Kotoya Ramen)

                                                                      1. New Moon on 9th Street at Los Angeles. They're now open for dinner on Thu-Fri-Sat (was always only open for lunch)

                                                                        1. It's a tad late for me to respond to this considering you're planning graduation dinner tonight but depending heavily on the type of cuisine you and your family want, I would choose Tampa Garden Chinese Delight. It is located in the middle of Northridge which is comparable to the distance to downtown Chinatown but the 405 is pretty empty as long as you're north of the 10. It is Szechuan cuisine and most reviews talk about the dumplings which are very good but most people don't talk about the non-dumpling Szechuan cuisine which is better than most Szechuan I've tried except for 1 place in NYC(Great sichuan) and Vegas(Shaanxi Gourmet). The main drawbacks to the place that might be an issue considering the size of the party is that the parking lot holds 15 cars maybe for 15 businesses and the decor of the inside is comparable to most Sam Woo's in a bad way. I unfortunately have no idea how busy the place is on a Friday night, busiest I've ever seen was 2pm on a weekend with 3 tables out of 12ish, those 3 being Chinese+mainland Chinese visiting. You should street view the address so you can fully comprehend the parking before you decide upon it though.

                                                                          Sorry for the Wall of text.

                                                                          Tampa Garden Chinese Delight
                                                                          8241 Tampa Ave
                                                                          Reseda, CA 91335

                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                          1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                            "but the 405 is pretty empty as long as you're north of the 10."

                                                                            No offense, but traffic on the 405 northbound btw the 10 and the 101 in the evening is some of the worst in the country and can easily take you 30-45 min just to reach Sherman Oaks from UCLA (I know b/c I used to make that commute on Tuesday evenings) plus another 20-30 min to reach Northridge beyond that (assuming traffic going up Balboa isn't a mess).

                                                                            Additionally, if the OP's family is Cantonese (don't recall if the OP clarified this), the central-China style of food Tampa Gardens will most emphatically not work for dinner.

                                                                            1. re: ilysla

                                                                              Especially tonight, since the 405 is closing at 9PM

                                                                              1. re: yogachik

                                                                                :-O

                                                                              2. re: ilysla

                                                                                Eh, that was my fault, I typically post driving times based on the way I drive, which is far shorter than 99% of drivers.. Worst traffic I encountered was from Sylmar to San diego via the 405 at 4:30pm on friday(rush hour) and it took 3 hours. That all being said, assuming the OP/driver is an average driver, yeah it'll prob take at least an hour to get there. If you don't want to drive too far, I'd prob take ipsedixit's suggestions as he's pretty knowledgeable about Chinese food in that area/east of there.

                                                                                1. re: ilysla

                                                                                  i was on the 405 heading north just this week.
                                                                                  there is some kind of roadwork being done that had everything locked up.

                                                                                2. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                  Is this some kind of joke? There's nothing Sichuan about Tampa Garden. The room is worse than a Panda Express, and the dumplings are mediocre at best.

                                                                                  OP is looking for a celebratory graduation dinner, not a ratchet dinner for a single Chinaman who can't find a date on a Saturday night.

                                                                                  1. re: TonyC

                                                                                    This post cracked me up.

                                                                                    1. re: TonyC

                                                                                      You do realize I'm not comparing to Monterey park/SGV, this is about what the OP requested which was something that is a reasonable distance which has good authentic Chinese food. The OP didn't specify for the place to have tablecloths and excellent service as prereq's. I'm commenting purely on food quality and authenticity. As far as saying it's nothing like Sichuan cuisine and comparing it to Panda Express, yes if you order the Americanized food, it tastes just like Panda Express but that's simply because when you have a bad location with mostly non-Chinese nearby, You have to cater for the average customer or else you'll have a highly authentic restaurant that goes out of business. If you go to a authentic restaurant and order Americanized food, then you're basically ordering Pakistani cuisine at a strictly Hindi(vegetarian) restaurant and then complaining about it.

                                                                                      As far as saying there's nothing Sichuan about the place, tell that to my 99 year old grandmother from weihai that lived in HK for 20 years and typically only cares about restaurants that look good and are busy, and yet she still admits the restaurant is 'very good'.

                                                                                      1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                        For graduation dinner "no". Food's okay for the area. I was one of the first to recommend the place. Besides, the husband wouldn't be able to fill orders for a party of 15 quickly. The kitchen gets overwhelmed with just 2 or 3 tables with only parties of 2 to 4. Plus after a while you get tired of Mama nicely pushing her suggestions of food on you. Haven't been there in years now because of these reasons.

                                                                                    2. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                      I am sorry, but I have to agree with TonyC on wondering where you have gotten the impression that it was a Szechuan place. I second what Galen has stated. Like Galen, I was one of the first to try this place, when it was first opened. They had just moved from New Jersey then, and if I were not mistaken, originally from Henan (河南), China. This is definitely not a place for graduation or any special occasion. They cannot handle traffic and you will somehow get your food within reasonable time, if you were the only customer. The reason is the kitchen is too small, and they do not have enough stove/burners to handle the orders, and that comment came directly from the mom. The last time I was there was a year ago, I was rooting for them in the beginning, but with what Galen had already said, it has somehow not been in our rotation for pretty much the same reasons.

                                                                                      The Tampa Garden Chinese Delight thread was started back then by our beloved David Chan:

                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/667376

                                                                                      1. re: jotfoodie

                                                                                        Ah, I have never been there when it was busier than 3 tables(including ours) so my view of the service is obviously not accurate.

                                                                                        So, do you have a suggestion for another Chinese restaurant that is reasonably authentic to any regional type anywhere within 20 miles from San Fernando Valley? I can drive to SGV easily but I hate driving down from pasadena since there are no highways that go there from pasadena.

                                                                                        1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                          Is Agoura Hills too far away? Hot Wok, Szechuan Place and Green Onion have authentic items on their menu. Junk, too.

                                                                                          1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                            eat thai, go to 626 for chinese. problem solved.

                                                                                            1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                              Was the issue that it was "inauthentic?" I only went to Tampa Gardens once a few yrs ago, but I thought the food was quite good (and "authentic," whatever the heck that means).

                                                                                              Don't know how other people on the board feel about this place, but I think Mandarin Deli (on Reseda, across from CSUN.... Can't remember the x-street) is completely respectable, as well.

                                                                                              1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                                How about Hot Wok Cafe in Northridge on Reseda and Nordoff (NW corner), where Vons anchors that plaza.

                                                                                                It is not the same owner as Chandavkl, suggested one with the same name in Agoura Hills.

                                                                                                I have been going to this Chinese restaurant for years. The current owner is from Taiwan, and has become a good friend of my extended family through years of patronage. They have a Chinese special menu for folks who want more 'authentic' Chinese dishes, and they also list their more current Chinese dishes on a white board stand, which you will see, as soon as you enter the restaurant, before you reach the front desk.

                                                                                                Some of the dishes you may be surprised to find them here, are chicken roll (雞卷-Jī juàn), pickled cabbage with lamb( 酸菜羊肉 - Suāncài yángròu), cumin lamb (孜然羊肉 (zī rán yángròu), Mui Choy with Pork Belly (梅菜扣肉 – mei chai kou ruo), etc. You can even order Red Cooked Pork Hock (紅燒蹄髈/走油蹄髈 Zǒu yóu), if you give them a 2-day notice.

                                                                                                Give them a try, and please report back your experience if you decided to go.

                                                                                                9135 Reseda Blvd Northridge, CA 91324
                                                                                                (818) 886-1168

                                                                                                http://hotwokcafe.net/

                                                                                                1. re: jotfoodie

                                                                                                  Thanks for the replies, sorry for the uber late response as my mind was for some reason really messed up that day when I labeled Tampa garden as sichuan, must of had some 'bad' chinese fast food'.

                                                                                                  Hot wok sounds good, I'll give it a try as my current chinese restaurant outside of SGV is pretty far (Hop Woo/Tien Woo down by west L.A.). I noticed how super close it is to Cal State Northridge so is there a time of day best to go if it's frequented by college kids or not?

                                                                                          2. Your best bet, by far (if you dont want to go far) is Joss Cuisine/Traditional. Its on Santa Monica Boulevard between Westwood and Beverly Hills. Nice for a graduation too.

                                                                                            http://www.josscuisine.com/home.php

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Thor123

                                                                                              Joss is your best bet if what you want is a losing bet.

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                Ouch!

                                                                                                1. re: Thor123

                                                                                                  Y'know it's nothing personal.

                                                                                                  But Joss (whether you like it or not personally) just doesn't fit the OP's stated criteria. It just doesn't.

                                                                                                  It's like this. I might like The Hat, but recommending it to the OP in this thread would be a losing bet.

                                                                                            2. OP here. Thanks everyone for the suggestions...maybe I will scope out some of the nearby places for lunch and see. To clarify, the dinner is for next friday. It looks like, traffic wise everything is about an hour (including ctown, Gardena (50 min), and SGV) based on googlemaps for today at 7. If the 405 closures are next week also, I'll have to eliminate Gardena and northridge.
                                                                                              A friend of mine bit the bullet and booked a restaurant in monterey park...I am considering it now. My family eats most types of Chinese food so that at least isnt a concern.

                                                                                              12 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                Are you familiar with Mandarin Kitchen? It is right nearby, on the east side of Westwood Blvd. just south of Santa Monica Blvd. in the same strip mall as Eduardo's. Admittedly, I'm a gringo and don't mind the "Americanized" Chinese food. I like this place for their lunch combos -- good hot'n'sour soup and better-than-average Mongolian beef or shrimp with garlic sauce. But when they changed ownership three or so years ago(?) they had some specials written in Chinese on the walls, they offer some lobster specials, and their menu includes some unusually "authentic" dishes for the westside.

                                                                                                Only a mile or so from campus, so check them out and talk to a manager or a chef. Note -- smallish and no real decor.

                                                                                                Note: Trying to get from the UCLA area to the SGV or even Chinatown on a Friday evening is just an invitation for delay and frustration. Have you checked whether the Dodgers are home that evening? Graduation is a celebration of you for your family -- the food for that evening can be secondary. Save your nerves and plan an awesome dim sum brunch the next morning when the trek to the SGV will be easy and you can impress your family with the food then.

                                                                                                1. re: nosh

                                                                                                  While I don't agree w/ the Mandarin Kitchen rec (simply based on what I've read about it chowhound and the OP's stated criteria), I do agree that's it's *complete* lunacy to try to drive outside of the immediate area on a Friday evening.

                                                                                                  Trust me, once your family sees what traffic is like in the area (if they haven't already), they'll probably be willing to compromise.

                                                                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                                                                    such is life on the westside.

                                                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                                                      Getting around or out of the Westside on fridayPM is doable. It's getting out of UCLA, Westwood Village and then Westwood that kills most options for the OP.

                                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                        Call LAPD and tell them someone in your party is about to go into labor and their doctor is at Huntington Memorial and get a police escort.

                                                                                                        Once you hit the 710 FWY mark, call it off and apologize for the false alarm.

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                          Huntington calls will get the OP routed to the 110-N. Best bet for the SGV is to say Garfield Hospital... :-P

                                                                                                          Either that, or everyone in the graduation party (yes, grandma too) rent a motorcycle and have a lane-splitting party. Just make sure you're all insured.

                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                            And that will earn you a misdemeanor for making a false police report, which will will at least ensure that dinner conversation won't be lacking

                                                                                                          2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                            Wow, if you think getting around or out of the westside on a Friday is doable (I'm talking 5-7PM), you must have the patience of a saint! ;) On a bad day, it's taken me 20-30 min just to reach the 405 from Bundy/Wilshire. =(

                                                                                                            I agree w/ the rest of your statement. ;) That's why the Palace rec isn't bad, assuming the food is above average (I've never been, even though I'm only about 1 mi away). You can head south on Veteran, use the leftmost right turn lanes (which gets you around all the horrific traffic trying to get onto the 405) and then be there in 15 min.... I know the OP wants good food, but I just worry that the time needed to get high-quality Chinese food will put the entire party in a foul mood (I know it would for me....).

                                                                                                            1. re: ilysla

                                                                                                              Westwood and West LA are the worst traffic areas in the Westside, particularly at PM rush hour. High density residencies, lots of businesses, office highrises, and UCLA. The rest of the Westside is not nearly as dense nor traffic as bad. I recently was stuck on Santa Monica blvd at rush hour. Creeping along, it took 30 minutes to get from Barrington to the 405. This is why I neither live in nor work in this part of the Westside.

                                                                                                              I mentioned upthread that it would take about 55 minutes from UCLA to Sea Empress, and the OP confirmed it via google. I live in the southwest part of the Westside, and it takes approximately 25 minutes to get to the same destination. Most places we need to or want to go are not more than 20-30 minutes from our home. If it's beyond that....

                                                                                                              Unfortunately for the OP, he has so many constraints to contend with. My wife is Malaysian Chinese, so I'm familiar with how the food becomes a big issue with the parents. They eat almost exclusively Chinese with variations and inclusions based on their family's origins and country's cultural influences. Outside of that, food choices don't stray far from East Asia - and it has to closely approximate the quality of what is "back home." I think most Chinese could accept a multi-course Cantonese banquet for a celebratory meal. Unfortunately, the Westside has no grand Cantonese restaurants. The closest to this, IMHO, is The Palace. They have banquet menus at graduating levels, they have seperate dining rooms, a valet service and it's close to UCLA. It's not Sea Harbour or Elite, but it's also approximately 90 minutes closer at that time of day. I'd present these choices to the parents and ask for their input.

                                                                                                    2. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                      Next Friday, as in May 17th? Good luck!

                                                                                                      I believe that's also USC's graduation day, the freeways will be a mess and you know the Trojans have already booked up all the good places.

                                                                                                      1. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                        Depending on the exact time of the evening, the SGV will take you more than an hr. On a normal evening, it takes at least 45 minutes from the traffic sign on the 10E to get to Downtown. And it'd probably take you at least 15-20 min to get to that sign from UCLA. Figure 1.5 hrs at least for Monterey Park....

                                                                                                        If you're going to drive all that way, why not book in San Gabriel/Alhambra/Rosemead? Monterey Park is where the good Chinese food was... 20 yrs ago. =(

                                                                                                        1. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                          yeah, either go to the sgv, or drive down to gardena on western.

                                                                                                        2. For the Westside, I am probably in the minority on this one, but I really really really like Mandarin Kitchen.

                                                                                                          But I have a feeling that most of the rest of the crew hates it.

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                                                            Here's the thing, it's not about whether you like Mandarin Kitchen or whether the hoi polloi hates it.

                                                                                                            It's about what the OP is looking for.

                                                                                                            Let's review:

                                                                                                            >>>My family is Chinese (and picky!) so it has to be authentic, not americanized Chinese (or at least, places that offer plenty of authentic dishes, and whole fish). <<<

                                                                                                            Now tell me, regardless of how much you *like* Mandarin Kitchen, how does that place fit the OP's criteria? I don't believe Mandarin Kitchen has -- as a very basic criteria -- whole fish, right?

                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                              Actually, I think there is a good chance they do. And if the OP arranged a few days in advance, the surely would have whole fish.

                                                                                                              1. re: nosh

                                                                                                                Just checked their menu. No whole fish, and certainly not of the fresh variety, which is all that really matters.

                                                                                                          2. No promises as to how many of your criteria it will actually fill (other than distance and not too divey) but I recently saw in Eater that there is a new place opening on Monday on Sunset near Doheny (next to RivaBella and part of the same company) that might be suitable. It is called Chi-Lin and here is part of the menu:

                                                                                                            http://la.eater.com/archives/2013/05/...

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: New Trial

                                                                                                              Chi-Lin is a jv with the Riva Bella/Boa Group and the original founder of Joss. Have not eaten there yet (next week), but it is a spectacular looking space. Looks like its going to compete for the very high end with the likes of Mr. Chow. The soft opening began this week on Monday.

                                                                                                            2. Thanks everyone for the feedback, I didn't realize USC's graduation was the same day..that sounds like even worse traffic that usual. You have sufficiently convinced me to do dinner on the westside and SGV lunch the next day.

                                                                                                              I'll check out some of these westside options for lunch when I get a craving for chinese food and cant make the drive east.

                                                                                                              12 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                                There are two westside chinese combo lunches that are part of my regular rotation, and I've tried a bunch. Hu's (now closed on Monday) offers a decent hot'n'sour soup (not much sour or hot -- I add chili oil and soy -- but a lot of stuff in it), a small chinese chicken salad (a great addition, sweetish dressing, the reason I go more often than Mandarin Kitchen), and a large entree with rice (I like the twice-cooked pork (no tofu), the kung pao chicken (extra sauce -- their kung pao sauce is great), or the eggplant (with pork, done spicy). Do not get the sour chicken or bell-pepper beef or sweet and sour -- the chicken or shrimp are in a thick insipid batter. $7.45++ Hu's is on National -- take Westwood south until you hit National and follow it as it bends left past Overland and then it is where National takes a 90-degree turn east -- on the right.

                                                                                                                Mandarin Kitchen is on Westwood just south of Santa Monica Blvd. in the strip mall south of the carwash on the left (east). They serve a hot'n'sour soup with a bit of bamboo shoot but it is a bit spicy and tangy -- nice flavor. Also big portions with rice. I've liked their mongolian beef and the shrimp with assorted vegetables -- I ask for lots of spicy garlic sauce. The veggies include some flat pea pods, bok choy, and broccoli. Their kung pao or black bean dishes have been meh. $5.99 or 6.99++.

                                                                                                                Yes, I've done Hop Li (both locations), Chang's, California Wok, Cheng Du (used to be a favorite a decade ago), Hop Woo, Jin Jiang, Soybean, the one on Lindbrook in Westwood Village, and a BUNCH more....

                                                                                                                1. re: nosh

                                                                                                                  Mandarin Kitchen does have an assortment of jellyfish dishes, whole fish (at least tilapia - though that would not be quite traditional), other fish dishes, congee, among other dishes that are not exactly firmly rooted in Americanized Chinese cuisine.

                                                                                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                    Hu's is repulsive

                                                                                                                    1. re: echoparkdirt

                                                                                                                      Hu's Szechwan on National and Motor. ?????

                                                                                                                      I thought they had a couple decent ones either beef or fish ????? Maybe. Though just for the Amoericanized Chinese.

                                                                                                                      1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                        Hu's is Chinese government revenge on whites for the Opium Wars

                                                                                                                        1. re: echoparkdirt

                                                                                                                          I just wish they'd put some of that opium in their food...

                                                                                                                2. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                                  "You have sufficiently convinced me to do dinner on the westside and SGV lunch the next day."

                                                                                                                  That sounds like a VERY good idea (and what I do myself, when I want the good stuff). ;) Just make sure you really do travel to the SGV around lunch on Saturday b/c Saturday evening traffic is also bad (on the freeway; the surface streets are relatively clear).

                                                                                                                  I come from a Chinese family where some of the extended family is pretty picky, as well (or, at least, we wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves by taking them to something less than excellent). However, they're also relatively pragmatic and would probably agree to something close by once they take a look at the multi-cityblock line just to get to the on-ramp for either the 405 N/S (since having to stay in traffic for 1.5-2 hrs would likely start a war w/i the family and would shame you more than having sub-standard Chinese)....

                                                                                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                                                                                    haha yeah I told them I found a restaurant near my place and they were ok with doing SGV on saturday. Traffic on the 10 will horrify them

                                                                                                                    traffic near ucla is pretty awful but I have some side routes that make it a little better...

                                                                                                                    1. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                                      If you do end up going to the Palace (or any other place closeby), do post a review, so I wouldn't mind finding a decent Chinese place in the area....

                                                                                                                  2. re: silverlainy

                                                                                                                    RIP Royal Star. That's where we went when my kids graduated from UCLA.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                                      Oh. Yea. Royal star. Isn't that where South is at now ?

                                                                                                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                                        Something jinxed about that spot -- pretty big restaurant with a bar, some limited devoted parking, and yet another successor to Royal Star (South -- have there been others?) has bitten the dust.

                                                                                                                    2. You should seriously consider an alternate cuisine on the west side. Your parents will just be annoyed if they are picky and expect authenticity.

                                                                                                                      Go for Japanese or Korean or Thai instead.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Sgee

                                                                                                                        Of just postpone dinner until Saturday.

                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                          Yeah! Go to King Hua on Saturday. Give them a call couple days in advance and request a bunch of "order in advance" items. That will make them happy.

                                                                                                                          Lukshon may be a good alternative if you are still hell bent on Friday.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Sgee

                                                                                                                            in my experience, lukshon is jammed from 7:30 to 9:00 on friday nights

                                                                                                                      2. somewhat OT, but if you have the money to afford a limo to do the driving, the whole transportation issue becomes more civilized.

                                                                                                                        yes, you'll be on the road the same amount of time, but everyone will be in back of the limo and be able to converse with each other and the time will go more quickly.

                                                                                                                        to make this food related: i had a wonderful dinner at elite on atlantic in monterey park about a week ago.

                                                                                                                        1. So where did you end up?

                                                                                                                          1. Have you tried ROC (formerly ROC Dumpling Kitchen or ROC Kitchen) on Sawtelle? I went when they first opened a year ago and thought it wasn't bad. Also, Pingtung Eat-In Market is pretty good for being on Melrose....