Good Chinese Food Finally Comes to the Westside, Thanks to UCLA Students

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    Good Chinese Food Finally Comes to the Westside, Thanks to UCLA Students

    Those who have lived in Los Angeles for any length of time are aware that the Westside has historically been a wasteland when it comes to good and “authentic” Chinese food. Fortunately things are rapidly changing, thanks in large part to the presence of the UCLA student community.

    Until the mid-1960s, housing discrimination kept most Westside neighborhoods almost entirely white, resulting in only the most Americanized form of Chinese food being served in area restaurants. Rare is the good and authentic Chinese restaurant that doesn’t have a local base of Chinese diners to serve. Even after housing barriers fell, there was no critical mass of either Westside-based Chinese diners or sophisticated non-Asian diners to justify authentic Chinese restaurants in the area for another two decades.

    Even if a good and authentic Chinese restaurant made a Westside breakthrough, such as Shange-La and then Oriental Seafood Inn in Marina del Rey, Hong Kong Royale in Beverly Hills and Unicorn Inn in Venice in the mid- to late 1980s, it was unfortunately not a permanent one, with all eventually shuttering. Also in the late 1980s, strong rumors abounded that Harbor Village, the “big dog” of the era, with its dim sum and seafood branches in San Francisco and Monterey Park, was going to open up on Pico in West L.A., but that never materialized.

    It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that respectable Chinese food came permanently to the Westside. You can imagine the joy felt when two Chinese seafood restaurants, J.R. Seafood and VIP Harbor Seafood, opened up on the Westside. These were followed shortly by pan-Asian eateries in Westwood Village such as Noodle Village, Noodle World and Boba World, specifically targeting the growing Asian-American student population at UCLA. And then San Gabriel Valley powerhouse Ocean Star Seafood opened its Royal Star Seafood branch in Santa Monica.

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