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What's Cookin' Behind the Curtain - It Takes a Village to Feed a Hungry Chinese Guy

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Every Friday, LAist is taking you on a trip down to Orange County to uncover the unique dining experiences that await adventurous eaters willing to explore beyond the county line.

Chinese restaurants can generally be categorized into three different buckets: upscale “fusion” dining (aka tamed-down dishes with an "exotic" twist so that non-Chinese will eat them, but served on a pretty square plate so PF Chang’s can get away with charging $20 a dish); hole-in-the-wall authentic dining (aka no English spoken here, and no complaining about our Soup Nazi-esque service and very unsanitary conditions because you’re getting fed for less than $5); and Americanized dining (aka we’ll sell you unlimited quantities of sweet and sour pork and orange chicken for a good price even though there’s no way in hell we’d ever be able to sell this in China).

As an American-born Chinese, I lurve my authentic homestyle food. Good food is so important to the Chinese culture as an integral part of a balanced and harmonious life (even when it involves extra “elbow grease” in the food, certain unspeakable parts of animals, or unspeakable animals altogether). However, I hate going to hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants where I get condescending looks for not being able to speak a lick of Mandarin or Cantonese (thank goodness for bomb-ass friends that I can drag along to be translators). And there’s plenty of times that I need to find a cleaner and safer option for some of my non-Chinese friends who are plenty game to try something new, but don’t want to feel like they’re putting their life at risk by going to a restaurant with a ‘C’ or worse rating from the Department of Public Health. Or other times that I want to take a date out to a halfway decent restaurant and prove that I’m not as cheap and poor as my appearance may otherwise suggest.

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Enter Tri-Village Chinese Cuisine in Irvine. With Irvine rapidly becoming Orange County’s answer to Monterey Park by virtue of its ever-expanding middle-class Chinese population, numerous restaurants and stores continue to cater to this demographic. Tri-Village has been open for about a year and a half and offers an authentic Chinese meal without having to sacrifice some of the familiar comforts of a Western-style restaurant.