Name of restaurant: The Palace. Formerly called Chi Dynasty, the Palace was the name that the family inherited when it bought the restaurant. It's a nod to imperial China.
Chef: Owner Tony Li developed most of the recipes. Li, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Nanjing in 1989, purchased the restaurant in 2007 with all of his available life savings. Prior to that, he worked at multiple Chinese restaurants, starting from the bottom up as a dishwasher. The main chef, Michael Jie, hails from Guangdong and has been cooking in American Chinese restaurants for more than 20 years.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? Water-boiled fish. The flakey white fish is served in a dish of tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, chile peppers, prickly ash and house-infused oil. It's blanched quickly and accompanied by a vegetable medley of bell peppers and napa cabbage. No MSG is used and the dish totals $15.95. The fish is not on the lunch menu but ask and you will definitely receive.
Concept: Comfortable Chinese restaurant in East L.A. slick enough for a first date, but authentic enough to bring tourists from China without a single complaint. Also one of the best options for great Chinese fare outside of the San Gabriel Valley. While the restaurant serves food catered for an American audience, its menu is diverse enough to please even the traditionalists.
Who's at the next table? Hipsters in Los Feliz and Chinese tourists that have just come back from touring Griffith Park. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Megan Fox and John Cho have also been spotted among the crowds.
Appropriate for...: A romantic evening out or a family gathering. There's quite a number of private booths for cuddling, but if you're just looking for a nice night out with friends, the Palace has comedy nights and open mics on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Uh-oh...: The lunch menu is mostly Americanized-Chinese options. Think orange chicken and crab rangoon. But ask for "Tony's menu" for a solid selection of authentic Chinese options that rivals the menus over in the San Gabriel Valley. The water-boiled fish is included in that.
Service: You get what you pay for. Duck is carved table-side, there's a hostess at the front door to greet you. The waiters are also perfectly bilingual.
What are you drinking? The mai tai. It's a secret house recipe and the mai tai mix is made by owner Tony Li himself on a daily basis. The Palace has a full cocktail bar and a sommelier to go with it.
Info: 2112 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles