When I first walked into Hua's Chinese Delicacies (921 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, 79 bus from downtown, 626-445-2755), I thought I was in the wrong place. It was as if a real Chinese restaurant had taken over the storefront of a crummy Americanized take-out place and hadn't bothered redecorating beyond hanging a few scrolls on the wall. At Hua's, clearly, it's about the food.
They have one of those setups (refrigerated?) with trays of cold appetizers at the front of the restaurant. So I got the seaweed (at least that's what I think the string-cut green vegetable is) and the cold sliced chicken. The seaweed was its usual self, pleasant and slightly rubbery in a good way but not super flavorful, with a mild chili burn. The chicken had been marinated in something. I would have said sake, except that I've had the rice wine chicken at the restaurant formerly known as Green Village, and that dish had a harsh alcoholic nose to it that wasn't present at Hua's. I found the chicken odd at first but liked it after several bites. It was fatty around the edges but that could easily be removed.
I also ordered the fish slices with vegetables from the short list of specials. This turned out to be a cloudy white soup with fish filets, two or three vegetables that I couldn't identify (and that the cook didn't know the English name of), and small amounts of several other ingredients: glass noodles, bamboo shoots, ginger slices, mushrooms, and green chilis. At first I was just eating the fish and vegetables, which were good but not great. The action, it turns out, is in the broth, which (even though it apparently takes about two minutes to make) includes the flavors of all of the ingredients in a way that works rather well.
They brought me a bowl of rice that I didn't need because I was eating soup. I didn't have the sense to decline. I don't know what the customs are here.
In any other city, Hua's would be a treasure. In LA, I'd give my meal there an A-.
The mother and daughter who seemed to be doing all the work recognized me from another restaurant, but I didn't think to ask them which one. I assume now that it must have been the restaurant formerly known as Hua's Garden. Does anyone know the relationships here?