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Give yourself the royal palace treatment

October 31, 2002

DINING OUT

It's a family affair at Ruby Palace, the Chinese restaurant on

Beach Boulevard. Opened in 1981 by Hsueh Hsu, who retired three years

ago, it's now managed by his son Domingo. The UC Irvine graduate

never thought he'd get into the restaurant business, but now loves

it.

Otherwise, the restaurant has not changed in 23 years. The chef

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has always been his brother Jeff, a creative cook who gets better all

the time.

This evening we chose the Chef Dinner ($14.95 per person) served

Chinese family style, with each diner choosing an entree from the

nine offered and sharing the platters. But first it was soup, a

choice between wonton, hot and sour and sizzling rice, which was the

one we had.

It couldn't have had more vegetables with the chicken broth and

big slices of white chicken -- celery, carrots, peas and bamboo

shoots, to which our excellent server William Tan added small-grained

hot rice that sizzled and bubbled, sending up a cloud of steam -- fun

to watch and great to eat.

Soup was followed by a dish of tidbits or samples -- four dark,

syrupy ribs that look good but were mostly bone and little meat, two

lightly battered shrimp, two egg rolls with good thin wrapping, but

rather tough stringy cabbage, and two foil-wrapped triangles with

minced chicken and the surprising crunch of water chestnuts inside.

My selection of aromatic shrimp was the best I've ever had -- a

pile of plump, glazed shrimp slightly crunchy, on top of half walnuts

(not little pieces) surrounded by lemon slices -- a pastel joy to

behold and scrumptious to eat. It's not too sweet and there's a whiff

of garlic in the glaze.

My friend's entree was Kung Pao Three Flavors -- shrimp, chicken

and beef. Here the shrimp was medium size, sauteed with slices of

chicken and beef. It is the complexity of the sauces that make each

dish chef Jeff prepares outstanding. Kung Pao usually means spicy,

but on request, it was controlled and very good.

A tasty noodle chow mein with vegetables and a big bowl of fried

rice with egg and vegetables completed the dinner.

The interior of Ruby Palace is as beautiful as the food -- red

vinyl booths fill the first dining area, divided by gold and red

filigree and etched glass from a second dining room with a wall of

gold Chinese symbols. Big paper dragons sit on top of the dividing

wall. Service is prompt, meticulous and non-intrusive.

So if you're in a pensive mood, getting ready to catch up on

office business or just want to enjoy food, the Ruby Palace is a

restaurant for you.

* MARY FURR is the Independent restaurant critic. If you have

comments or suggestions, call (562) 493-5062 or send e-mail to

hbindy@latimes.com.

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