Diamond Jamboree Packs in OC's Trendy Asians

If you want to get a picture of the acculturated cross-section of the Asian American population, check out Irvine’s Diamond Jamboree Center (DJC). It’s only been two and a half years since it opened but it has become the mall of choice among south Orange County’s more acculturated Asian Americans.

The location on the southwestern corner of Alton and Jamboree is an unlikely one to host such a rocking agglomeration of restaurants, bakeries, cafés, karaoke bars and a big H-Mart supermarket. Until you get within a half block of the place (and even closer if you’re driving up Jamboree from the 405 Freeway), you won’t suspect so much Asian activity can exist in this bland, semi-industrial section of Irvine.

But once you see DJC, you wonder how it could have escaped anyone’s notice for so long. Not only is it nearly as immense as the San Gabriel Square (though not nearly as monstrous as Silicon Valley’s Milpitas Square) at 114,000 square-foot, it’s pimped out in that combination of sunset pastels and edgy lettering that signals a refuge for those who refuse to be associated with Asian culture unless it’s the hip, nouvelle variety.

The 85C Bakery attracts a perpetually long line by offering pastries at prices comparable to those at malls whose ambiences are more old-country.

What keeps the place jumping until every midnight is a mix of eateries that can only be fully appreciated by the boba-drinking, karaoke-singing, bakery-loving variety of Asian American slackers who love nothing better than to while away an entire weekend eating, drinking and singing their guts out. Yes, I mean Guppy Teahouse, 85C Bakery, Lollicup, Ajisen Ramen, Yogurtland, BCD Tofu and Plush Karaoke.

There are other places that appeal to people seeking real food — like Capital Seafood and Barbecue (2 separate places), Chae Bahn Korean restaurant, Tokyo Table, Papaya Thai Bistro and Kula Sushi House, to name some of the 20 eateries — but the overwhelming favorites are 85C Bakery, Guppy Teahouse and Ajisen Ramen. The perpetual line snaking outside 85C bakery is daunting for those who only have 24 hour days. They are likely to seek refuge at the Crepe de Paris or Bon Epi Patisserie.

The overwhelming majority of DJC’s patrons are twenty-something Asian Americans, though one can spot a minority of older folks and a few non-Asians who don’t mind paying a 10-15% premium to be surrounded by tastefully muted pastels. You can eat better and more cheaply in Monterey Park or San Gabriel or Little Saigon or Koreatown, but you would have to put up with old-country ambience. The exceptions may be the very authentic and charming Chae Bahn and the awesome 85C Bakery. The 85C offers a huge assortment of the Asian and western pastries typically found in Chinese bakeries only bigger, fresher and cheaper. Those who have waited in line for 45 minutes go wild piling up trays with puffy, flaky, creamy and, no doubt, yummy treats. It’s amusing to see so many otherwise dignified types rushing around wild-eyed with tongs for fear their waits will have been in vain.

The DJM promises that a Chef Hung’s Noodles and a CoCo Ichibanya Curry House will soon be added to its offerings.

Check out other Great Asian American Malls and Supermarkets.