Alethea Hsu and Her Diamond Jamboree are Diamonds in Irvine's Rough

What are the next great restaurants Hsu will find?
What are the next great restaurants Hsu will find?
Photo by John Gilhooley

For Alethea Hsu, the 64-year-old doctor-turned-hospital administrator, commercial real estate is a side project, something to do on the weekends when she's spending time away from San Gabriel Valley at her Irvine house. Even when she's in Orange County, she doesn't spend much time in an office. She often holds court at Tokyo Table, one of her favorite businesses in Diamond Jamboree, the busiest Pan-Asian shopping center in Orange County, which also happens to be the crown jewel of Hsu's family development company, which she runs as president with the help of her six siblings.

"I'm here two, maybe three days a week," Hsu says, sitting in a booth at the modern Japanese restaurant. "We take the opportunities we can get. I'm not a full-time developer." But, even with only a part-time effort, Diamond Jamboree has become a full-time success.

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During weekday evenings, the plaza is full of twentysomethings, many current students or recent alum from Orange County's colleges, crowding in lines at 85ºC Bakery Cafe or Lollicup or one of the other dozens of businesses that have turned the plaza into the only place to be in boring Irvine on a Tuesday night. During the weekends, it's even more crowded, as families descend on the 12-acre plot of land on Jamboree. Despite a small parking garage and football-sized lots, finding parking can still be an odyssey.

And while it might be tempting to call the plaza a sure sign of the Taiwanese takeover of Irvine, its success lies in how it offers a little something for everyone. If you're not feeling Taiwanese baked treats, you can visit the more European Bon Epi across the plaza. Don't want milk tea? Check out the Coffeebar Byul. And then there's the ramen, the sushi, the Thai, the Viet-Cajun seafood, the Chinese seafood, the Korean soondubu, the pho and the other half-dozen genres of Asian food in the plaza, all ready to serve whoever comes in its doors.

And that multicultural welcoming is what Hsu considers the key to success. She has visited countries throughout Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and South America. And throughout her travels, she has found one universal truth that she tries to promote in her properties: Everyone should and can be welcomed.

"Everywhere I go, I like something. Every kind of people can be so nice, so welcoming," Hsu says. "The world has been so kind to me. I'm glad I could make Diamond Jamboree like the world."

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