Originally posted on KCET. See the full piece here.
I get asked where the best place to get dim sum is a lot. Unlike more obscure categories of Chinese food, dim sum is a well-known tradition throughout Los Angeles. The reason is obvious: the food is easy to love. Dumpling-like bites are abundant and come filled with pork, shrimp, and/or beef. A dim sum menu resembles a small book and the variations are endless.
Dim sum, which more or less means “small bite-sized” snacks in Chinese, is typically a weekend brunch affair. It’s prolific throughout Hong Kong, and an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the 1980s catalyzed the beginning of the dim sum culture in Los Angeles.
The restaurants can be found anywhere in Los Angeles, but while Westside establishments (Hakkasan, Bao Dim Sum House, The Palace Seafood) and Chinatown staples are available, few can compete with the price point and quality over in the San Gabriel Valley.
Plain and simple: If you want an affordable, quality, and authentic dim sum experience, you’re going to have to drive over to the 626. Here are my top three picks:
Go for the egg custard tart at Elite. It meets the criteria for a perfect egg tart: the crust is flaky and the inside, a sweet egg-based custard, is perfectly creamy. The shu mai, a sort of cylindrical dumpling stuffed with pork, is generously topped with a scallop. You order via menu at Elite. No carts here. 700 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; 626-282-9998.
2. Sea Harbour
Sea Harbour’s arrival in Rosemead in 2002 really shepherded in a wave of high quality gourmet Chinese dining. It was one of the first places to have menu-driven dim sum, following a trend that began previously in Vancouver. While the outdoor facade is run-down, the dining experience inside Sea Harbour has changed very little from when they first opened. Our recommendations: the sticky rice ball with salty egg, the fish roe with scallop dumpling, and the baked BBQ pork bun. 3939 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA; 626-288-3939.
Lunasia consistently remains my top pick because of the combination of atmosphere, quality, and portion size. It’s a gorgeous venue and the dim sum bites are enormous. A typical crystal shrimp dumpling (known as har gow) has three or four pieces of shrimp crammed into its translucent wrapper. Don’t forget to finish off with dessert. Lunasia has an almond milk soup served with egg white and topped with a flaky puff pastry. 500 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801; 626-308-3222.