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dim sum in L.A.

We want to take our friends for Dim Sum in Chinatown. Do you have any recommendations? I read that the Empress Pavilion has gone downhill.

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  1. I haven't heard anything good lately about Chinatown dim sum in general - it has transitioned to a majority Vietnamese/Cambodian population over the past few decades, and SGV has flourished during the same time - maybe that has something to do with it. I'd drive the extra fifteen minutes to SGV - the payoff will be enormous...

    1. Sorry - what is SGV for the newbie here?! I live downtown and I've been making do with Ocean Seafood so someplace new is appealing! Thanks. :-)

      1. SGV = San Gabriel Valley

        1. If you live downtown you ought to try Empress and CBS and decide for yourself if they suck!

          1. Regarding the original post, if your set on Chinatown, I would try CBS. Otherwise I agree with the first post and drive the extra few minutes out to Monterey Park. My favorite these days is Capital Seafood.

            1. Dim sum at Ocean Star Seafood in Monterey Park was very good last Saturday...

              1. So: Capital Seafood in San Gabriel Valley - nice! Looking forward to that, thank you. And yes: Empress and CBS have not been up to snuff - Ocean was okay for a while but I've hit the third strike and it's out . . . .

                1. Try Sea Harbour on Rosemead. I think its a little more refined than Ocean Star although you order off a menu, no carts. See the attached article that was in the LA TImes a while ago.


                  1. Coincidentally, I *just* went (reluctantly) to Empress Pavilion yesterday, and ended up pleasantly surprised. The dim sum wasn't innovative in any way - all the old standbys, like har gow and char siu bao - but it was consistently good and eight of us ate quite well for under $60 total.

                    1. Yeah, I think these "all downtown dim sum sucks" posts are not necessarily based on personal experiences. Not that I'm disagreeing that you can get more innovative stuff elsewhere, but for traditional dim sum at not too outrageous prices, CBS is my favorite.

                      1. Dim sum is really one of those issues that depend on your personal tastes. If you have two people go to the same restaurant, one will rave about it, and the other one will think it's the worst in the world. Having said that, I personally believe that dim sum is better in the SGV. Here is my collection of mini-reviews of Chinese restaurants in the SGV: http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/ch...

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: raytamsgv

                          Agree that it's about personal preferences. But even given that, I still think in the absolute, the quality of dim sum in SGV exceeds that of Chinatown.

                          Dim sum in Chinatown is "old school" -- sort of like going to Matteo's (before the makeover) for Italian.

                          Dim sum in SGV is, for lack of a better phrase, more modern and updated or "new school" -- sort of like going to La Terza for Valentino for Italian.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I also think SGV Dim Sum tries harder, because of the competition. To be honest, I had an GREAT Dim Sum experience at Empress Pavillion not that long ago, but I will keep on passing it up everytime because I know Ocean start has SO much more to offer.


                            1. re: Dommy

                              I completely agree with the both of you. Competition in the SGV makes for the best dim sum in Southern California. IMHO, it is superior to anything in Chinatown. Better parking is a plus, too. However, I just amazed when some friends (Chinese and otherwise) rave about some restaurant's dim sum, and I think it's quite ordinary.

                        2. I remember going to Chinatown every other weekend with my family for dim sum until the growth of the SGV pushed it aside. With that said, I still do have fond memories of Empress Pavilion even though I haven't been in years. I agree with some of the other posters though, just drive the extra fifteen minutes and you can't go wrong with Ocean Star/NBC/888/etc.

                          1. I used to go to Empress Pavilion quite regularly growing up. I returned to LA a few years and tried Empress again, and was quite appalled. The service was terrible and the dim sum (which used to be very good) was very mediocre.

                            It's worth it to drive to the SGV. Really.

                            1. Hong Kong Low was the best but the owner has retired and the shop has closed. Can anyone suggest a place that makes baos almost as good as the former Hong Kong Low.

                              1. I always go to CBS on North Main or is it North Spring? Anyhow, it's the best in Chinatown if you're looking for the overall experience. The staff is pretty rude but not nears as rude as Ocean or Empress. Some of the menu items were pretty good too like the noodles.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: pamm5959

                                  The cart ladies at Empress are usually pretty nice, but the hostess and the people at the takeaway stand are absolutely the rudest people you can imagine. It's kind of nice, in a way, because I don't feel the least bit guilty about being unspeakable right back to them in any of the three languages they speak.

                                  It's hard for me to justify going to anyplace in Chinatown when Atlantic Blvd. and Garfield Ave. are literally ten minutes down the road.

                                  1. re: pamm5959

                                    Hong Kong Low was the last of the "decent" takeout dim sum places in LA Chinatown. There are still a few around like Lucky Deli but not as comparable to HKL. I used to buy their char siu baos and freeze them individually in sandwich baggies for a quick fix. They made those oldtime large Cantonese baos with the best generous fillings. Not those sissy little ones you get at sitdown Chinese restaurants for twice the price.

                                    1. re: Clinton

                                      "was"? Is HKL closed? You're talking about the grungy place on Bamboo lane, right?

                                      I've found them to be cheap and adequate, but nothing special, with a few land mines (avoid the sticky rice in lotus leaf -- expensive, dry, and chalky).

                                  2. Although SGV is better I still think Empress is awesome. Given I only started going there a few years ago and never got great service so I just got used to it, but I've never had great service at a SGV dim sum restaurant either

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jeremypb

                                      "...never had great service at a SGV dim sum restaurant..."

                                      Oooh...I am sorry to hear that! We have had consistently "great service" at Elite, Capital Seafood (Atlantic and Garvey), and The Kitchen (although The Kitchen is sometimes a little more chaotic). Have you been to any of these recently, jeremypb? Perhaps you might give them another chance.

                                    2. I still love Empress Pavilion no matter what people say. 888 Seafood Restaurant is another sure shot. CBS is overrated IMHO.