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FINALLY got husband to take me to SGV next Friday for Dim Sum..now what?

  • d

Searching the bards really hasn't helped me pick where to go. We want great dim sum without paying too much, but with getting very, very full of yummyness.

I have a nut allergy, and need to be able to communicate this.

NEither of us fear trying anything deemed by the boring city majority as "weird". He does like pork, and I prefer veggies, love fish, and chicken is good.

I want to try XLB, but like sweet bao, savory bao, all sort of dumplings, noodles, veggies, poultry, scallops, shrimp, squid, sesame pancakes and such.

Also, to make a day of it, where can we go for good chinese red bean, blakc beanm, or lotus desserts. Or, should we head to fossleman's (is it close?) or perhaps hit ce fiore? I was thinking dessert for dinner, since we're dim summing lunch.

Ipse? Uber? anyone?

Help me make my husband not regret using one of his vacation days to drive from sherman oaks to SGV!


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  1. Well, NBC (my favorite), Ocean Star, and 888 seafood are popular for traditional Cantonese dim sum. Sea Harbour, Elite, New Concept, and the Kitchen seem to be the frontrunners for the new wave of dim sum that is arriving via Hong Kong. You don't really state how much exposure you have to dim sum, so it's hard to give a recommendation. As far as dumplings, pork, and various baos, I think you would have better luck at a traditional dim sum house. For dessert, you can head to Shau Mei for bao bing or Taiwanese shaved ice, on top of which you will find all manner of sweet beans and toppings.

    edit: the traditional dim sum houses are cart-style. nouveau-style is usually menu driven. For a newbie, I recommend cart-style. You can see the food as it passes by and pick and choose as you please as you discover what you like and don't like.

    6 Replies
    1. re: hch_nguyen

      Sorry, we have had dim sum often, but in Chinatown.

      CBS and Ocean Seafood, mostly.

      We want to see what everyone's talking about.

      For us, flavor is the primary thing (along with not getting me into anaphylaxixs with nuts. Service and ambiance are secondary, although I love good service. We want to get there early enought o avoid long lines. Early or mid day lunch on a friday.

      1. re: Diana

        Finding English-speaking staff can be really touch-and-go at most of these places. Although the use of nuts isn't exactly prolific in dim sum, it can show up, especially in some of the dessert dishes. Like hch recs, ordering from the cart would probably be best as you can visually assess your choices initially, and hopefully be able to ask the hostess or manager if you have any further questions unless you're pretty familiar with what you're ordering.

        1. re: Diana

          If you are fans of CBS or Ocean, then to be honest, any of the dim sum places in SGV will be a step up, taste-wise and variety. Sea Harbour gets a lot of love on this board for its "innovative" style, but if you don't speak Chinese, I would avoid them since you have a potentially life-threatening condition. I was extremely surpised at the lack of English proficiency there, and my standard for English proficiency in a Chinese restaurant is pretty low. The manager himself had a hard time with the words "chicken" and "pork". I've found the service at NBC, 888, and Ocean Star to be friendly and accommodating. Like CBS and Ocean, they are also traditional dim sum houses, so you probably are more inclined to that style anyway. Go early especially if you are going on a Sunday. Saturday won't be quite as bad. On a Sunday, we waited I think over an hour at Sea Harbour and we got there around 1:30 or something like that.

          1. re: hch_nguyen

            Look, gang, as the title of the post says, I'm going on FRIDAY!

            I can't wait to taste BETTER dim sum. I know that what I have had before will be blown away, and I can't wait! :)

            1. re: Diana

              Ha, totally didn't catch that in the title of your post. I'm a skimmer on these boards (these days anyway).... :D

              Hopefully, somebody else can chime in on the quality/freshness of dim sum on a weekday at the various dim sum houses because from what I understand, some places might excel at dim sum on weekends and fail miserably during the week. I can't help you with that one since I've only been on the weekends....

      2. I live on the westside and have been trying to coordinate a SGV dim sum trip with some friends, so I've been paying attention to the boards. We want cart service rather than strictly menu, and as I assess the yays and nays, I'm leaning towards 888.

        1. I think prices in most dim sum places, even the "better" ones, can be quite reasonable to most who usually dine outside of this area. Case in point, our family of four met our friends, family of three, at Sea Harbour in Rosemead. This place is supposed to be one of the top flight dim sum places in SGV. It was very good - probably one of the best I've had outside of Asia - and the total bill for four adults and three kids (my 8-year old can eat like an adult) came to around $95. We ordered straight off the menu - oh yeah, it's one of those non-cart places if that's important - and didn't order any live seafood items so that always keeps the prices down. But if you keep in mind that you'll be eating for a mere pittance when ordering off the menu or carts, "splurging" and ordering something from the tanks will bring your check in line with places you're probably used to outside of SGV. The bonus is, depending on what you order, alot of these places will make two to three courses out of your selection - you get alot of bang for you buck.

          Most probably consider Ocean Star and NBC in Monterey Park to be the more conventional order-from-the-cart dim sum palaces where the food is pretty good to excellent, depending on what you order and what time of the day it is.

          888 Seafood is also in Rosemead and gets alot of love on Chowhound. But another top flight dim sum palace that is closer in resemblance to a conventional restaurant in terms of appearance and service outside of SGV is Mission 261 in San Gabriel. The dim sum is ordered off the menu, like alot of the newer dim sum places, the service is very attentive and accomodating, and with smaller seperate dining rooms, the feel is alot more intimate. I think for those who like a more homey feel to their food and atmosphere, this is not the place. But if you're looking for a nice sit-down atmosphere with very good service and very good dim sum, Mission 261 fills this niche.

          Where ever you decide to go, go early, especially if it's on the weekend - I mean early enough to where you're waiting for them to open, or not too long after that. The smaller places will fill up within 15 minutes of opening on weekends, and the larger places are full within an hour.

          5 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            well, we're going on a Friday...what're the crowds like then?

            Where is good Dim sm with good XLB?

            1. re: Diana

              XLB is not a traditional dim sum item.

              Fridays will be more crowded than other weekday days, but less so than a typical Saturday or Sunday.

              Based on your criteria, I would suggest either 888 or Ocean Star. Both are cart service and offer a wide variety of traditional dim sum fare with just enough cutting edge stuff to keep your taste buds on edge.

              As to dessert afterwards, if you head to 888, then go west on Valley Blvd., until you hit Focus Plaza (SW corner of Valley and Del Mar) and you get all sorts of desserts on the first floor of that plaza.

              If you go to Ocean Star, there are dessert choices at the bottom level of that structure.

              Fosselman's is a bit of a drive from both 888 and Ocean Star, but well worth it if you want ice cream and good taffy. www.fosselmans.com


              Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant
              145 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 201, Monterey Park, CA 91754

              888 Seafood Restaurant
              8450 E Valley Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770

              Fosselman's Ice Cream Co
              1824 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Concur. DO NOT get XLB at a dim sum house. There are many better things. If you really want XLB, leave a little room and stop at Mei Long Village or Giang-nan and order a tray (eight or ten per tray). Or make another trip to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia and try the varieties they have including the XLB.

                888 seafood in rosemead is fine. If you want a bit more upscale, mission 261 is nice, but no carts - you order off a menu. The other plcaes mentioned here are fine. Enjoy your dim sum

                And no pot stickers either. They just don't do them right at a dimsum house. But you have great rice noodle dishes, the nomaigai (nuo mi ji) glutinous rice with chicken in lotus leaves, the little soups, turnip/daikon cakes, etc. Just have a great time. If you're in the mood, get an extra teapot of the Chrysanthemum tea (guk-fa cha/ juhua cha).

                1. re: Jerome

                  Yeah, really -- don't order XLB anyplace except the XLB houses, because you'll be sore disappointed. As for dim sum itself, three options: cheapest is Yum Cha Cafe, but you'll be sitting in what's essentially a grocery store. For cart-style I would say 888, and for menu-style Mission 261 or Sea Harbour.

                  Your husband is taking a whole day to go to dim sum?? It's not THAT far from Sherman Oaks to the SGV at dim sum hours -- half an hour, MAYBE forty minutes!!

                  Dessert -- definitely bao bing at Shau May, but also bear in mind that your lotus, red bean and suchlike desserts are also offered at dim sum -- and if you've never tried daan taat (sweet egg custart tarts) you owe it to yourself to eat at least one. It's sweet egg custard (very eggy) with puff pastry or pie crust -- no nuts.

                  As for your nut allergy, most places you can communicate, but just in case, here is "I am allergic to nuts" in Cantonese.

                  我對堅果敏感 - ngaw deui gin gwaw man gum (all nuts)
                  我對花生敏感 - ngaw deui faa sang man gum (peanuts)

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Thanks Ubergeek! I knew you;'d come through with proper lingo! Maybe we should stop at Yum Cha as well as 888, or Sea Harbor.

                    I love daad taat, I first had it in SF Chinatown!

          2. If for some reason you don't get there early, you need to fight your way to the front of the crowd, where someone will take your name and the number of people in your party and give you a number. Just relax and wait for your number to be called - don't panic, as it may take quite a while.

            This is the system at NBC and seems typical - others may be different.

            1. I thought that the dim sum at Seafood Harbour was pretty good. It is menu driven dim sum, and the wait staff were friendly and seemed to have a good enough grasp of English.


              1. So it looks like 888, Sea Harbor or Mission 261, with a stop after at Yum Cha for XLB.

                Of these, which would be a good starting place for our visit?

                4 Replies
                1. re: Diana

                  I don't know if Yum Cha has XLB -- go to Mei Long Village instead.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    address? Do they have good dumplings?

                    1. re: Diana

                      It's on Valley Blvd. on the north side of the street, between New and Del Mar, on the first story of a two-story complex, in the back. Just a bit west of the San Gabriel Hilton. XLB there are great - you want to get either "crab and pork soup dumplings" in which case you will get 8, or "Shanghai style soup dumplings" which are just pork, in which case you will get 10. Or do what we do and get both!

                  2. re: Diana

                    I would say go to 888. It has more variety and it has carts, so you can look at the item before you decide whether or not it looks appealing to you. Sea Harbour is off a menu, and I think Mission 261 may be also, so you just have to go with the name of the item, and sometimes, the translations aren't very accurate.

                  3. Sorry to be ignorant, but what is XLB?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: aching

                      Xiao Long Bao, or in Cantonese "siu lung baau" (but since they're a Shanghai speciality they're usually referred to in Mandarin). They're steamed buns with pork or crab filling and soup inside, so you nibble the bun open, let the soup run into your mouth, then eat the dumpling.

                    2. Should we get there by 11:30 or before on a Friday?

                      1. What about Noodle House?

                        Is 888 my best bet for good cart style?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Diana

                          I would get there by 1130. It might still be crowded but nowhere as crowded as on the weekend. 888 is a great choice.

                          When you get there, you might want to ask them if anyone on the staff speaks English. They'll probably have one. But if they don't understand the meaning of "anaphylaxixs" or "allergy", tell them that nuts make you sick. Also ask what type of oil they use for the cooking (you might want to call them up beforehand for this). Usually, they won't use peanut oil, but you should ask just in case.

                          Noodle House (Arcadia) does not serve XLB, but they do serve potstickers. Potstickers are decent, but other places are better.

                          1. re: raytamsgv

                            Thanks, Uber! I also went back and printed out your really great guide from the general topic board. I'm taking it with me and using it to make things easier!

                            I'm also thinking of taking a peanut for my husband to hold up when I attempt to say " ngaw deui faa sang man gum ", because lord knows my pronunciation will be off.

                            What are 888's best dishes?

                            1. re: Diana

                              God, I love the Internet -- a quick Google turned up this: http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dict... -- now you can hear it said so you can imitate the tones!

                              888's best dishes vary depending on who's cooking, I think. It's very much just have the ladies lift lids on them and if it looks really appealing to you, get one. Aleatory dim sum -- it's the only way to go.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Thank you! I shall practice over and over!

                                1. re: Diana

                                  I think it would be better if you print it out and show it to the staff there. The characters are traditional (i.e. found primarily in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas), but most mainland Chinese persons should be able to read them.

                                  The tones in Cantonese are rather difficult to pronounce even for Mandarin speakers. If you mispronounce it, odds are they'll have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Having said that, I think you should try practicing anyway. But show them the paper afterward just in case. :-)

                              2. re: Diana

                                Would you post the thread for Uber's guide? I can't seem to find it. Thanks!

                          2. I'm in the minority - but for xlb either mei long village or Giang nan. not yum cha or ANY cantonese place.

                            and din tai fung will be too long a wait for what you get.

                            for addresses - best source-

                            GIANG NAN RESTAURANT
                            306 N GARFIELD AVE A12
                            MONTEREY PARK

                            MEI LONG VILLAGE REST.
                            301 W VALLEY BLVD #112
                            SAN GABRIEL

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Jerome

                              Definitely agree -- no XLB except at Shanghainese places.

                              1. re: Jerome

                                Having a Cantonese chef make XLB is like having a New Englander make jambalaya.

                                1. re: raytamsgv

                                  OK, that really is a good way of putting it.

                                  I'll have to stop by mei long village on the way back.

                                  1. re: Diana

                                    XLB do not travel well. Better to be eaten on the spot.

                                    Unless you are planning to have XLB as dessert (after dim sum), save it for another excursion.

                              2. The combination of nut allergies and cart service is dangerous, I think. Peanuts are apt to show up practically anywhere, the cart-pushers tend not to speak much English, and unless you stick to the most basic half-dozen things, you could be in real trouble. Not to be all nannyish about it, but I'd suggest sticking with the service-intensive dimsum-menu places - Elite, Mission 261, perhaps Sea Harbour - where you are apt to be less at risk.

                                16 Replies
                                1. re: condiment

                                  Disagree -- either cart or menu service will pose the same "peanut" risk.

                                  If the restaurant uses peanuts or peanut oil (and most Chinese places do), then the utensils, plates, containers, cookware, etc. will all have peanut residue. If you're allergic to peanuts this could pose a problem.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    i tend to avoid fried food. Solves a lot of the oil problem

                                    1. re: Diana

                                      I called 888, and got someone who speaks good enough english and who understood my butchered cantonese.

                                      he said they don't use peanut oil!


                                      1. re: Diana

                                        bring the epi-pen just in case. =)

                                        1. re: wilafur

                                          Alton Brown, whose food knowledge I respect, discussed peanut oil and peanut allergies on one of his shows. He explained that most commercial peanut oil does not contain the part of the peanut that causes the allergic reaction. Cold-pressed or organic peanut oils were another story, and could be dangerous.

                                          1. re: nosh

                                            Trust me, the pen is my constant companion. I should reall knit a cozy for it,. or maybe do what all the starlets are doing and "Bling it up" with rhinestones and such. The coture epi-pen.

                                            Interesting about Alton and the oil. then again, since I watched the beer brewing show and realized just houw faulty his "research" can be, I never trust him fully. Seriously, if you made the beer from the recipe on that episode, you'd end up with a nasty tasting brew, indeed.

                                            1. re: Diana

                                              From what I understand, the peanut oil that one finds in the huge institutional size jugs is highly refined - no solids whatsoever. Cold-pressed/extra virgin will have solids that are usually visible in the oil (cloudy) and/or as residue on the bottom of the container. The protein in the solid is what causes the allergic reaction in some - not the oil. I'm not an expert, but I believe this is why refined peanut oil should not be an issue with allergies.

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                Odd, because I've had terrible reactions to things fried in peanut oil before.

                                                The last time, I was at that place at Paradise cove. We had calamari and one of the big seafood tower thingys. My throat started closing up. Now, be aware that whenever I go into a place, I let them know I am allergic to nut and anything made or done with nuts and nut oils. The waiter had told me I was safe.

                                                To be sure, when my thorat started to seal itself shut, I was a little alarmed. My then boyfriend and sister and brother in law all demanded the wiater, who was not into the whole customer service thing, return. We asked him again if anything had nuts or nut oild. He said, and I quote, "Well, the tower is nut free, but the calamari is cooked in peanut oil."

                                                My sister slapped her forehead dramatically (I swear she did) and reminded him that not 45 minutes before, when ordering, I ha TOLD him I was allergic. he shrugged and walked away, but my large and rather scary looking brother in law stopped him short. AS my husband and I started to get our stuff so he could take me to take care of the whole preventing death thing, my BIL and the waiter argued over why we shouldn't have to pay for at least the calamari, and probably the meal.

                                                Later, I was told the manager got into it. Their stand point was nothing but that we should pay, since I'd eaten some. The admitted I had told them of my allergy, and that they had said nothing about the oil at all in the dish, but since it had been eaten we had to pay.

                                                My BIL said he had to threaten legal action to get the dish taken off the menu. No apologies, nada.

                                                We'll never go back

                                                But I guess I AM allergic to peanut oil.

                                                Good thing the 888manager told me they don't use it, or even keep it on hand.

                                                1. re: Diana


                                                  Are you sure the manager at 888 said they don't even "keep" peanut oil on hand? I find that a bit difficult to believe given how peanut oil can be heated to high temps without burning, which makes it ideal for stir-fries.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    you would think.

                                                    Anyhow, I have one person's word. Iam sure, he said it thre times after I kept say "I need to be certain, I could die."

                                                    But of course, I'll double check, triple check, and probably avoid freid items and such, if I can.

                                                    And the epi pen will be on hand should I need to stab my thigh.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Corn oil can also be used. Corn oil is usually cheaper than peanut oil, although the price may be more expensive these days.


                                                      1. re: raytamsgv

                                                        Actually, now that I think about it the default was usually canola oil (at least it was when I used to work in the kitchen), but things may have changed. Canola was always cheap, and had a very high smoking point with little to no flavor.

                                                        When we wanted to make something more aromatic, peanut oil was the choice.

                                                        1. re: raytamsgv

                                                          I had a discussion about peanut oil with someone living in Beijing and they laughed at the idea of the average restaurant using peanut oil to fry in. Yes, theres that higher tempature thing but in general, peanut oil just costs too much so most restaurants didn't use it.

                                                          don't know if person was correct but still interesting. maybe high end restaurants in SGV do use peanut oil but the -ahem- divier places don't spring for it?

                                                      2. re: Diana

                                                        Geez - so I guess the protein is in the oil... what a horrid experience all the way around... like I said, I'm no expert, and so it's been proved by you... unless they had nuts in something else...

                                                  2. re: nosh

                                                    I have a peanut allergy, although I seem to tolerate peanut oil for some reason, so maybe Alton Brown is right.

                                                    Normally dim sum is not bad as far as peanuts go. If I were allergic to shrimp, then I'd be in trouble!

                                                    These are the things I watch the most carefully:

                                                    - sweet rice wrapped in lotus leaf (sometimes)
                                                    - cha siu plate (BBQ pork) - sometimes a peanut garnish (yipes) - sometimes beans (safe). Never had peanuts in Cha siu bao, though.

                                                    1. re: salutlemonde

                                                      thanks! I'll look out for those!

                                                      My faves are bao and other dumplings, peaniut free sticky rice, little fish and meat balls, chicken feet, the broccili, agar, anything with bean or lotus paste..gosh, all sorts of stuff!

                                        2. I personally like NBC and Mission 261. I've been doing NBC all my life (grew up in arcadia) and I dunno ,, foods always been fresh and comfortable. Mission was good too though a little more upscale and pricey. I think Mission was the most non-chinese friendly as well. Also both a closer to fosilmans if you wish to go that route.

                                          888 is good and has a large menu but it was lacking some of my favorites ( lack of seaweed rolls off the top of my head). I went to Sea Harbour and the menu I got was wierd ( i didn't recognize much) and the food i ordered I wasn't very happy with (bad day to be adventurous mayhaps or we picked all the aweful things on the menu). If you wanna XLB might as well do it right and goto DTF. Just order it to go and eat in the lot ( that line is LOONNNGGGGG).

                                          For dessert it might be worth it to go to old town for 21 choices, or gelatto, or south pas at the fair oaks pharmacy. If you want asian dessert jj bakery by dtf isn't bad. lots of bakeries in SGV as well.