REVIEW w/ pics: Dim Sum at Mission 261
In April, Mission 261 was the fourth place I visited as a part of my 12 month odyssey checking out a different Dim Sum restaurant a month all over LA County. Previous visits were to Triumphal Palace, Capital Seafood and Sea Harbour.
At Mission 261, there are no carts. Instead, you order from a picture menu that offers a pretty good variety of steamed and pan-fried items as well as congee and more specialty items that can only be ordered after 10:30 am.
Our meal included 12 different items. 9 were savory dishes and 3 were desserts. Of the 9 savory dishes, 3 really stood out for me. First, there was the Steamed Sticky Rice Sui Mui. Wrapped in a tofu skin, the filling included the sticky rice, bits of Chinese sausage and green onion. It was a delicious combination of flavors and textures.
The second item is something that many may find a bit too glutinous, but I enjoyed the fact that it was a bit gooey anyway. It's referred to as an Imperial Dumpling and it's wrapped in a banana leaf with a pork filling.
Then out came one of the more unique dumplings on the menu which were the Steamed Abalone Mushroom Dumplings. By the way, these dumplings were green. Don't ask me why because I don't know why, but I just don't want you to be surprised if you decide to order them yourself and you really should order them. Not only is the filling substantial, it was was moist and tasty as well.
As for the other 6 savory items, while 2 of them were fine as they were, I was disappointed in varying degrees with the rest of them. Both the Shrimp Har Gow and the Pan Fried Shrimp and Chives Sten Cakes that we ordered were on the dry side. The Fried Rice Noodles with Greens and Beef was really greasy and the Steamed Rice Pancakes with Dried Shrimp and Scallion was really bland. All the dishes were beautifully presented, but if they aren't tasty, what's the point?
What I found interesting about this whole dim sum experience was that it was really the desserts that were the stars of the show. Those desserts were the Sweetened Sago Pudding with Green Tea Flavor, the Sweetened Chrysanthemum and Red Bean Pudding and the Rabbit Dumpling.
What I like about the Sago Pudding was that it was light, delicate and cool, perfect for warm weather. As for the Chrysanthemum and Red Bean Pudding, I liked that the red bean filling wasn't overly sweet and I also enjoyed the eating texture of the chrysanthemum leaves that were embedded in the top layer of this dessert.
As for the rabbit dumplings, they were almost too cute to eat. The presentation of these shaped dumplings definitely made an impression. Once you take a bite though, be prepared for a little mini explosion of custard in your mouth. It's that substantial custard filling that gives the rabbit dumpling its shape, after all.
To end, I wouldn't say that I'd go out of my way to come back to Mission 261 nor would I go out of my way to avoid it either. I really like the elegant setting and appreciated the lovely presentation of the food. Taste-wise; however, I know that there are other better options for me and Mission 261 wouldn't even be in my top 3.
To see pics, go to:
261 S Mission Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
In general, I feel the same about this place as you - it's a nice dining experience for dim sum with the somewhat elegant setting, the presentation of the dishes, and the service as well. The food can be pretty good to excellent, but also hit&miss. I think for most folks who are casually familiar with Chinese cuisine or dim sum in general, this would be a great place to go. But if you're more familiar with what's out in this Valley, there's alot more to be said about other places in terms of food. Yes, the service might not be as good in my Western eyes, and the dining areas may not be as nice, but what other places may be lacking in these two areas more than make up for it in the category of soul.