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Dec 26, 2007 12:45 PM

Chinatown Dim Sum/Dumpling House

I am looking for a dim sum or dumpling restaurant in Chinatown that compares (to the extent possible) to the incredible spots to the east (like Din Tai Fung, Luscious Dumplings, Capital Seafood, NBC, 101 Noodle Express, etc.). I've never had much luck in Chinatown and thought I'd ask the experts. Thanks.

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  1. There's a reason for your lack of luck in Chinatown. Chinatown is historically Cantonese (actually Toishanese--rural folk from outside of greater Canton) with a more recent Vietnamese influence. It's also geared at least in part to tourists and downtown office workers. This leads to a plethora of semi-authentic old time Cantonese restaurants which are OK, but which pale in comparison to the San Gabriel Valley choices. No dumplings to speak of since there's very little Chinese food from other regions of China in Chinatown, and indeed the non-Cantonese places in Chinatown are the least authentic, too (e.g., Plum Tree, Yang Chow, Ru Chun). Empress Pavilion once had good dim sum, but that was a few years ago. Also, many of the better places in the SGV are relatively newly opened, reflecting the evolution of Chinese food, while new restaurants don't open up in Chinatown that often. I work in downtown but only eat lunch in Chinatown once every couple months. On the other hand, you'll find me in the San Gabriel Valley at lunch time a couple of times a week.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chandavkl

      Thanks. At least that explains the problem. It looks like we'll need to venture into the SGV for what we're looking for. If you are correct about the recent Vietnamese influence, maybe we'll see a few good pho or banh mi places opening up soon.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        Empress Pavilion still has good dim sum. I don't know if it's as good as the very best in Monterey Park, but it's still good. Or at least it was a few days ago, when I was there for the traditional (Jewish) Christmas meal. Crowded, too, with folks who certainly appeared to be Chinese rather than tourists or downtown office workers.

        1. re: ozhead

          After a couple of awful dim sum sessions (and I'm being diplomatic--I believe my wife used the phrase "dog food") at Empress, I'm not going back until I get definitive word that things are much better. Recent posts on this board have been very uneven. And even at its best I don't think Empress matched up with the SGV quality that the original poster was looking for.

      2. SInce Madarin Deli closed their Chinatown branch there's not a decent dumpling I know of in Chinatown.

        1. I am a New York Chinatown Veteran and a big fan of Dim Sum, so on my visits to Los Angeles on way way to Palm Springs, I always try to make a stop in Chinatown there. The only place I had ever been to for Dim Sum has been at Empress Pavilion (4x's) and I have always found it to be very good and the experience similar to one in NYC. They also have excellent Roast Baby Suckling Pig. My only negative is if you get there late, after 12 Noon like in NYC, the wait is painful.

          5 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            might as well stop in the SGV for better dim sum if you are driving between LA and PS.

            1. re: wilafur


              Thank you for the warning/recommendation/suggestion. I had already decided to check out the SGV suggestions after comments on this board. My last trip to LA was two years ago and I have only started on CH this year and I did not know anything better or else. My last two visits to CA, I flew into San Diego.

              If I ever fly into LAX during the week, do any of the SGV restaurants serve Dim Sum weekdays that you can recommend?

              BTW, just out of curiousity, what is a Californian's view on Dim Sum between San Fransico and Los Angeles? There are a lot of naysayers with regards to NY Chinatown Dim Sum, but I have family in the suburbs near SF, and thier suggestions for the best Dim Sum have been disappointing compared to NY, IMHO. The one noticable difference I can say about LA Dim Sum at Empress Pavilion and the NY Dim Sum is the actual dumplings are larger in LA than in NY.

              1. re: fourunder

                i'm not sure which places serve dim sum during the weekday but i have an itch to say that a good amount do (check with 888 or full house - arcadia). sorry i cannot be more helpful as i only have dim sum during the weekends.

                as for dim sum in la vs sf. i found that the standard sit down dim sum that i've had in sf to be a little more refined and a bit more expensive than the places i go in la (888, full house-arcardia, empress harbor). however, there are the nouveau dim sum places in la that offer more refined dim sum at higher prices. too bad i'm a traditionalist when it comes to dim sum....therefore, there is no need for fancy schmancy dim sum to keep me happy so i tend to prefer la dim sum.

                another thing that i have noticed is that there seem to be more dim sum shacks in sf (ala yum cha cafe style) where you can buy a plethora of dim sum items for $10 that will feed an entire family.

                1. re: fourunder

                  All of the L.A. area dim sum restaurants serve dim sum seven days a week. New York Chinatown probably has better dim sum than San Francisco Chinatown or Los Angeles Chinatown does. The reason is that in both the Bay Area and the L.A. area, the best Chinese restaurants are not in Chinatown, but rather the suburbs. While the New York area has Flushing, Flushing is more of a Taiwanese community, so the stuff there is way behind what you'd find in the San Gabriel Valley, Millbrae, Daly City, etc. Comparing L.A. and the Bay Area suburbs, both have a number of great dim sum places to eat at. I'd put L.A. area dim sum, as well as L.A. area Chinese food in general slightly ahead of the Bay Area. But we'd all be happy with the selection available in either area.

              2. re: fourunder

                The comparison with NYC Chinatown dim sum is enough of a reason for me never to go to Empress Pavilion.

              3. For Chinatown dim sum I go to CBS at Ord and Spring. I've always found it to be the best in that area.

                3 Replies
                1. re: hpcat

                  That's the only Chinatown dim sum I've tried, entirely on the basis of advice from knowledgeable friends. I thought it was about as good as the SGV place my in-laws always took us, upstairs in the big mall at the corner of Atlantic and Garvey - can't remember the name - but I don't think it's as good as Full House (Arcadia) or 888. Still better than no dim sum at all...or dog food, if it comes to that!

                  CBS also has a barbecue takeout area adjacent to the dining room. Just in case you want to take home a duck or half a pig or something...

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    CBS' takeout area also sells dim sum. Strangely, they'll sell you some, but not all of the stuff being wheeled around inside on the carts, but will also sell you some stuff that they don't have on the carts.

                  2. re: hpcat

                    I agree. I've found CBS to be better than Empress, and you don't have to wait as long.