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Jan 15, 2001 09:54 PM

My Dim Sum Experience today at Ocean Star

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Well, after much turmoil, (I always get so exited about dining out that I have trouble making decisions often about where to go)I decided to try Ocean Star today, instead of NBC seafood for dim sum. What a true delight it was. By far the best ever dim sum I've ever had, and that includes prior dim sum lunches at Empress Pavillion, Harbor Village and their newly changed Empress Harbor, and the horrible V.I.P. Harbor Seafood in west L.A. Note: There is no great chinese food on the westside, end of story.
The dining hall was much more plush than any dim sum place I've ever been to, but food was still the main priority in warranting my visit. And the food was simply exquisite. It was just me and my friend, and yet we ordered many delicious delicacies. Right off the bat, we started with cold marinated pigs trotters paired with a light duck sauce and wonerfully tangy vegetables marinated in a sweet rice wine vinegar. Absolutely divine, and seemed similar to some country french dishes that serve pig trotters and the likes. The texture was chewy and wonderfully fatty, yet felt light due to the cold aspect of the dish and the vinegared component in its essence. Next we had those wonderful shrimp dumplings in that very glutinous, see through rice paper, and covered in a mild soy sauce. I can't get over the texture of that wrapping, somewhat akin to Japanese mochi, which is no surprise since they're both made from rice flour. We also had a great earthy stewed tripe dish, the best chicken feet I have ever had the pleasure to gnaw on, so tender that the meat melted off the bony little feet once it made contact with your mouth. Another dish, similar to the chicken feet, yet probably even better was the stewd pigs trotters. OH MY GOD! Orgasmic! There was this other thing we ordered which I had no clue what it was, but it was superb. It was like a yellow rectangular flat shaped, pan fried thing, somewhat sweet with the texture of fried polenta and some bits of sweet chunks inside, maybe fruit. Whatever it exactly was, I couldn't stop eating it. However there were a few misses. My friend really liked the sticky rice steamed in the leaf, although I've had better elsewhere. My friend was also crazy about the pork bao, but I felt it was a little on the dry side. The shark fin's soup was merely okay, and didn't warrant the steep price, and the juk, although quite good, was a bit bland, so I just hit it up with some hot sauce and broth from my stewed tripe dish which balanced it out nicely. But for dessert, all I can say is Ocean Star, makes the best seasme balls, bar none. Bigger than most, with a slight opening on top so you can peer in at the sweet bean paste before popping the warm little piece of heaven into your mouth. Their rendition of this little pastry is so good, it should be put in a class of its own. We also had a few other dishes on top of this, and for all the food, the bill was only $46 plus an $8 tip for a toal of $54. A steal in my opinion for the quality of the food, and for the fact that I was so satisfied with the finest dim sum experience of my life. This is what dim sum should always be, but hardly ever is.

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  1. The "yellow rectangular flat shaped, pan fried thing" you had is lo bak goh, usually referred to in English as "turnip cake." It is made from a mixture of rice flour and turnips, with bits of bacon, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp.

    Ocean Star also serves outstanding roast suckling pig, with tender, moist meat and (the best part) golden brown, crackling crisp skin.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Tom Armitage

      I thought turnip cakes were actually made with daikon, or Japanese radish, and that Turnip Cake is something of a misnomer. Or am I mistaken?

      Deb H.

      P.S. I've also seen a taro version of this, but haven't yet tried it. Anyone?

      1. re: Deb H.

        Taro root cake is amoung my favorite dishes at the Dim Sum. I highly recommend it.

        1. re: Gary Rolin

          Those fried taro cakes are great for sopping up the garlicky brown sauce that accompanies servings of little mushrooms and other delicacies.

          We just had dim sum over here on the other coast at Fortune in Reston VA and I am very happy to report that we get pretty much the exact same stuff.

          One other good thing about dim sum: the variety appears to be endless. Every single time we have gone for dim sum at Fortune, they have brought out items we had never seen before. This time it was two different shrimp things. Simply amazing!

          1. re: Bob W.

            Is that the Fortune Seafood on Leesburg Pike?

            1. re: Chandavkl

              We've been out of Northern Virginia for 8 years now, but I learned to love dim sum at the FORTUNE on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church (across the street from the favorite Peking Duck restaurant of the Presidents Bush). Have they opened a new one in Reston? Town Center area? Given the demographics, the quality and variety of Fortune's dim sum was commendable although the prices were understandably higher than here in the LA area.

              As to OCEAN STAR, I think it's only distinction is that it's big. We still like "888" on Valley, but are always on the look out for new options.

              And since the subject is Chinese cuisine, on Tuesday night (Chinese New Year's Eve), I will be joining my substantial number of Chinese in-laws for dinner at LAKE SPRING in Monterrey Park, the consensus family favorite, which, I understand, has itself survived some significant changes in ownership and management in recent years.

              1. re: John

                Lake Spring was basically driven out of business by a new upstart, King's Palace on Valley Bl. in San Gabriel, which provided a superior level of Shanghai food and took Lake Spring's customers away. After being dark for a while, Lake Spring seems to have been revived by new owners.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  That's not the King' Palace that's on the second level of a strip mall down by San Gabriel Square on Valley is it? If it is, it's hard to understand how it took any customers away from Lake Spring. In any event, thanks. I'll check it out or give it another chance.
                  As to Lake Spring, it is back and I think it's still very good - just not quite as good as it used to be.

                  1. re: John

                    Yep. That's the King's Palace at 250 W. Valley.

        2. re: Deb H.

          You're absolutely right, Deb. As I'm sure you know, terminology can be tricky when you're talking about translations of non-English names. "Lo bak" (sometimes spelled "loh baak" or "loh buk" or other phonetic varient) is the same thing as a daikon radish. In various recipes, I've seen it called "Chinese turnip," "white carrot," and "icicle radish," among other names. The name "turnip cake," which is often used as a translation for lo bak goh, refers to "Chinese turnip." I have also seen lo bak goh translated as "radish cake." Chinese daikons are generally shorter and fatter than Japanese daikons, but, in my opinion, the two are sufficiently similar in taste and texture that they can be used interchangeably. For those who want to make lo bak goh or other similar radish/turnip cakes (e.g., Thai radish cake, named "khanom pad ka"), and who do not have access to daikon, substitutes include American turnips and jicama.

          1. re: Tom Armitage

            Mystery solved! Thanks for the detailed info, Tom, I was getting confused with all the different kinds of turnips, radishes, etc.

            Deb H.

            1. re: Deb H.

              And to make it even more confusing, I've heard these called carrot cake in Singapore. But figured it out since the Cantonese call what we think of as a carrot, hung ("red") loh bak.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Ok, I've had Lo Bak Goh and Woo Tau Goh. The second one is not as moist and does not have the same melt-in-your-mouth texture as the first, probably because the woo tau is a harder version of lo bak. The woo tau itself looks white with tiny purple-gray dots. Other than the woo tau though, I don't see any difference in the way woo tau goh is made from lo bak goh. I've also only seen this made by my grandmother's friends, and never at a restaurant.

                Does anyone know what that woo tau is? I've asked my grandmother and she only knows it as woo tau, and I keep forgetting to check for it in the asian markets.

                As a side note, my grandmother makes lo bak goh often at home. Usually, we eat it right when it comes out of the steamer, drizzled with a bit of soy sauce and some pepper or a dab of xo sauce. The leftovers go in the fridge, and are fried when we want to eat it again.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  To add to the confusion of it all-- "lo bak" is a general reference to several root vegetables in Chinese, whether cantonese or mandarin. We specify red for standard carrots and white for turnips, daikon, etc...

          2. re: Tom Armitage

            Thanks for the info Tom, it's must appreciated. As far as the suckling pig is concerned, I love suckling pig, but did not see it on any of the carts. However, I did see on the menu a suckling pig appetizer. Was that it? Either way, I'll be sure to order it next time I'm there which will definitely be within the next several weeks. Thanks for any further response.

            1. re: SexLoveRockSushi

              Sometimes the suckling pig comes around on a cart. If you don't see it on a cart, ask for it (this is a good general rule for everything). In my experience, it's a timing issue, and availability depends on when the suckling pig comes out of the oven. Response to requests for a particular dish at Ocean Star, like most dim sum restaurants, is pretty spotty. So if they tell you that the suckling pig will be ready in about 15 minutes, and you don't see it in 20 minutes or so, ask again.

              1. re: Tom Armitage

                Ocean Star has, in the past, produced reasonably good, and consistently good, suckling pig. However, on my last visit, it had been overcooked. The crisp skin, which should be a light golden color with moist fat and meat beneath, was dark brown, tough and dry, and the meat below was likewise dry and overcooked. A major disappointment. Other dishes, like lo bak goh, were also not up to the usual standard. Given my previous experience at Ocean Star, I'll chalk this up to the occasional lapse that can occur at any restaurant, and not a sign that the kitchen is going downhill. Hope I'm right.

          3. Can anyone recommend a good restaurant in Los Angeles for dim sum, at night?