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May 5, 2008 06:14 AM

Ocean Palace Houston Quick report

Owing to some mussels that did not sit well this report is a negative. It was a fun-enough place although quite how people find the Dim-Sum area (upstairs) is a mystery in and of itself :-) A slight upwards tilt to the arrow that says "Dim Sum" would help a lot as otherwise you wander around like a lost soul in the cavernous halls downstairs. I suppose when it's busier this is not an issue.

Dumplings good but I preferred Fung's in all respects.

Also, forgive my ignorance, but is this Vietnam/China meld or just one or the t'other? When I lived in Tulsa I had a fear and loathing for the common tendency there to comingle (even MORE bizarre) Chinese and Japanese restaurants owing to low oriental-leaning potential punter numbers.

I noticed a setting up for perhaps a Vietnamese wedding going on (a fascinating comedic farce process involving scraping off letters from the tables etc.etc.etc.) so maybe the latter. I've never really taken up with Vietnamese food so don't even know the basics of whether this was or not. Chinese I love but the flavors here I found UNChinese by which I don't mean UN American Chinese but unfamiliar from NYC's version of dim-sum. Pan-fried noodles without sauce seemed strange as well.

I was expecting a sort of seafood skewed menu as well with the name but seafood (apart from the mussels which DID NOT sit well) was little in evidence. Also some duck surfaced close by (but not close enough) then was wheeled itself away never to be seen again. Whereas the dreaded buns & pastries and such rolled around endlessly like a stuck record.

Can anyone recommend "Chinese" Chinese dim-sum. I wasn't impressed with this although it was cheap lunch to be sure at $35 for 2. Good service (tea endlessly tended to). Good people watching. Just not good food (for my tastes).

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  1. i'm not impressed with ocean palace's dim sum either. i prefer fung's kitchen. the kim son in stafford has also been rated well. i went there once years ago and i remember most that there was a long wait for table. it's too far of a drive for me.

    9 Replies
    1. re: neverfull

      Thanks but it says in the article that Kim Son is also Vietnamese owned. I can see the rationale that Vietnamese being generally good businessmen and there being a much bigger market for "Chinese" than Vietnamese I would think. But to me (no matter the nationality of the chef) just like the Vietnamese wedding prep at Ocean Palace if the boss is one nationality that ain't that of the dishes it subliminally confuses the tastebuds right out of the box. It would be the same for Korean owners of a Tandoori place. Curious and somehow (whether actuality bears out) smacking of the dreaded "F" word: "Fusion Cuisine"

      While I am not against cross-cultural restaurant ownership in general prinicple it seems to not work for me. Just like in Tulsa you can't eat sashimi in a restaurant that reeks of sweet and sour pork.

      1. re: bishopsbitter

        ... or for that matter sweet and sour pork in a restaurant redolent with wasabi

        1. re: bishopsbitter

          You are going to have a hard time in Houston if you are trying to avoid a cultural mixing of Vietnamese and Chinese. To compare the cultural mixing to that of Chinese/Japanese restaurant is not a fair or a well-informed comparison. The three most lauded dim sum restaurants in Houston are probably Fung's, Ocean Palace and Kim Son. There are plenty of Chinese people who find the dim sum at Kim Son to be decent enough . . .
          To state the obvious, Tulsa is not Houston.

          1. re: bishopsbitter

            I suggest keeping an open mind and focusing on the food itself as opposed to attempts at categorization. Houston has some of the best Chinese/Vietnamese/Asian cuisine in the world, and contrary to popular belief most of the Vietnamese restaurants are owned by Chinese who are smart enough to cater to the large Vietnamese population. Dorothy we're a long way from Tulsa.

            1. re: Azn Gorger

              yeah but then so's Houston a long way from New York then (NY NY was my home town prior to Tulsa).

              The problem comes if one likes Chinese but not Vietnamese food I suppose. Vietnamese skewed chinese does not hit da spot is all.

              1. re: bishopsbitter

                i refrained from commenting on kim son's dim sum b/c it has been years since i went. i remember the long wait for our table the most. i don't remember thinking it was exceptional or bad in anyway, but my visit was also before the 3 years i lived in manhattan and frequented jin fong, sweet n tart, and dim sum a go go. i'm not at all impressed with ocean palace and my favorite place in houston for dim sum is fung's kitchen, but i have had much better in SF and HK.

                i've never heard the distinction b/w "vietnamese" dim sum and "chinese" dim sum. being knowledgeable about both cuisines, i can tell you that there is nothing vietnamese about kim son's dim sum. in houston, the chinese & vietnamese communities are very closely interrelated. houston's chinatown is just as much vietnamese as it is chinese and many of the larger restaurants serve vietnamese-chinese food, such as tan tan, sinh sinh, kim son, and taydo. even as a chinese person, i welcome this new type of cuisine. most of the front of the house people at these restaurants even understand both languages.

                chinese cuisine is also very complex. there is cantonese, hunan, szechuan, taiwanese and countless other types of regional cooking. the pan-fried rice noodles you spoke of i grew up eating with beef or seafood. my parents always ordered them cooked dry w/o sauce. i believe the cantonese style tends to use brown sauce (especially with beef and chinese broccoli). the kim son menu (downtown location) serves them both ways as they are listed as separate dishes on the menu.

                my opinion is to be more open minded or you will miss out on lots of great meals to be had. with that said, i recently went to the kim son on bellaire for the seafood buffet. it is a great example of vietnamese chinese cuisine in houston and getting the best of both worlds.

                and p.s. i bet 95% of the japanese/sushi restaurants in houston are chinese owned. i almost opened a sushi restaurant myself last year.

                1. re: neverfull

                  Kim son sounds well worth a check-out! And I appreciate the insights.

                2. re: bishopsbitter

                  I don't understand how the fact that you are originally from NY qualifies you to discount Ocean Palace as something UNchinese? If the restaurant wasn't to your taste, that is one thing. But, to make the leap that the food was off because they are practicing some sort of Chinese fusion with Vietnamese b/c there was a Vietnamese wedding at the restaurant, seems a bit ludicrous. If you have no familiarity in Vietnamese cuisine, how do you argue that these restaurants are skewing their Chinese?

                  Maybe if you specify how the dim sum was different from your experiences in NY, then posters may be able to help. The dim sum available at Ocean Palace on busy weekends stands up in qualilty to the highly rated restaurants I have been to in SF, NYC (Flushing) and Hong Kong (save for a few restaurants in HK). Things may have changed as it has been a while since I last went there or you may have caught them on an off day. I don't think, however, that there is Vietnamese slant (whatever that means) to the dim sum at Ocean Palace.

                  1. re: Bhutani

                    I was not trying to get into an argument here and always strive to maintain a bit of humor. There's absolutely no need to be defensive about Houston's food. I completely concur Tulsa by comparison is a nightmare wasteland.

                    I am not the world expert on either cuisine. But I do know my food in a journeyman way as well.

                    I really do not like Vietnamese food. I tried it a few times and it's not for me. Its basic sauces (maybe it's the fish sauce, who knows?) and spices not quite anything that stirs my blood whereas authentic Chinese food (in its various incarnations) does. Korean is somewhat the same for me although I've always liked it better in general terms than Vietnamese.

                    The very fact I dislike Vietnamese and would never take the trouble to eat that style is surely what my original notes were about. If there's no difference between the two then how come I noticed the difference?

                    I can't sign on to is that Vietnamese & Chinese are one & the same thing (although yes in major-medium US megalopolises likely they often may be) and that I am just being a nuisance to question whether I am being served on or the other; nor that to otherwise delineate between the two is being overly critical.

                    I could not say "that dumpling is a Vietnamese style" that duck foot is Chinese. No. I am not that expert. But what I can say is "This reminds me more of Vietnamese in style & seaonings".

                    That's all I was saying. I am happy to be in Houston & not Tulsa (although it is so poor for food that one cannot beat up on it too much).