Dim Sum Chinatown tomorrow
We're heading into Chinatown tomorrow AM for Dim Sum, thought we'd hit the Empress Pavilion. Haven't been in awhile—is this place still good, or are there others we should consider? How's the mid-morning wait times—do we need a reservation? Anything special we should look for or stay away from? TIA for your suggestions-
My last couple of experiences at Empress were terrible. The last time we arrived, we arrived "late" (around noon) and waited about twenty minutes. Hardly any carts came around, and the food from the ones we flagged down was not great. I don't think they take reservations, but I could me mistaken.
If we don't want to drive out to the SGV, our go-to place in Chinatown is CBS Seafood. Their dim sum is far superior to Empress. Wait time is a little less, although if you arrive when it is busy expect to wait about five to ten minutes for a table to turn around.
Empress Pavillion or CBS Seafood get there by 10:30am and you shouldn't have much of a wait if any. But, by 10:30 the parking lot at CBS Seafood will probably be full. Free parking at CBS Seafood if you can get it.
Ocean or CBS. If you end up at Empress, and they bring around a tray of a boba drink, do not take it! It's some fake coffee/tea/ phoney milk concoction, terrible.
Quick report back: went to CBS Seafood today. Thanks to Monku's tip, we got there around 10:40 and snared the 2nd to last parking spot in the free lot. There was no wait, but when we left at 12:15 or so, the line was halfway around the block. The place was clean and orderly, although nothing fancy. One test I judge Chinese seafood places by is the condition of the fish tanks. Here they were clean and algae-free, with healthy-looking rock cod and crabs.
The food was perfectly decent: the usual pork and shrimp shu mai, bean curd and sesame rolls, etc. More expensive fare, including fried shrimp rolls ($6.50) and the delightfully misnamed "fried crab crowie ball" (crab claw-$9.50) were OK but didn't justify their higher prices (frozen crab, I'm pretty sure). Although the fried items were light and non-greasy, the steamed dishes were better.
A dim sum meal means a morning of endless self-questioning: do I eat what's in this cart, when maybe the really good thing is on that cart over there, that never seems to make it over here? What if I stuff myself with whatever this thing is, when maybe if we wait they'll bring out the salty squid, or the seaweed cake, or...you get the idea. Service was friendly and efficient although translation made ordering and asking questions difficult. At the end of the meal, they boxed a few leftovers to go, which I've found is a rarity at busy dim sum places. Overall, we might have done better in Monterey Park, but with limited time, traffic and the price of gas these days, not sure it would have been worth it. Thanks, all, for the tips.
Ocean Seafood is my favorite - they do a better job of getting people through, though it can be crowded as well. If you get there before 11AM that's your best bet. Empress disappointed me tremendously when I tried it - I never went back, flat out awful service, absurd wait, and just average food.