REVIEW: King Lobster Palace (Dim Sum in Villa Park!)
Okay... normally I just put the name of the place and the town it's in when I write a title. But, still... DIM SUM IN VILLA PARK. Okay, technically it's the other side of the 55 from Villa Park proper, but still... DIM SUM IN VILLA PARK!!
I'm very excited. You see, from East Anaheim, Rowland Heights, Westminster, Irvine and Monterey Park are all a bit of a schlep. (That's a Chinese term, by the way, meaning "a long and arduous journey about which one can complain when it's over.) Villa Park is a hop, skip and a six-minute jump from our house.
So I had been passing this place and thinking, "Meh, we'll try it some other time." I couldn't even fix in my head where it is (Tustin Avenue and Meats Avenue, by the way, cattycorner and a bit south from Trader Joe's), so we had to go down to Katella and work our way up. We figured we'd have a nice Cantonese lunch, and if it was bad we'd go to Darya instead.
But when we entered, the host said, "Three? For dim sum?"
"B-B-B...你們有點心呀?!" I blurted out. ("You have dim sum?!")
"Of course," he replied. So we sat down and -- wait for it -- he BECKONED THE CARTS OVER. I s*** you not. He sat us down, took our tea order, and SENT OVER THE CARTS. I've never, EVER had that happen. As it happens, what's on the carts is not all that's available -- there is a dim sum menu should you wish your dim sum to be made to order, which I recommend.
We had haa cheung fun (floppy rice rolls with shrimp), haa gaau (translucent shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork and shrimp "beggars' purses"), fish steamed with ginger, seaweed and some sort of green leaves, gaai baau (steamed chicken buns), lotus-seed buns, and daan taat (egg custard tartlets). I wanted more but there is a limit to how much two people and a bab...er...toddler can put in their bellies at one sitting.
The cheung fun were excellent. The siu mai and haa gaau were just OK -- the waiter explained that it's best to order those fresh as they don't age well (this is how we found out that they waffle on the carts-vs.-menus question). The daan taat were the flakiest I'd ever had, and I enjoyed the lotus-seed buns. The gaai baau were very tasty -- the chicken was a little "densely packed" but otherwise excellent. The winner, by far, though, was the fish -- I have no idea what it was called but it was very tender and flaky, and when dipped in a tiny bit of the Chinese mustard brought to the table with the chili paste, even better.
Service was unexpectedly excellent. This is a very, very accessible introduction to dim sum for those who are new to the experience, and in fact half the room were non-Asians. (There were, however, the usual Asian families at the large tables... fear not.)
Prices are somewhat high if you are used to the stiff competition of the Monterey Park dim sum palaces. Tea charge is $0.75 per person (they didn't charge us for Die Uberbaby). "A" level dishes are $2.60, "B" level dishes are $3.60, "C" level dishes are $4.60 and "special" dishes vary but may be as much as $6.60. Noodle and fried rice dishes are priced individually and range from $7 to $11. A 20% discount is given for food ordered from the carts, so the prices are $2.08, $2.88 and $3.68, respectively. Certain items (mostly fried items, but also porridges) are not available on the cart. ("Too soon bad," explained one of the servers, "but you can order anytime and we make fresh for you.")
Our bill, including a much-more-generous-than-usual-for-dim-sum tip, was $27.
I have a feeling this is going to be a regular stop. The dim sum, for comparison, is better than Ten Ten Seafood in Anaheim, but not as good as the SGV places. It is not meant to be imaginative like Elite or Triumphal Palace. This is meant to be quite serviceable dim sum in a place that has heretofore been devoid of Chinese food worthy of the name.
I did grab the dinner menu -- it reads like a less-fancy version of Ten Ten's menu. Given the difference in service (I won't go to Ten Ten anymore), I think I'll live without the esoteric items not found on King Lobster Palace's menu.
In summary -- DECENT DIM SUM IN VILLA PARK!!
King Lobster Palace
2045 N Tustin St, Orange, CA 92865
We finally went and agree; the dim sum tasted very fresh. However, a couple of the items (b/c the restaurant is less busy than Ten Ten) were not warm...even cold. We were surprised--and even ecstatic--how the staff actually said "hi" and smiled. This will be our new dim sum place...though I think I'll miss Ten Ten b/c it's one of those favourite mediocre eats of mine (chowhound.chow.com/topics/544344).
I visited King Lobster Palace for the first time this weekend, and I agree with the assessments that this is very good dim sum for OC. Ordered all the standard stuff, like the har gow, siu mai, sticky rice in tea leaves, dan taat custard pie, all of which were very good. The cheung fun was just OK for us, as I think it had been sitting around for a little while, but still tasty enough to eat as it's one of my favorite dishes. I only saw 3 carts moving around, so the variety and selection didn't look extensive, and I didn't see certain things like the beef meatballs or chicken feet.
Definitely better quality than the nearby Ten Ten Seafood in Anaheim.
Hard to say where I'd rank this place for OC dim sum, as it has very good quality, but the limited selection could make me rank only as high as #3, behind China Garden and Seafood Paradise. But one of the main advantages of King Lobster is not waiting to get a table, as we showed up around 12:30PM on a Saturday afternoon, sat down immediately, and was able to get about 4-5 dishes in the minute before our tea arrived. No 30-45 minute waits like you might experience at Seafood Paradise or China Garden.
When the trek to SGV is too far for dim sum, and the wait times at China Garden are unbearable, King Lobster is the best alternative in OC to getting your dim sum fix.
Great review! :) Totally agree with your assessment so far: I went there a couple times and found that their Dim Sum is definitely decent / solid, especially considering where they are. If you're in the area and don't want to drive to the SGV, then King Lobster Palace is a decent substitute for locals. :)
Their dinner is a mixed bag so far. I'll have to try them out a few more times for dinner to see how it fares, but at least it's some authentic Cantonese Food / Dim Sum in Orange / Villa Park which is nice. :)