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Blue Ocean Seafood: New, cheap dim sum / Chinese in Alhambra

Today I was driving aimlessly through the San Gabriel Valley for lunch, lamenting the fact that Lucious Dumpling is closed on Mondays, and I saw a bunch of people outside the old MVP location on Garfield and Valley in Alhambra. Turns out it's the "grand opening" of a new restaurant there, called Blue Ocean Seafood Restaurant. I got lucky with parking and got a number for a table. It was SUCH a madhouse though, I probably would have had to wait about 45 minutes to an hour for a table. So after 15 minutes I decided to get dim sum to go instead. I got five orders and the bill came to $9.05!!! All dim sum is only $2.00 per order during the week ($2.50 on the weekend), and they are having a 20% discount "promotion". Not sure if the discount applies to any menu item or just the dim sum. But I asked how long the promotion would last and the girl said, "forever". Um, okay. (If you go there and they don't have it, blame it on the language barrier, don't blame me.) They also apparently serve dim sum from 7 am to 3 pm! Two different staff people told me this so I think it's true.

They serve dim sum in carts rather than off the menu, by the way. At 40 mostly standard items, the dim sum menu is not as wide or interesting as some other places but the price was right. I got standard dim sum: har gow, siu mai, sesame balls, mushroom stuffed with shrimp and BBQ pork rice noodle. It was delicious; as good as Elite or Sea Harbor (although the pieces might not be as large as Elite's); and better than Empress Pavilion but half the price.

The (non-dim sum) lunch menu has over 100 specials ranging from $4.99 to $6.99 and looks really good. The dinner menu looked incredible too, with lots of beautiful pictures. It seemed similar to Elite's menu, but the prices seemed more reasonable.

They also serve a late night dining menu from 9:30 to 1 am. It was a lot like the lunch menu but the specials are a few bucks more and I'm guessing come with more food.

The to-go bag says "New Capital Seafood Restaurant" on it so I'm guessing they're related (never been to New Capital or even know if it's still around.)

Blue Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1412 S. Garfield Ave. (where MVP used to be)
Alhambra, CA 91801
tel: (626) 289-3018
fax: (626) 289-7202

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    1. re: monku

      Sort of buried in my post I mentioned I got the har gow, siu mai, sesame balls, mushroom stuffed with shrimp and BBQ pork rice noodle -- it was delicious :0)

      1. re: chowmominLA

        My fault....I got caught up on what a bargain the place was.

      1. re: choctastic

        I believe the restaurant is owned by New Capital. They have dinner specials too. I went with my family (there were of 4 of us) and we each got to order 1/2 squab for only 99 cents each. A great deal.

        1. re: kure

          Yes, this is another outpost of New Capital. Clever of them to give it a different name because if they called it New Capital I don't think I, or any of the other people who had to wait to get in even at 10 am, would have rushed down there so quickly. Since it is New Capital the dim sum is ordinary--not meant in a negative manner, but merely to indicate that you won't find anything exotic or creative as with Sea Harbour, Elite, King Hua etc., and is served at rock bottom prices ($9.05 incl. tax for five items). If this suits your fancy this additional location will make you happy.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            Hi Chandavkl,

            Thanks for the info. Ack, you're totally right... if this is essentially New Capital, no thanks. :P And to make matters worse, parking and navigating that corner of Garfield & Valley is horrific.

            1. re: exilekiss

              Don't want to give people the wrong impression. This place is good--like Yum Cha Cafe is good. For value and decent to good food, these places can't be beat.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                If it's anything like New Capital, it's gotta be horrible. I've had my share of price-cheap dim sum. You really do get what you pay for.

                1. re: slacker

                  I actually think Yum Cha is better than New Capital. Well, count me out too. LOL

                  1. re: choctastic

                    I think part of the reason you consider Yum Cha Cafe better than New Capital is expectations.

                    At Yum Cha, it's basically take-out. Walk-up to the counter, fight the crowds, wait for your number to get called, order up, and chow down on styrofoam plate settings. You're not expecting to be "wow-ed".

                    At New Capital, you're seated at a table, with table cloth, real utensils, tea from a tea pot, table service, carts, etc., or in other words the whole shebang. So you're expecting more.

                    So even if the food at New Capital and Yum Cha are the same, the former will seem inferior simply because of the expectations.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      No, it's because of the prices. If New Capital sold their dim sum for a dollar an order like Yum Cha does, maybe I would like it more. Honestly even for a dollar an order, I think I kind of like Yum Cha's version better. *shrug*

                      1. re: choctastic

                        Well, having never eaten at either Yum Cha or New Capital, I can't weigh in on how this place compares to those two, but I will say I've been to lots of good dim sum places in SGV (Sea Harbor, Elite) and found Blue Ocean to be comparable and great for the money. I think for example it is better than Empress Pavillion and Ocean Star and VIP on the Westside, and as good as Elite or Sea Harbour but for less money. It's aboput the same cost as Won Kok but better, and obviously includes the white linen and tea service. Perhaps I will go again right now and provide another report!

                        1. re: chowmominLA

                          Okay, now you've piqued my curiosity and I am going to check it out before judging it. Strange concept, I know. Hey the price is right.

      2. Well, we drove by last night around 9:00 on our way from Noodle House to Fosselman's, and it was packed inside (you could totally see through the windows) and people were waiting outside. So if popularity is any indication, they must be doing something right. Oh wait, there are lines at Cheesecake Factory too!

        1. I enjoyed my one visit to New Capital, so I'll give Blue Ocean a try. I think we may have driven by it and spotted the Grand Opening sign over the weekend. Thanks for the info.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Wonginator

            Currently the other dinner specials are:
            gyeoduck and 1/2 a lobster per person for $.99 with purchases of $30 or more.

            The wait on opening nite (August 9th) was an hour long. the 130+ person wedding party happening simultaneously didn't help.

            Grand opening nite caused traffic backup all the way south to the 10 freeway. Not good. The fact that it's right next door from Old Country Cafe really makes me hate this place more and more, day by day.

            More important news from last week was actually the opening of Hunan Chili King's 2nd branch: Hengyang Chili King. It replaced Northern Dumpling House which had a short-lived fave: the awesome Han-style (Korean) naeng myun.

              1. re: monku

                I meant August 2nd. Idiot is me. DUH.

                1. re: TonyC

                  I thought maybe you could see in the future and I'd ask you about horses for this Saturday.

              2. re: TonyC

                "Currently the other dinner specials are:
                gyeoduck and 1/2 a lobster per person for $.99 with purchases of $30 or more." (TonyC)

                Thanks for the info TonyC! Yup, it sounds just like a branch of New Capital, IMHO the instigator of the infamous Chinese price wars in the SGV that drove down the quality of most HK / Cantonese Seafood restaurants years ago. I still remember my Chinese Cuisine Hounds dragging me to their inaugural $1.99 Live Crab (or was it Lobster?) back in the day. Sadly, so many people bit on those specials (hence the long lines)... mediocre food, terrible service, but cheap. (~_~)

                1. re: exilekiss

                  You have to remember Ben's funding his no-frills dimsum with his successful travel agency biz.. *giggle*

                  Tho at $2 per baby lobster, we had a bombtastic dinner, replete with really bad Cantonese karaoke.

                  The opening of this restaurant defines all that is wrong with Canto-Chinese cuisine in Western SGV: bottom-barrel fishing causing heinous traffic.

                  I'm over it. Bring on the Hunan/Tianjin houses.

                  1. re: TonyC

                    To add on top of that, it just makes it THAT much more difficult to get into Old Country Cafe ...

                    1. re: TonyC

                      Well said TonyC! :)

                      All of my Hounds are over it as well (years ago). Thanks for keeping us up to date on the latest interesting restaurants in the SGV (along w/ ipsedixit and chandavk and all the regular SGV CH'ersl). :)

              3. The up-side is, this place is so close I could pick up dim sum take-out there in my pj's. What time do they open on weekdays?

                God, no wonder there have been so many cars on our street this week...

                3 Replies
                1. re: CookieEater

                  Well, maybe double (triple) check on this, but I was told by two people there that they start serving dim sum at 7 am!!!!!

                  1. re: chowmominLA

                    This would be consistent with the hours for New Capital in San Gabriel, which I believe also opens at 7am.

                2. Okay so I went there again today for a late lunch. I should have known better than to sit down for dim sum at 2 pm at a place that stops serving it at 3 pm.... the selection wasn't so great, and everyone in the place just seemed so... tired. But, the upside was that there was no wait, and a few empty tables so I was able to sit down right away. Well, I was able to sit down after waiting for a few minutes to be noticed standing there at the hostess podium.

                  A busboy asked if I wanted tea and I said no thanks, just water, to which the bus boy looked at me like I was from Mars. Well, don't ask if I want it or not if you're not going to expect the choice to not have it!

                  Having had the more standard dim sum orders when I was there two days ago (e.g. har gow, shiu mai, sesame balls, rice noodle) I looked for different things for a variety.

                  First I tried the deep fried "seafood salad" roll. They're just like the ones I accidently discovered at Sea Harbour (ordered the wrong number but they turned out to be pretty delicious.) They are not at all salad-like; it's seafood mixed in a sweet mayo creamy sauce and then deep fried in a panko-like batter of some kind. As if it weren't fattening enough they add a dallop of more sweet mayo on the side. They sit like a rock in your stomach afterwards and probably take a few days off your life but I must say they are good!

                  Second... I should have just limited myself to one fried dish but I was tempted by another fried triangular dumpling covered in white and black sesame seeds. When I asked what was in it, the woman pushing the cart said, "porK', so I'm thinking it's like hom soy gok (the fried footballs with ground pork inside), but was disappointed to find there was sweet red bean paste instead. I told her it was not pork, and she just sort of smiled at me and shrugged. I don't know who mentally cursed the other person out more: me at her for working in the service industry in the US and not knowing a lick of English, of her at me for being a stupid Americanized Chinese girl who doesn't know a lick of any dialect from her heritage. Anyway, the dumplings turned out fine, actually one of the highlights of the meal; it's just that I wouldn't have ordered something so similar to the sesame balls I had ordered when I was there two days ago. That being said, I'd recommend these triangular ones over the standard sesame balls.

                  Third, I got some pork spare rib in black bean sauce. I appreciated the presentation of the ribs resting on sliced cooked pumpkin or yam or something along those lines. However, I've had better pork spare rib dim sum. I especially like the ones at Sea Harbour that are served on a bed of rice noodle rolls, and the pork rib in black bean sauce was the one thing at ABC that salvaged the rest of the meal. Yet, these were just ok, a little less meat and a little more bone and cartilage that I would have liked, but otherwise pretty good.

                  Fourth, I got a dish of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) in oyster sauce. It was way too salty for me. Much more so than whenever I've gotten it anywhere else.

                  Fifth I got some fish balls. I don't think there was anything wrong with these fish balls per se, I think I just realized I'm not a fish ball type of person. I asked for har gow instead but they admonished me, as dim sum ladies so often do, "Later."

                  I only ate about one-third of all that when I started digesting the seafood salad rolls, which really slowed me down. So I got the check for five orders of dim sum, and then after I nicely asked them to remove the charge for the tea I didn't have, and after the "promotional" discount was factored in, the bill came out to... you guessed it, exactly $9.05 again. Plus, as I was paying the tab the woman brought over some hot, steaming har gow for me. I was completely stuffed but they looked too good to send back, so I told her I'd take them to go and have it added to the bill, but I guess she didn't want to bother, she just gave them to me, so I left a tip in kind.

                  So 5, really 6, orders of dim sum for $9.05 after the tax, before the tip. I'm back pedaling on my prior statement that it's on par with Elite or Sea Harbor... with the exception of a few orders, it's really not. It's more like Empress or Ocean Star or any other "just fine" dim sum places; however, at these prices per this indefinite "promotion", Blue Ocean is a good pick if you're content with your run-of-the-mill dim sum at half the price of some other restaurants, and can go at off peak hours (earlier is probably better), or if you can get it to go.

                  But remember, I've only had dim sum there -- maybe dinner is a whole different story, for better or for worse.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: chowmominLA

                    Reason the busboy gave you a stare was because all dim sum restaurants charge a per person tea or set up charge of anywhere from $1.50-$2.00/person. He might have been asking you what kind of tea you wanted?

                    1. re: monku

                      I had another nice dinner here tonight. I was worried about waiting for a table so I called ahead and was able to make a reservation. When I left at around 730PM there were still lots of people waiting for tables.

                      1. re: monku

                        Nope, he definitely asked me if I wanted tea. If he had asked what kind I wanted I would have said, any kind... but since he asked me a yes or no question, I said no! Yeah I'm aware of the standard tea set up at most dim sum restaurants (at Blue Ocean the set up is a buck, and I think I actually saw that somewhere on one of the menus) and depending on my mood I'll just pay for it without drinking it, or sometimes (like today) I'll politely ask whether I have to pay for it if I didn't order it and never got it. If they say yes, so be it, no big deal... but if they take it off the bill, it goes right back into the tip. The principle of the tea charge has always been somewhat of a nuisance to me, being required to pay for something you may not want, although I've never made a federal case out of it... but one time I saw a complete war break out over it at Empress between an irate customer and a few different managers.

                        1. re: chowmominLA

                          Tea charge irked me when my daughter was growing...up, but I never made an issue of it.
                          Maybe because they just opened the bus boy was caught off guard because no one refused tea before at dim sum.
                          Yum Cha Cafe in Chinatown there's no charge for tea...at the other's its 25 cents.

                          1. re: chowmominLA

                            sure, the charge tea at dim sum restaurants is pretty excessive at $1.50-2, but i can't imagine having dim sum without tea. to me, it would just seem like something was missing. plus, the tea helps to cut all the greasiness of the food.

                      2. Ate at Blue Ocean for dim sum for the first time today and enjoyed it very much. There was (surprisingly) no wait at 11:00 and we were seated immediately. For the record, I didn't care much for New Capital after it moved it into the Sam Woo spot, but I do like this place. It is smaller and there seems to be much more attention to detail. The chicken feet were wonderful, the har gow was good, the gai lan (Chinese kale/broccoli in light soy sauce) was very tasty. The turnip cake and shrimp wrapped in rice noodles were also good. We ate here for dinner a few weeks ago. That night we had spice rubbed lamb with Vietnamese mint, fried pumpkin (actually acorn squash), etc., and took advantage of the special (each person gets half a lobster or a squab for 99 cents if the table spends $30 or more). The dining room is decorated nicely with light wood and gold colors. I would definitely recommend this place and found it much better, and less gimmicky than Elite in terms of price, ambiance, service, and dim sum standards.