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dim sum

thinking of strapping the kids in the car & getting some dim sum today. we rarely go far for food but on a sunday there's usually not much traffic. we tried din tai fung a few months ago & really enjoyed it. is there another spot we should try that's better? i am not really well verse in this kind of food but really really enjoy it so any advice/guidance is appreciated.

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  1. Sea Harbor at 3939 Rosemead in Rosemead is probably your best bet for dim sum. It's a tad closer than Din Tai Fung. Equally good is Elite on Atlantic on Monterey Park, and is even closer. However Elite is a smaller restaurant and you may have to wait longer to get in.

    As Din Tai Fung is not really dim sum it's like comparing apples and oranges, but I think you'll be pleased with either of the dim sum recs - all three places are among my five favorite restaurants in the SGV.

    6 Replies
    1. re: chowmominLA

      thanks chowmom! tell me, if you can spare a minute, what then is the difference between dim sum & the dumplings at DTF? What would DTF be called?

      1. re: dotrat

        Well I'm sure any number of CHers could give a more refined explanation, but I believe DTF serves XLB, short for xiao long baio, which are basically shanghai soup dumplings. Dim sum refers to a broader range of small dishes that vary from shiu mai (which would probably be the most similar to XLB), to sesame balls, to pigs feet, to congee, and the list goes on and on. Dim sum is associated to Cantonese (southern China) cuisine while XLB is Shanghai (northern China).

        Dim sum is traditionally served either in carts or from a menu where you check the boxes, while XLB is always served from a menu and usually with much fewer options to choose from. That's one of the things I love about DTF: the menu is pretty extensive for a place specializing in XLB.

        The more notable XLB places in SGV include:
        Din Tai Fung
        Jian Jang (aka J&J)
        Noodle House
        Luscious Dumpling
        (and a few others have been recommended though I have yet to try)

        while some dim sum places include:
        Sea Harbour Village
        Elite
        Blue Ocean (stanrad but very inexpensive)

        All these distinctions may be more acedemic to the average CHer like you or me: they're all delicious Chinese dumplings that are worth the drive.

        1. re: chowmominLA

          Neither Noodle House nor Luscious Dumplings serve XLB.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            See I knew I'd get something wrong. I swear I almost said, "ask ipsedixit what the difference is" cuz I knew I'd get it wrong. Swear!

            So I guess NH and LD are both considered more Shanghainese dumpling houses rather than dim sum restaurants, and both serve dumplings that are similar to XLB bot not quite because they don't have that same juicy inside. Right?

            1. re: chowmominLA

              Noodle House and Luscious Dumplings are northern style -- e.g. Beijing -- restaurants.

        2. re: dotrat

          The dumpings at DTF are typical of Shanghai style cooking. Dim sum is of Cantonese origin, although modern dim sum has their versions of dishes from other regions of China, such as XLB. At a good dim sum place, I would argue that you would find a greater variety of dumplings than you would normally find at a place like DTF. For example, at DTF, you can find about only a few different types of dumplings/baos: XLB, XLB w/crab, pork and veggies, shrimp and pork, red beans. In a good dim sum place, you can find can find far more than that. The types of ingredients are more extensive. More significantly, the ingredients are prepared in different ways, resulting in different flavors and textures than what you would find at DTF.

          DTF and dim sum are both different, but good in their own ways.

      2. Another thought I just had is that you'll be with kids, who might really like the fried banana at Sea Harbor -- yummmm! Also if you like pork ribs get the black bean rib on rice rolls. I should also mention that at both Elite and Sea Harbor, you order from the menu rather than directly from carts. But Sea Harbor's menu has pictures of the dim sum, which may come in handy if you're not so familiar with ordering it.

        1. If you've only been to Din Tai Fung, you've never had dim sum.

          As a first timer to dim sum, I would recommend 888 or Ocean Star. Both are palatial sort of places that serve dim sum on carts. Advantage to this is that you'll get to see what you order when the carts are rolled around to your table.

          On the other hand, if what you want is to replicate your experience at Din Tai Fung, then you should just go back to Din Tai Fung. There really is no place quite like it because Din Tai Fung serves a particular (some say "bastardized") version of XLB not found in most Shanghainese joints.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Thank you both for your responses. Chowmom I appreciate you taking the time to differentiate given your busy Chowmom day! I've had dim sum at Ocean Star but I have to say I enjoyed my experience at Din Tai Fung vastly more. I'll add the other places to my list. Unfortunately I didn't get out today (nap scheduling issues) but will try again next weekend.

            1. re: dotrat

              Thanks dotrat... actually my "busy Chowmom day" has so far consisted of surfing the net, playing wii and taking a powernap with my toddler :0)

              I've been to Ocean Star twice in the last year and both times really did not enjoy my meal. I'd rate that place way below any of the places I've recommended and even below some other places that are probably not as far (Empress Pavilion in Chinatown or even VIP on the Westside.) ipsedixit is right that if you're trying to find something like Din Tai Fung you'd have a hard time because it is really so unique. If you're looking for the juicy pork dumplings specifically then you might want to try J&J on Valley and Prospect. But in terms of an overall enjoyable and delicious outing to the SGV, albeit sans XLB per se, I stand by my Sea Harbor dim sum rec!

              1. re: chowmominLA

                MMM... while it's not as interesting, often, as the new "menu" places, or places like "New capital", I've never found Ocean Star to be less than "pretty darn good". Chowmom and dotrat: what didn't you like about the dim sum experience there?

                1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                  The first time I went to Ocean Star the dim sum didn't seem as fresh as some of the other places (as opposed to Elite, which even something as ordinary as shiu mai had a WOW factor!). I also had the clams in black bean sauce which sounded good and unique but it was WAY too salty. I know that black bean sauce is salty by nature but I had have plenty of other black bean dishes before that were really tasty and not too salty.

                  I know that dim sum tends to be a bit of a crap shoot and will largely turn on when you go and what you order, and going alone and having less to sample makes it even more arbitrary, so I tried it again with my mom and my son a few months later, when we needed a shady parking spot for her dog in the car (ruling out Elite and Gourmet Delight, my standard MP picks.) We ordered a lot of dishes but both agreed it was not good at all, and even VIP on the Westside was better.

                  So, not a fan of Ocean Star dim sum :0(

                  1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                    oh i did like Ocean Star.....but I LOVED Din Tai Fung. now i've learned it's not really dim sum tho......SO much to learn but I am enjoying the work ; )

            2. To confuse the matter more, some dim sum places like Elite actually do have xlb on the menu, but they are no where as good as Din Tai Fung or Mei Long.

              Also, cantonese dim sum are generally served in the morning to early afternoon (by 2-3PM they are about wrapped up). Only exception is the cheapo Yum Cha Cafe, etc.

              Din Tai Fung is obviously open both for lunch and dinner, but not breakfast (unless you count 10:30AM dining as breakfast).