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Jan 13, 2010 11:02 AM

Elite or Sea Harbour?

First post... apologies in advance if I'm breaking any protocol by bringing up an "old" topic. I am interested in recent experiences as I know quality shifts at places in SGV.

I want to go w a group of 8-10 food lovers to either Elite or Sea Harbor on an upcoming Saturday. Could be for Dim Sum or dinner. Looking for the best food/experience.

Having trouble making the decision. Can anyone give a sense of the places themselves? Ambience? Otherworldliness? Do either have private rooms or is that just defeating the purpose of going?

Any new tips for parking, ordering, menu favorites?

Questions, questions, questions!

I really appreciate any help in making these decisions
- elite or sea harbour
- dim sum or dinner.


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  1. Haven't been to Elite but Sea Harbour is very nice decor and decent food. Din Tai Fung and Dumpling House are my favs however. Dumpling House is a hole in the wall with good service and killer dessert dumplings.

    1. Hi gazpachot,

      Welcome to Chowhound. :)

      Dim Sum vs. Dinner: That's a huge leap in menus, so as a quick summary, Dim Sum is made up of small plates spanning all types of meats and vegetables, steamed buns, desserts, etc. The dishes are completely different from what you'd get at either Elite or Sea Harbour for their dinner menu, which is an updated version of Cantonese / Hong Kong cuisine, served family style (large plates). Although you can order Live Seafood from their tanks during Dim Sum, usually the Live Seafood is enjoyed along with other dinner items during dinner. It's less hectic and chaotic during dinner as well (with less wait, unless there's a wedding banquet).

      Search on Chowhound for threads on Cantonese / Hong Kong dinner recs and you can see discussions on various dishes, etc.

      As for Elite vs. Sea Harbour, that's a long debate, but both have their strong points. If you're trying Dim Sum, it's not too expensive, and you could try both (over 2 separate visits) to see which one you enjoy more. :) But I don't think you'd be going wrong by going to either place for Dim Sum. Enjoy~

      1. If you can only go once, I'd just flip a coin for both. Both places are great and you'll get a wide variety of opinions from the board. You can do wrong at both places, but you can also do very right as well. Good luck!

        1. gazpachot,

          First, welcome!

          As to your question. Both are good, and are quite similar. Personally, I'm partial to Sea Harbour (simply because I know management and get better treatment), but you can't go wrong with Elite. Sort of like Mercedes or BMW? Both great cars, can't go wrong with either.

          As to dim sum or dinner ... There's a big misconception on these boards that Chinese / HK Cantonese restaurants are only good for dim sum. Far from it. In fact, I think these restaurants (Elite and Sea Harbour included) really shine at dinner time. Dim sum, and lets be honest here, is a pretty simple endeavor to make.

          At dinner time, a restaurant of the caliber and pedigree of an Elite or Sea Harbour can really shine. And, where do they shine the brightest you ask? Seafood! Live seafood, specifically. King crab, fresh fish, prawns, lobster, abalone, geoduck, etc. are all must gets. All of is good and what you will, or should, order will depend on (i) your tastes preferences and/or (ii) your budget.

          Aside from the live seafood, some of the soups are also standouts. Fresh winter melon soup, fish maw with shark's fin, sea turtle with Chinese herbs, and chicken soup are all great options. And, don't snicker at chicken soup. This isn't chicken soup you get at most non-chinese restaurants. This is stuff that's probably two steps away from needing an Rx to be ordered -- nurtured from black chickens along with copious amounts of chinese herbs and goodies (think dates, goji berries, gingko, etc.) and then clarified to the point where Evian would even blush, and then served in individual containers so that sharing is out of the question -- not that you would want to share, nor should you.

          So having said all that, if it were me, I'd go to Sea Harbour for dinner. But that's just me. If you go to Elite for dinner, you'd be doing no disservice to yourself or your fellow 'hounds.

          Enjoy wherever you end up and report back.


          9 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Thanks everyone for the great info. I'm familiar with dim sum and have had very nice experiences at Ocean Seafood. Have also enjoyed great soup dumplings at Mei Long Village with my sweetheart. But this is a gathering of 8-10 people who will want to talk and savor a great meal together. I know dim sum is noisy by nature, so dinner might be the better option. Are there secluded corners or private rooms that would be conducive to our communication and merriment or is it best just to throw yourself into the mix? And while I'm on the topic, a call reveals that each takes reservations - any thoughts as to whether these will be honored without a serious wait on a saturday? It's possible I'm over-thinking this but with a busy life there isn't time to do both Elite and Sea Harbour. I like the coin toss idea! Thanks for any more tips and opinions...

            Pablo Gazpachot

            1. re: gazpachot

              Both will take and honor reservations, no problem.

              Both have private rooms for groups as large as yours. There may be a slight surcharge (or not, it depends).

              Flip coin, call it, and then make your reservations wherever fate leads you.


              1. re: ipsedixit

                Just to add to ipsedixit's comments, reservations are available only for dinner, not available. Elite has a semi-private room holds four tables at 10 people per table. if you make a reservation, ask for the this. Otherwise, they will seat you in the main dining room.

                1. re: raytamsgv

                  Thanks raytamsgv. Good info. I just found out that Sea Harbour has private tables but the minimum is 800 for the table, before tax. That's getting a little steep @ $80+ per person before tax tip and corkage! Elite is 500 minimum.

                  So just how worth it is it to get out of the main dining room in each place on a saturday ? We want to be able to talk and enjoy but not go broke in the process!

                  1. re: gazpachot

                    I'd say forget about the semi-private rooms. It's not worth it. My family and friends have never had problems talking at the regular tables during lunch or dinner at both places. Dinner is usually rather quiet. Lunch is louder, but the classic Cantonese solution is for us to talk even louder. :-)

                    1. re: raytamsgv

                      Ha! brilliant! will bring the bull horn and warm up the pipes beforehand...

                      1. re: raytamsgv

                        Totally agree with raytamsgv re: the din in the dining room at dinner time (how's that for alliteration?)

                        It's definitely more of an issue at dim sum. In fact, I would almost say that I prefer to have it loud and raucous at dim sum; when it's too quiet it's almost eerie and a bit unsettling.

              2. re: ipsedixit

                ipsedixit has some spot-on advice. I'm more partial to Elite, but you really can't go wrong with either of them. I would go for dinner--the food is much better than dim sum. For Cantonese people, dim sum is what people do just before they read their morning Chinese newspaper. Dinner is for celebrating with family and friends, so you always use the best stuff for dinner. It's also much quieter at dinner.

                1. re: raytamsgv

                  "For Cantonese people, dim sum is what people do just before they read their morning Chinese newspaper."


                  Or ... some might say dim sum really is there just to help you wash down premium heirloom tea.


              3. Pablo,

                You’re receiving top-notch, well-articulated advice from exilekiss, ipsediit, raytamsgv et al. The choice is akin to your being given $100 to spend at either one location. What’s preferable to you, a crisp, new $100 bill or two crisp, new $50’s? Either way, you’re going to receive the full $100. Virtually, a moot point.

                That said, both Elite and Sea Harbour serve exceptional dim sum selected from menus, cooked to order and delivered to your table fresh and hot. Each has certain menu options not available at the other (like the Tripe in X.O. Sauce at Sea Harbor or the Pig Ears at Elite), but with ample choices for those few not to be dourly missed. I’ve eaten dim sum numerous times at both places. I’ve eaten many dinners at Sea Harbour, but only a few at Elite. Yet, both are outstanding for either occasion.

                For me, dinnertime at both venues has focused on fresh, live seafood. The crab and fish selections I’ve enjoyed have all been sublime. I laughingly remember once being shocked with a bill for an absolutely delectable 2 ½ lb. Sea Bream for $80/lb. at Sea Harbour. It was so wonderful, however, that I graciously paid and left quite satisfied.

                If pressed for a decision, I’d probably opt for dim sum at Sea Harbor and dinner at Elite. One thing that I really look forward to at Sea Harbour is their Crab and Dry Scallop Fried Rice; IMHO, the best ever, anywhere. Often, it’s that single dish that casts the deciding vote on where to go this time. I order it every single time I go to Sea Harbour, often to go. Likewise, Elite has the most incredible BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) I’ve ever tasted.

                As for the private room for your party of 8-10, that depends on how special the occasion is. If you’re planning to have stand-up toasts, presentations or gift/award giving, then go for the private room. Else, jump right in the community pool with everyone else. Of note, Sea Harbour is notably larger with more tables for seating larger groups than Elite. This may be a point of consideration for you.

                I have never been disappointed, other than by an extended wait, at either Elite or Sea Harbour. Always, time and money well spent; full value received either way.