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really, what is the best dim sum around?

I want one with carts and one that has great shrimp dumplings in rice paper. The more shrimp dishes with rice noodles, and veggies, the better. thanks!

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  1. There's a problem with your request. Probably the five best dim sum places (Elite, Sea Harbour, Lunasia, King Hua and Happy Harbor) do not have carts. Consequently, by the time you get to carted dim sum, you're in the second tier.

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    Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
    3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

    Happy Harbor Restaurant
    1015 Nogales St # 126, Rowland Heights, CA

    King Hua Restaurant
    2000 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

    1. Elite!
      Although it doesn't have carts, there are trays going around with lots of fresh items!

      23 Replies
      1. re: liu

        Second Elite. Used to be a fan of Sea Harbour but stopped going due to some major service issues on back to back visits. Last weekend's visit to Elite was wonderful. Try to snag some paper baked spareribs if you see them circulating. I think they're off menu and oh so good.

        For dinner, Elite is easily superior to Sea Harbour. Especially if one is jonesing for some king crab...but I digress.

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        Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
        3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

        1. re: Porthos

          Funny, I had the opposite experience. I went to Elite a few weeks ago and didn't have bad service, but the quality wasn't up to what I'd come to expect. So I went to Sea Harbour and had maybe my best dimsum meal ever. Talking to the manager, he said that they have a new menu, though it didn't look much different then their old one. Perhaps it was also because we got there at 10 and everything was fresher.

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          Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
          3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

          1. re: martyR

            When I'm pondering Sea Harbour v. Elite, it's splitting hairs-time. We've been going to Elite a lot lately, but that's because Monterey Park is closer than Rosemead relative to where we are coming from - the Westside. We have been limited to heading into SGV after 1030 at the earliest on weekends for a while because of some commitments. I know from past experience that if we aren't past the rooster at Sea Harbour by 1015, each minute beyond that time increases the line proportionately to the Richter Scale; thus, we opt for (in my eyes) an equal but different option which is Elite. But my thoughts on Sea Harbour are nothing short of excellent.

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            Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
            3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

            1. re: bulavinaka

              For dim sum, I agree, the two are probably equal but different.

              For dinner, there have been several evenings where the seafood tanks at Seafood Harbour are emptied out and the selection of live seafood minimal. For king crab, Elite requires no call ahead as they usually have in stock when in season. For Sea Harbour, you will need to call ahead to confirm and request one. If you need to cancel your reservations after ordering a king crab, it becomes problematic.

              But other than that, I agree, quality is very close. I personally give Elite the edge. More for dinner than for dim sum.

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              Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
              3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

              1. re: bulavinaka

                We shed our weekend commitments, allowing us to get on the 10 early and hit Sea Harbour as they opened for the first time in while. I have to say that I was very impressed with everything. I'd forgotten how clean the interior is, how nice the dining space, the linens, and the tea service is, and how truly good the food is.

                We ordered a fair amount of dishes - I think it was 10 - and everything was perfect. The true revelation came when the first item was presented - the basic siu mai. I bit into it, and the flavors and aromas took me away to Singapore, where I've had some amazing food experiences, including dim sum. It was how clean and fresh the pork and shrimp tasted. I haven't had this kind of feeling come over me in a while. It just sets in my mind that while Elite and Sea Harbour are both great options, and while Elite has some unique and satisfying items that no one else seems to have, Sea Harbour seems to have a strong focus on their ingredients. I never expected a simple siu mai to shake my metaphysical world.

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                Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  Hi, bulavinaka!
                  You probably know that I am a huge Elite fan, but your post has me drooling...
                  Were you at the Sea Harbour at 3939 Rosemead Blvd. in Rosemead?

                  1. re: liu

                    Hey liu,

                    I sure know you're THE Elite fan! :) I love Elite as well, and still do. Been - I don't know - maybe a few times over the past month and a half. I've been skipping Sea Harbour in Rosemead because it's about 15-20 minutes further (round-trip). Because we've had some morning commitments on the weekends, we would be hitting Sea Harbour around 1030 - by then, it's packed - I hate queues. Because they open at 10AM on weekends, there's a sudden rush of new diners that will be there for a while, and those queuing up will have to wait for a while.

                    With Elite, we'd show up around 1015 and seating is usually no wait to maybe 10 minutes (usually two to three of us). Because they open at 9AM on weekends, our arrival at 10-something is usually fortuitous for our small party.

                    Because I hadn't been to Sea Harbour in a while, maybe my absence "makes the heart grow fonder." But the nose often relates to one's memory better than one's eyes or ears - at least with me. And that first bite from the siu mai just transported me to a place in Singapore where I had some of the most amazing dim sum a few summers ago(I think it was called, "Bosses"). Bossees was definitely higher-end for Singapore (folks there hate paying for things like air-con, views, seats that go beyond shaky plastic stools :)), with a strong focus on sourcing ingredients as well as technique and presentation. You would love the teas there, but I digress...

                    I just found the dim sum today at Sea Harbour to be truly spot-on in every way. Everything tasted and smelled so good and fresh, and the kitchen staff seemed to be on a really good run.

                    I love the joie de vivre that Elite's dim sum menu has. Although Sea Harbour's is more traditional in many ways, their strength for me is the clean flavors that everything had. I will have to go back to Elite and then back to Sea Harbour to measure them up against each other. But I was just so wowed today by Sea Harbour.

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                    Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                    3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Oh, thanks, bulavinaka, for this very detailed post; indeed, I will appreciate Sea Harbour even more! How can I not go there after reading of your transcendence to a summer's day in Singapore?

                      We'll give it another try soon.

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                      Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                      3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                      1. re: liu

                        I hope I'm not giving the impression that I'm hyping Sea Harbour. Far from it - I really like Elite, but I just couldn't get past how good of an experience I had at Sea Harbour. I hope your experience will be at least half as good as mine. :)

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Not to worry, bulavinaka.

                          For years, we have been jumping from dim sum to dim sum, but we always end up "back home" at Elite. I'll not tell you how many times we have been there...I'm embarrassed, but it continues to impress us. The service is always extraordinary. This past weekend we were four, and we were four happy customers!

                          Still, we look forward to revisiting Sea Harbour.

                          1. re: liu

                            bulavinaka --
                            We visited Sea Harbour this Saturday morning for dim sum. Without the chicken, Sea Harbour, I hardly knew ye! I also think they remodeled the interior since we were there last. It seemed brighter and more cheery inside. Although it didn't quite transcend me all the way to Singapore, it dropped me quite close...close enough to walk the rest of the way! I'd call it a very close second to Elite...and a really good other option for dim sum.

                            We arrived just minutes before 11:00am and our wait was only about 10-15 minutes. We were seated ideally with our backs to a bright wall and we faced the interior.

                            The service was extremely attentive and all the dishes were served hot. We could see steam rising from our sponge cake! I thought the shrimp rice noodles were as delicate as any I have had, and the crunchy nuts in the sponge cake added great texture. While I prefer the sticky rice at Elite, I thought Sea Harbour's was good; the quarter piece of egg yolk inside had an amazing flavor. The vegetable wraps with tofu skin were good, although perhaps not as deep in flavor as those at Elite.

                            bulavinaka, I think you perfectly described the food at Sea Harbour when you said that their food "tasted and smelled so good and fresh" and then you mentioned "the clean flavors that everything had." I quite agree that each item contained distinguishable ingredients; there was no "funky paste-y fill in any of the pieces. I thought that the shrimp in all of the dishes were outstandingly delicious, clean and fresh.

                            I truly appreciate your positive post on Sea Harbour; it gave me just the push I needed to pay it another visit...and I am glad that I did! We will, for sure, return to taste the rest of the menu!

                            -----
                            Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                            3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                            1. re: liu

                              Hi liu,

                              Nice report! :) Thanks for your detailed report on Sea Harbour. Good to hear another Hound confirming that it's still great. For the "Sticky Rice" are you talking about the Nuo Mi Ji (Chicken Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaves)? If so, interesting; I thought that Sea Harbour's was just a bit better (more nuanced), not that Elite's was bad at all (it was tasty :). And I don't think anyone can top Elite's Egg Custard Tarts. :)

                              BTW, the Rooster Statues are still there - They just moved them to the back parking lot. :) (And yah, the last time we went, I also noticed that Sea Harbour did a remodel.)

                              -----
                              Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                              3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                              1. re: exilekiss

                                Whew! I was worried about those roosters!
                                (We easily found parking on a side street in order to avoid their rather cramped parking lot, so we didn't see the relocated statues.)

                                I'm not sure if we ordered chicken sticky rice...were there other kinds of sticky rice on the menu? Ours had little bits of what seemed to be pork and the quartered egg yolk. Elite's version has an abundance of little bits of pork, sometimes a shrimp, some tiny sausage slices and always a generous piece of abalone. I just find it full of flavor and texture. I also think Elite's sticky rice has a more pronounced flavor from the lotus leaf. This is curious because Elite uses a paper sheet between the leaf and the rice, while Sea Harbour's dish wraps the sticky rice right up against the leaf; I would think that the paper separation would mellow the lotus leaf flavor, but it doesn't.

                                I'm with you, exilekiss, that Elite has wonderful egg custard tarts. I also think their other baked sweets are extraordinary: specifically, their white almond snow fluffs (I can't remember what they call them) and their house sugar cake.

                                -----
                                Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                                3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                                1. re: liu

                                  I'm still trying to figure what happened to those pair of roosters that used to be at the Sea Harbour II restaurant that was on Valley Blvd (right next to the Hawaii Supermarket shopping center).

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Hi ipsedixit,

                                    Wow, I had no idea there was a Sea Harbour II restaurant. Was there not enough business and they were forced to close down?

                                    -----
                                    Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                                    3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                              2. re: liu

                                Not enough to take you all the way to Singapore? Then you got there too late! :) Glad it measured up to your tastes. I don't want to change your pecking order relative to Elite, but I'm glad that Sea Harbour gets the nod from you!

                                -----
                                Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                                3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                            2. re: bulavinaka

                              I'm so glad to read these posts as I too face the same quandry. Sea Harbour is really special to me and I go w/no more than 4 of us. When there's a group, we love the variety so it's Elite.

                              -----
                              Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                              3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                          2. re: bulavinaka

                            Hi bulavinaka,

                            Yokatta! :) I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Sea Harbour (and that it's still great). It's my favorite Dim Sum restaurant in So Cal (with Elite being 2nd (but still great :)). Your thoughts on the most basic, classic Siu Mai is exactly why my Dim Sum Hounds and I give the edge to Sea Harbour over Elite. It's not that Elite's is bad, it's just something about many of the dishes at Sea Harbour that just hit that perfect synergy with my palate. :)

                            But nothing tops the Egg Custard Tarts at Elite (except the former Macau Street, sigh).

                            1. re: exilekiss

                              Hi exilekiss, it's been a while since I last hit Sea Harbour, and I was just amazed at how good the standard dim sum items are there.

                              I think Elite and Sea Harbour are just so fantastic, both with different strengths. I'm starting to liken each of them to wine regions. Sea Harbour is like France is to wines - the standard. Elite is more like California or even Australia - bolder, broader and more selections. Which is better? I think it's hard to say objectively. Luckily, Sea Harbour doesn't reflect France's wine prices. :)

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                Sea Harbour is the way dim sum is supposed to be.

                                Elite is the way dim sum would be if elBulli outsourced its kitchen staff.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Well said. Still waiting for your 99s. :)

                            2. re: bulavinaka

                              Hey Bulavinaka! Your comment made think of this twist...regarding Elite...maybe "abscence makes the har gow fonder!"

                2. As Chandavkl noted, the best dim sum around are menu-driven joints -- e.g. Elite, Sea Harbour, Lunasia, etc.

                  Now, a better question is why you want to go to a cart place? Is it for the food, or the ambiance that a cart-style restaurant provides? If the former, then ditch the carts and go menu. If the latter, then try 888 or Ocean Star.

                  Really, if you already know what you want -- shrimp and more shrimp -- then why bother with carts where you are left to whims and the happenstance of the dim sum gods as when a cart-lady with shrimp dishes will roll by? Why not just go to a menu place where you can control your own destiny and order as many shrimp items as your (poor) small intestine can possibly hold in one dim sum outing.

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                  Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                  3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    ipsedixit -- Thoughtful post, as I have come to expect from you by now...and always funny!

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      My problem with menu dim sum is the pacing. The dishes all come within a relatively short period of time with the unfortunate effect that there usually are way too many dishes at the same time. Next time I'll have to remember to order a few dishes at a time, and create my own pacing.

                      1. re: PeterL

                        The pacing was a problem for us as well, and we resolved that by keeping a menu and ordering a few things at a time as well. The first time we went to Mission 291, we must have ordered over a dozen dishes, and they brought out almost all of them rapid-fire. Aside from the table being so crowded, by the time we got a third of the way through, the other dishes were already getting cold. Never again.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Agreed.

                          I actually think it's easier to pace with menu-driven restaurants. You order items as you are finishing what's on the table. Ergo, easy to pace.

                          With carts, you are literally at the whims of the cart ladies. You've still got a table full of half eaten plates of lotus sticky rice, turnip cakes, spare ribs, gai lan, duck, etc., but that one lady rolls on by shouting out "shu mai, shu mai" ... you wonder ... do you get an order now while you're still at about 80% capacity, or do you chance it and wait for the next round knowing full well that she may never come around again ... decisions, decisions ... can really make pacing quite the culinary challenge and conundrum.

                          With menus, you are the driver.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            This post is yet another example of why "ipsedixit" is such an excellent guide to dim sum, among other great executions of Chinese food. Ipse is such a brilliant source of useful information that really helps you make good decisions.

                        2. re: PeterL

                          yep, you need to pace the meal yourself by ordering a few items at a time.

                          another vote for elite!

                      2. Sea Harbour, best dim sum IMO. No Carts.

                        If you still absolutely fixated by the need to have carts. 888 Seafood in Rosemead is probably the best option cartwise.

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                        Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
                        3939 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770, USA

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: Sgee

                          Not only has menu dim sum supplanted cart dim sum for quality, but more recently many of the cart dim sum places have gome to a value pricing strategy (e.g., Ocean Star, New Capital, Blue Ocean, East Gourmet), widening further the gap between menu and cart dim sum.

                          -----
                          New Capital
                          8823 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            Can you elaborate on "value pricing strategy"?

                            1. re: ns1

                              Generally, almost everything under $2 a plate, even lower prices on weekdays than weekends. You undoubtedly get your money's worth, but you also pay the price in terms of a lower quality and fewer frills.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                I'll stick to Sea Harbour/Elite, thanks for the follow-up.

                            2. re: Chandavkl

                              Ya know, I really lament the loss of quality, high-end cart-style dim sum.

                              There's something special with the din that accompanies carts and cart-ladies during dim sum that's almost never experienced at any other time, or type of restaurant.

                              Nothing wrong with dim sum ordered off the menu, but having those ladies wheel around carts (dare I say the precursor to those now ubiquitous "food trucks") shouting out "shu mai" and "har gow" and picking up little tin dishes, with metal pliers, plopping it on your table, then stamping your tab, is just sort of cool in its own very unique way.

                              It's sort of like peanut throwing at baseball games. Sure, I can still get peanuts at the concession stand, but damn it (!), I want it tossed from 20 seats, and 2 rows away, with a behind-the-back flick of the wrist, and then having the experience of placing my faith in baseball fans -- nay, really my faith in humanity -- that the money I pass down to the stranger next to me will make it to the peanut vendor ...

                              [sigh]

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                That is why I suggested Empress Pavillion. It is always mobbed and is a gigantic room. All the food is hot and fresh because it turns over quickly.

                                1. re: orythedog

                                  No offense, but Empress Pavilion isn't even the best cart dim sum in Chinatown much less LA. 888 or Empress Harbor in the SGV are vastly superior.

                                  -----
                                  Empress Pavilion Restaurant
                                  988 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                            3. When it comes to dim sum, my heart (and stomach) belong to Capitol Seafood:
                              755 West Garvey Avenue
                              Monterey Park, CA 91754-2707
                              (626) 282-3318
                              PS - They serve from carts laden with mysterious delicacies...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jcorngold

                                No carts = just another restaurant. It's the unpredictability and the interaction with all these different, mostly very jolly women that makes cart service such a pleasure. We've had menu dim sum at Mission 261, and it was quite nice, but not noticeably better or fresher than Empress Harbor or 888 - and they had no stewed tripe! I think stewed tripe should be a statutory requirement for having a dim sum place, just as no pizza parlor should call itself that if it had no anchovies on the menu.

                                We MUST try Capitol...

                                -----
                                Mission 261 Restaurant
                                261 S Mission Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                1. re: jcorngold

                                  We used to love Capital at Atlantic and Garvey in the 99 Ranch center. The many carts are fun and the restaurant is pretty with a great busy vibe. Service is very good. Also, because they have so many different items, there are often "surprises" to be tasted...things we have never tried before. Capital can be a dim sum adventure!

                                  However, in the past year or two, we have found it to be VERY inconsistent. Sometimes it is still really good, but sometimes the dishes are served not hot; this means that they are sitting out too long or poorly stored on the carts. Luke-warm dim sum is an insult to the food!

                                  We keep going back every now and then, hoping that it will return to what it once was. Elite, on the other hand, delivers consistently week after week and we continue to return almost every weekend.