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Help need a dim sum restaurant rec

Hi Hounders-

I'm planning on taking my 3 year old this weekend to Monterey Park for some great dim sum. I heard great things about Elite restaurant but it would only be just the 2 of us, so not sure if it appropriate for us to get the full breadth of experience as we can't really order much ( and I'm sure doggie bags are faux pas.) I'm looking for a place where the menu is in english or has pictures and price range is about $2 per dish. Also definitely helpful, if the place serves the food quick, but despite my criteria, I don't want recs to skimp out on quality. Is it perhaps better that I take her to a take out place that has seating? Ambiance is not so important to me as long as it's relatively clean looking and the food must be good, great would even better. Would venture to Alhambra and SGV as well.

Thanks in advance for all your help!

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  1. Hi yellohbella,

    You have a challenging set of requirements here :) -

    * "I'm looking for a place where the menu is in english or has pictures"
    * "price range is about $2 per dish"
    * "the place serves the food quick"
    * "but despite my criteria, I don't want recs to skimp out on quality." / "the food must be good, great would even better."
    * "it's relatively clean looking"
    * "Would venture to Alhambra and SGV as well."

    A few things if I may:

    1. It *is* OK to box up your leftovers, definitely. :)
    2. Are you willing to have some dishes be above $2 per dish? If not, that limits your Dim Sum experience to only a handful of places where Price is the order of the day, not Quality.

    If you're willing to budge on Price for the sake of getting Quality (great Dim Sum), then I'd recommend:

    * Sea Harbour - They have a Picture Menu of every single dish they're serving (very helpful :), has a very clean setting, and serves my favorite Dim Sum in LA (arguably some of the best in So Cal).

    It doesn't meet your criteria of every dish being $2 or less, and the food isn't instant quick (no Carts), but that's because they bring it out fresh when you order it (not sitting on a Cart for ~15 - 20 minutes as it makes the rounds).

    Enjoy~

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

    5 Replies
    1. re: exilekiss

      Hi exilekiss-

      Thanks so much for the rec. I can definitely budge on price. Can you give me an idea of average price per dish is at Sea Harbour? And with an antsy, impatient toddler-how long does it typically take for food to come out? Also any idea of parking there?

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

      1. re: yellohbella

        I have an antsy, impatient toddler and I've never had trouble at a dim sum restaurant. The food is typically prepped and is simply steamed or fried to order. You won't get stuff in the order you expect, because as it's done it comes out to your table.

        There will also be waiters coming around with trays of specialities. They're typically more expensive than the menu items but if you have a screaming child perhaps $4 or $5 for your sanity is OK.

        As far as price, I've never managed to spend more than $20 a head in either Elite or Sea Harbour, and I'm a big guy.

        Sea Harbour has a private lot. It shouldn't be hard to park there, and you can always park on the street.

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

        1. re: yellohbella

          Hi yelohbella,

          In general, we usually don't pay attention to the dim sum prices, as by our "typical LA-based" standards, even the better dim sum places are a big-time steal when compared to any relative comparitive equivalent of other cuisines. At the same time, I would say we average about $14-16 per eater (if we stick with just dim sum) including the tea service charge, less tip. Our last visit to Sea Harbour a couple of months back was about $60 less tip for 3 2/3 eaters (the 2/3 is our 8-year old).

          The food isn't instant gratification-quick like the cart places, but it is still fast by any other standard. I would have to guess that they have the more popular types of dim sum items queued up and ready to go, if not just about cooked (things like har gao, siu mai) since just about every table will have at least one order. To keep your little one busy, one of the first things that will probably catch his or her eye are the display tanks. This usually keeps them busy for at least a few minutes. Sitting at a table that is close by will offer constant distraction (both good and bad). Since it will be just the two of you, I don't see why you couldn't bring a few toys/books for your child as well. We always found it useful to sit at a booth as well, since this acts as a partial barrier to the kids' potential escape routes. I honestly don't recal if Sea Harbour has booths, but they do have tables adjacent to walls and blinds, which in essence act almost like a booth for your purposes.

          Sea Harbour has a generous parking lot that wraps around three sides of the restaurant, with the majority of spots behind it. As long as you get there relatively early, you shouldn't have parking issues. And even if you don't get there early, turnover is high enough to where a spot will open for you.

          If you're planning on going here, I'd recommend going early so you can cruise into a parking spot and be seated in a spot that you prefer, given what they will offer a party of two.

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

          1. re: yellohbella

            Hi yellohbella,

            You're in good hands with all these veteran Hounds answering your questions. :)

            I hope you enjoy your visit!

            1. re: exilekiss

              How thoughtful and kind you always are, exilekiss!
              YOUR post was very focused and informative!

        2. With a 3 year old in tow, I'd go to Full House in Arcadia and watch the carts roll by. Is said 3 year old a fan of Chinese food? The quality at Full House is not at the level of the other suggestions, but it's certainly good.

          1. Hello, yellohbella!
            I feel your hesitation...and perhaps a little anxiety, but both Elite and Sea Harbour are very friendly places. Most tables are multi-generational and there are always lots of children and grandchildren...and probably great-grandchildren! There is enough activity in the room to keep anyone "interested," and food is served quickly.

            Not only is it "...OK to box up your leftovers" as exilekiss mentioned, it is expected, anticipated and much the way of the dim sum experience. Along with a full belly and a smile,a plastic bag with several styrofoam boxes inside is part of the exiting uniform.

            Bring a cooler! Keep in mind that some dim sum items do not travel as well as others. Rice noodle items are not as good the next day, but sticky rice, congee and tofu wraps are just as good or better in your own home! Elite makes wonderful sweets, such as their snow buns, but those are best consumed at the table. However, their house sugar cake and egg custard tarts will be delicious after a few seconds in the microwave.

            Order a little more than you think you can eat so that you will have some variety, and then double your pleasure by enjoying the leftovers at home!

            Elite does have a menu with pictures, and I believe Sea Harbour does, also...just ask.

            1. "and I'm sure doggie bags are faux pas."

              I was at Sea Harbour yesterday and every other table got to-go boxes. They have a huge stack of them to the right of the bar. Be assured you will not be at all conspicuous. I wish we'd ordered more, as we've already polished off the baked pork buns and pineapple buns we took with us.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peripatetic

                Hi, Peripatetic!
                That huge bowl of congee never frightens me. I love it the next morning!

              2. Elite opens 10:00am on the weekends. Get there when they open and it won't be hectic. They have high chairs.
                $2.25 is the lowewst price dim sum dishes.
                They have picture menus to order off.
                $1.00/person tea set up charge-kids too.
                Don't forget to get the Snow Buns for dessert-your kid will love it.
                I always get stuff to go, it's no probem and doggie bags are fine. It's a Chinese restaurant.
                Elite is the best in Monterey Park- maybe in the SGV.

                1. Doggie bags may be faux pas, but takeout boxes are not. If you have leftovers, ask for boxes. Chinese culture generally frowns on wasting food. Many older people even greet one another by asking, "Have you already eaten?" even though it might be 9 PM.

                  1. Thanks so much to all for the wealth of helpful information. Your responses have done wonders to quell the anxiety of dining out with my toddler. It's down to Elite or Seafood Harbour. Either way, I have a hunch it'll be wonderful. Gratitude all around.

                    1. Hi yellohbella,

                      As you can tell, the vast majority of LA Hounds chiming in are very much partial to Sea Harbour and Elite. Both are great choices, both are at the top of the dim sum food chain in the general LA area, including the much vaunted San Gabriel Valley, and both are where you order off of a menu, as opposed to the more traditional cart-type places. As you seem to already know, places like Elite offer a higher tier of quality and selection that is hard to match. The price differential is nominal in my eyes. And so when one looks at the quality/price ratio, these two places deserve the props. I also think these two places might be more suitable for your needs, as they are smaller, the percentage of smaller tables is higher, and these places tend to be far less frenetic - this might be a good thing for your kid, as kids in general seem to feed off of this type of energy.

                      As you know, Elite is in Monterey Park, which is at the west end of the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). Sea Harbour is a little further into SGV by a handful of exits off the 10 freeway if you're heading from the general direction of Downtown LA - it's on Rosemead Blvd in Rosemead.

                      To compare these two places from a stylistic approach, I'd turn to a quote that has stuck in my mind for months. It's from one of the Hounds that I have the utmost respect for, particularly when it comes to Chinese cuisine - Ipsedixit:

                      >>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.<<

                      You will find a strong creative force from both places - Elite being the more avant-garde of the two. Sea Harbour gets a lot of style points from me. Effervescent maitre d' dressed in a nice suit, crisp white linens, pristine display tanks, nice interior (don't mind the giant roosters in the parking lot) and very professional staff. The menu is solid with dim sum standards, as well as some more unique items that you otherwise might have to go to Asia to get. While I personally don't pick up this type of vibe from Elite, it does have a more casual feel to it, the waiters are very efficient are good at anticipating the various tables' needs, and the number of dishes that have a more creative flair are numerous - many of which have already been suggested by posters. Both places have very good tea service. Personally, I think your little one might find the sweeter offerings at Elite to be more palatable, assuming that he or she gravitates toward those things - order these first if that's the case. Sea Harbour doesn't offer as much in that category, but their banana coconut fritters are outstanding.

                      Your little one should be fine. I'm guessing that this one is your first; thus all the concern. When my wife was pregnant with our first one - our son - I received a bit of advice from a co-worker that has stuck with me to this day. To paraphrase, he told me that when you have your first baby, every little detail is like a life&death decision. Every little gadget must be had to ensure the highest level of comfort and safety. When going out, not only must baby have a pacifier in mouth, a responsible parent carries at least a couple of sanitized pacifiers in zip-lock bags as back-up for when baby drops the first one on the ground, etc., etc., etc.

                      With the second baby onward, the anxiety levels drop. None of those gimmicky towlette warmers and what-not are needed, a lot of the decisions concerning the little ones can wait, and if baby drops the pacifier on the ground, wipe it off on your pant leg and pop it back into baby's mouth. :)