After my business stuff was over yesterday morning, I finally had the opportunity to try some of the SGV dim sum, and went to 888 based on recs from the board.
We arrived at 1pm and were seated immediately. The carts came quickly and we flagged them down to sample 8 dishes. Shrimp har gow, shrimp dumplings with scallions, pork shu mai, pork wrapped in bean curd, shrimp rice noodles, bbq baked pork buns, deep fried pork buns in mochi-esque wrapper, and shrimp stuffed mushrooms. On average the food was better, more flavorful, and more skillfully executed than VIP (our usual haunt) and even Empress Pavilion in downtown. We particularly liked the flavor and quality of the various shrimp dishes, although the mushrooms used seemed to be large buttons, which by themselves are not super flavorful. The two pork buns (not the shu mai) were a bit on the overly sweet side. But overall, a very nice lunch, and for $20 before tip, a great bargain to boot.
Too bad its a traffic congested 40 miles or so from where we live. I can also see parking being a bit of a nightmare during peak times. The lot was almost full when we arrived, although the restaurant was not.
I guess I was hoping I'd be blown away by the clear night and day difference between 888 and the places I've been to, including as mentioned, VIP, Empress, and one in San Fran whose name I don't recall - it's in a fancy hotel and the prices reflect it. But as my s.o. pointed out, a chowie who gets out there is accustomed to better than average food, and it takes a really stellar experience to blow us away.
A question of etiquette - would it be bad manners to ask for refills of the sriracha/hot mustard? They always bring so little...
Thanks again for the rec!!!
I'm glad you enjoyed it! 888 is my all-time fave for dim sum, and I've been to plenty of places. Service in dim sum environments generally is pretty lousy, and although 888 isn't excellent in service, it's pretty good compared to some other places. And the food is the best. I always come back to 888 after visiting other places.
It is definitely acceptable to ask for more of the hot sauce and mustard. I always ask for more, and sometimes I even ask twice (my husband loves mustard!).
I think there's a wide difference of opinion on the board and alot of variation depending on what dim sum items you like but I really prefer Ocean Star over 888 for the cart experience.
I think to get blown away you'd have to go to one of the nicer dim sum places like Sea Harbour, Mission 261, New Concept or Capitol Seafood. That's where you'd see a night/day difference IMO. 888 is very comparable to the places you mention liking.
Came across this review in my search and felt compelled to report a bad experience at Mission 261. After all the positive reviews I'd read about the place, I was very disappointed. When were there, the dim sum was mundane and tasteless and the service was worse than virtually any dim sum place we've been. We went about noon on a weekend. I hate to give up on a place based on one visit, but with the number of choices out there, I can't see going back.
I wish I had the same experience. I haven't returned since I posted my review almost a year ago (July 06). Here's a copy and paste of it and the actual Best Dim-Sum in the SGV Valley thread from last year...
I've been eating @ NBC in Monterey Park for years and only after hearing about it here, I've been frequenting 888 Seafood. I've been there now 5-6 times and over all, have been very satisfied with the quality of the food but have always been a little suspect of the service. Today, my suspicions were fully realized.
My girlfriend and I went there today later then anticipated (12:30). We usually like to get in by 11:30 and avoid the mad rush. Therefore, we had about a 20-30 minute wait. I can handle that. We got seated and the nightmare began. For the first time ever, I was treated like an outsider. I'm not Asian but I’ve never felt unwelcomed to such establishments until today. We were ignored; carts rolled right by and would only stop when you practically yelled out for them. The waiter was noticeably rude and neglectful and it took 3 request and 30 minutes to just get water. Then when we asked for hot tea and he delivered me a coke, when I declined it, he looked at me like I was being difficult and rolled his eyes. To boot, the carts were scarce and simply not available in our area. I asked for the bill and to validate my concerns, our bill was only $14.00. I've NEVER walked out (with 2 people) not spending a dime less then $25-$30. That was a testament for the lack of food. Sadly we left still hungry and extremely unwanted. Regardless of previous experiences, I WILL NEVER GIVE SUCH AN ESTABLISHMENT MORE OF MY BUSINESS AND MY HARD EARNED MONEY. I would much rather go somewhere where service and equitable treatment of customers are more common practice.
The 888 Seafood establishment should be ashamed of themselves. We will never return!
Eaten there many times, never had the slightest out-of-the-ordinary problem. I'm not "asian" either but don't generally get messed with--in fact sometimes I notice slightly better/more attentive service that I attributed to possible "cultural" factors at play.
When I read about fairly minor one-off experiences like this and subsequent boycotts, I usually think it's an overreaction.
Gotta agree with this. We're not Asian either, and my experience at 888 (or Empress or CBS or any number of places) is that the staff seems to go out of their way to accomodate us. Even in its busiest periods, I haven't had trouble flagging down a cart in those places. Maybe it was just an off day?
We've been to 888 many times with both family and friends, some Asian and some not, and while there are some differences in which carts pause or don't pause, depending on whether there are Asians at the table, we've never had any trouble getting them to stop if we wanted something. Having a Cantonese speaker at the table *IS* an advantage, of course, but we've never left feeling either hungry or neglected no matter who was with us.
re: Will Owen
You can immeasurably improve your dim sum experience by learning the names of the most common dishes, and maybe a dozen phrases.
To the person who had the race issues: do like the Chinese do when being treated shabbily in a restaurant (which happens to Chinese people too, just you won't be able to understand it) -- get louder and more imperious.
Do you have ____?
Yau mo ____ aa?
(possible responses: yau, meaning "have" and mo, meaning "don't have")
Give me ____.
Bei ngaw ____.
one / two / three / four / five / six (items)
yutt gaw / loong gaw / sam gaw / sei gaw / mm gaw / look gaw
Mm-goy, mai dan.
(You can just hold the card up in the air.)
I want / don't want.
Ngaw soong / ngaw mm soong
Give me ____ glasses of water.
Bei ngaw ____ bway soy. (don't use "gaw" with the number)
Please bring us more hot water.
Ching bei ngaw gaang faai soy.
(This is for tea, but everyone just flips the lid on the teapot when it needs refilled.)
re: Das Ubergeek
You're phrases are pretty good but far too polite! I normally omit the "Give me" portion of the phrase. Thus, it would be (translated):
"three dishes of siu mai", "five glasses of ice water", "more tea"
Other than that, I would recommend two minor changes to the list above:
1. Bill, please.
You don't even need to say it. Just raise your hand in the air, and move your hand like you're signing an autograph. Or you could wave your bill in the air. Make sure one of the guys with ties sees you.
2. I want / don't want
yew / mm yew
This is probably easier to say and is also more correct.
You're absolutely right about being loud and assertive. Chinese patrons get ignored, too. When this happens to me, I wave my hand in their face and talk very loudly and assertively. I even chase waiters, managers, and cart pushers. This is part of Cantonese culture (but not necessarily other Chinese groups). Cantonese people would applaud you for doing this on behalf of yourself and your guests.
I agree. I don't think it's rude to be a little loud at dim sum restaurants. It's hard to get heard over everyone else talking. I've had times where I had to chase the turnip cake cart around the whole restaurant with my little stamp card.
I don't think it's discrimination, since I'm Chinese. I think it's more a part of being seated in the "wrong spots." In some restaurants, the carts follow a specific path out of the kitchen, around the restaurant, and then back into the kitchen for a refill. Getting a table at the beginning of this path is the best. Being stuck at the end is what leads me to chasing carts around.
Now that you guys are helping with the tutorial, it does remind me: I HAVE seen people way too quiet and unassertive get passed over at dim sum. Most of the time, a cart will stop at your table or a server or manager will stop by if you signal to them, but occassionally, you have to get a little loud and expressive. What might be considered rude in an American restaurant will usually fly at dim sum. Sometimes when a cart comes by, I will even ask that the lids on each item be lifted so I can see each one and select what I want. I had a friend complain that she didn't know what was in each steamer tray so she didn't know what to order and ended up walking out hungry, I told her, "Just ask to look."