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Sep 6, 2012 02:02 PM

Westside Dim Sum--The Palace vs. Bao

With the turnover in management and staff at Bao I figure I needed to go back and check out the updated fare there, and then compare it to The Palace which also re-tooled earlier this year. Consequently I stopped by Bao for dinner (!!!) on Tuesday and then The Palace for lunch today. In my opinion, there is no clear winner. Each does some items extremely well, while other items are very mediocre. The one highlight dish was the crispy fish cake at Bao, which was, well, delightfully crispy, and easily supplanted my favorite noncrispy fish cakes at Red Egg in Manhattan Chinatown and D T Dim Sum in San Leandro. On the other hand, the egg tofu, while not awful, was not particularly good given that this is a tough dish to get wrong. Deep fried taro with chicken was an interesting variation of this standard. Chicken siu mai was OK though chicken chunks were too large. Over at The Palace, props go to the shrimp rice noodle roll with the regular rice flour on one side but a deep fried sesame crust on the other. Beef cheung fun and shrimp ball with sticky rice were also very good. However the baked bbq pork bun was bad, as were a couple of the other dishes. XLB was meh and chicken potstickers were so so..

In final comparison, The Palace has carts and Bao doesn't. The Palace is a little cheaper (avg. $4.50 per item vs. $5 at Bao). Both have good with the bad. Even if they charged San Gabriel Valley prices you wouldn't see me at either one, and at double the price neither is a destination location. However, if you are on the Westside, and can't make the trek to the SGV, both Bao and The Palace are perfectly sane choices. Plus extra props to Bao for the best chicken dim sum options anywhere. But it is sad to say that while I am fond of saying Chinese food keeps evolving and getting better, I wish it was 1997 when we had our choice of Royal Star or VIP Harbor Seafood for dim sum in WLA.

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  1. Thanks for the writeup.

    I think next up is a comparison between Chynna and Peking Tavern (when it opens) for the most "perfectly sane choice" for haute dim sum in Chinatown/DTLA.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      But if you're downtown you have Yum Cha Cafe as your ace in the hole.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        "haute dim sum"

        Yum Cha Cafe is like the wife you go home to that you've been married to for 20 years.

        Chynna and Peking Tavern are two ladies you can choose to have drinks with at the hotel bar when traveling on business.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          "Yum Cha Cafe is like the wife you go home to that you've been married to for 20 years."

          If my wife of 26 years finds out about her my sum is going to be dimmed, and damn fast...

    2. IMO Bao is much better than VIP ever was. The crispy crab balls are out of this world. juicy pork dumpling, shrimp dumpling and hainan chicken are all winners. The pork bao is just ok, but the service and full bar make it a winner.

      12 Replies
      1. re: BSW6490

        VIP Harbor was very good when it opened. It was a branch of a Chinese restaurant in San Gabriel, and in fact was better than the mothership. However somewhere along the line it was sold to a new operator and went way downhill. The Palace is actually an upgrade from the last incarnation of VIP Harbor Seafood from about 3 years ago.

        1. re: BSW6490


          I ordered a fair amount, for takeout, of all the items you've described a few days ago. I thought they were all lousy. I ended throwing most of it out.

          1. re: latindancer

            Are you talking about Palace or Bao?

            1. re: BSW6490

              <Are you talking about Palace or Bao?>

              Bao. Bleh.

              1. re: latindancer

                I thought it was by far the best west of downtown

                1. re: Thor123

                  <I thought it was by far the best west of downtown>

                  Well, to each his/her own and if that's the best west of downtown then I'll continue to put 100s of miles on my car to drive for excellent dim sum.
                  Everything I ordered (and plenty of it) was rubbery and overly fishy tasting.
                  Everything looked very lovely ... but was below mediocre int taste.
                  This place is certainly convenient but not at all worth the effort.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    Well, everybody's probably right. Bao could be the best dim sum west of downtown, but if you don't adjust your standards to take location into account, it's certainly not worth going to, particularly given the pricing premium.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      I think that is not right. Its not expensive, given the setting service and bar. Some of the dishes a very good.

                      1. re: Thor123

                        $5 a plate for dim sum is expensive. Might be the going rate for the neighborhood, but as Ipsedixit pointed out in the other recent Westside dim sum thread, his mom would slap him silly for paying that much.

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          I just checked with my mom. She would disown me, not just slap me (maybe both actually).

                        2. re: Thor123

                          Maybe it's just me but 'the setting service and bar' are usually not a consideration when I'm looking for excellent dim sum. I'd rather forego the expensive setting and great bar for taste and great food.
                          The bag I took the stuff out in was, most likely, part of the expensive overhead you're eluding to. It was a very colorful and expensive replacement for a brown paper bag stapled together to make sure those delicacies made it home intact.
                          I'd love to know about the dishes you've experienced that were 'very good'....?

                        3. re: Chandavkl

                          To be honest with you....I was so excited to finally try a location for westside dim sum, given some of the reports here, that I didn't pay attention to the price(s).
                          I think if I found a mind-blowing restaurant for it on the west side I would pay just about anything for it...

            2. Of course Bao also offers a number of items at "Happy Hour" prices of $3.95 and "Happy Hour" runs all day if you eat at the bar. Lunch Monday in the main dining room was also at "Happy Hour" prices.

              1. Interesting factoid. The Palace seems to be affiliated with LYL Garden of Monterey Park, which does not serve dim sum and is probably known for economical lunch specials.