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Westside Dim Sum--The Palace vs. Bao

Chandavkl Sep 6, 2012 02:02 PM

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. ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Sep 6, 2012 02:08 PM

    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
      Chandavkl RE: ipsedixit Sep 6, 2012 02:09 PM

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

      1. re: Chandavkl
        ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Sep 6, 2012 02:12 PM

        "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
          Servorg RE: ipsedixit Sep 6, 2012 02:22 PM

          "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. b
      BSW6490 RE: Chandavkl Sep 6, 2012 04:21 PM

      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
        Chandavkl RE: BSW6490 Sep 6, 2012 06:40 PM

        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
          latindancer RE: BSW6490 Sep 6, 2012 10:49 PM


          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
            BSW6490 RE: latindancer Sep 7, 2012 09:49 AM

            Are you talking about Palace or Bao?

            1. re: BSW6490
              latindancer RE: BSW6490 Sep 8, 2012 08:35 AM

              <Are you talking about Palace or Bao?>

              Bao. Bleh.

              1. re: latindancer
                Thor123 RE: latindancer Sep 8, 2012 10:05 AM

                I thought it was by far the best west of downtown

                1. re: Thor123
                  latindancer RE: Thor123 Sep 8, 2012 03:39 PM

                  <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
                    Chandavkl RE: latindancer Sep 8, 2012 11:10 PM

                    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
                      Thor123 RE: Chandavkl Sep 9, 2012 09:38 AM

                      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
                        Chandavkl RE: Thor123 Sep 9, 2012 10:24 AM

                        $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
                          ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Sep 9, 2012 12:11 PM

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

                        2. re: Thor123
                          latindancer RE: Thor123 Sep 9, 2012 03:58 PM

                          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
                          latindancer RE: Chandavkl Sep 9, 2012 04:02 PM

                          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. n
              New Trial RE: Chandavkl Sep 7, 2012 02:01 AM

              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. Chandavkl RE: Chandavkl Sep 10, 2012 04:28 PM

                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.

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