Sea Harbour vs. Elite
Here's the deal. After reading about which dim sum is the best in LA, I decided to go with what LA Weekly ranked as #1 Sea Harbour and #2 Elite.
I first went to Elite. Had the shumai, har gow and bbq pork bun, shark fin dumplings and vegetable dumplings. Also had the egg tart
The servers were amazingly rude and literally threw things on our table. Also had them charge me tea for my 3 year old. What?!
Then I went to Sea Harbour and ordered the same items. The servers were really polite and helpful. However, the place is more expensive than Elite.
Verdict: Elite is hands-down better than Sea Harbour in terms of food freshness and taste. It isn't even a contest. I hate this fact since the folks at Elite are such ****. The egg tart and har gow were stand outs. Craving them already.
Question to my fellow Chowhounders: Does the food quality vary drastically at these places and I encountered the 1 standard deviation for Sea Harbour?
I have to second this as my last two recent visits to Sea Harbour have been really disappointing. I don't care much about service because I grew up in a Cantonese family, and I'm used to noise and brusqueness. But the food was really subpar. Like, below Chinatown standards. I've seen other reports here of a downhill slide. Sad.
Elite hasn't disappointed me yet, especially with those plates of fried chicken knuckles, which was like the best thing that ever happened to me when I first discovered them. Sea Harbour's were soggy.
I will have to give Xing Hua a try!
I like King Hua better than either (I have been a few times to Sea Harbour and many times to Elite). King Hua has a way better selection than Elite and Elite's steamed dumplings are not good. There is no line at King Hua if you get there on a weekend when it opens (its later, around 10 am I believe). The spicy pig ear (comes around in a plate), baked pork buns (with bits of shrimp in them) and lettuce and fish ball congee at King Hua are standouts for me. I also like their yummy fried chicken knees/knuckles with little green onions and their egg rolls and bean curd rolls are nice as well.
My caviat in regards to my thoughts are that I haven't been to dim sum for a few months. I've never received service that I'd consider rude or abusive at either place - been to each several times but more to Sea Harbour by far.
Relative to what would be considered warm cordial restaurant service in non-Chinese places,
neither has it. The service is always efficient and both are masters at anticipating diners' wants and needs - more so at Elite. Otherwise, the servers are in the shadows, preferring to be out of the picture, as opposed to desiring to be painted into it.
With my preference now known, I appreciate both for different reasons. IMHO, both do certain dishes and certain things better. I've found that Sea Harbour shines when it comes to freshness. Shrimp and pork are the bread and butter of dim sum, and if those are off in the slightest, I immediately loose interest. I've never lost interest at Sea Harbour. I also like dining room - it feels lighter and brighter. Elite's feels compressive and disjointed.
I perceive Elite as the SGV's innovator, the imagineer. Whether they created their more unique dishes or picked up the idea from Asia or elsewhere is academic. Elite offers somewhat unique dishes that become part of their colorful portfolio that other dim sum houses envy. And those dim sum houses will soon copy and paste their versions, but because Elite holds a pretty high standard, most imitations are flawed.
While I've never had reason to question freshness at Sea Harbour, I felt I've been duped at Elite. I have been served a few preliminary dishes - dim sum standards (har gau, siu mai), that were obviously past their prime - probably either remnants from a previous day or pre-steamed earlier for the first-in customers. So I now never go to Elite early, and this issue no longer is.
Tea is charged per person at all dim sum restaurants
Service is generally not a strong point at most dimsum places, if you think they're rude here, you'll be shocked when you actually go to Asia.
I generally prefer sea Harbor, but there was one time that they gave us a dish that had sauce that was clearly not fresh (as in spoiled). They didn't even bother to take it off the bill. Stopped going as often after that incident.
Funny, because a few months ago, someone was complaining about tea and rudeness at Sea Harbour.
I actually prefer Elite for the service and for dinner but think the quality is about the same for both for dim sum. Lines are shorter at Elite for dim sum (1 hour vs 2 hours) so it makes it a no brainer for me.
Interesting. It was crazy at Elite and half empty when I went to Sea Harbour. I thought I was in the wrong place and had to confirm online that I went to the right restaurant.
I'm definitely not an expert on dim sum, but I can say that there was more shrimp in the shumai and the rice wrapping on the har gow was amazing.
Thanks for the opinion. I think I'm confirming in my head that these places have a huge variance in customer service. Maybe because I'm a non-Catonese speaker.