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Now that Empress Pavilion is gone, where do I go?

jdwdeville Dec 28, 2013 10:03 AM

Totally willing to accept the flames here, because I really did like Empress Pavilion. And I do prefer cart-style dim sum. So, in the vacuum left by Empress Pavilion calling it quits, would someone help me find my new favorite cart-style dim sum? I'd prefer Chinatown but am aware of the general consensus of the area on this board as a "Chow desert", so am willing to drive for the best.

Also, one more Chinese question as my knowledge in this are is severely limited- we've been to Chengdu Taste and Yunnan Garden recently, with the slight edge being given to Yunnan Garden due to their galaxy of items at the cold table (and lack of a soul-crushing wait). Would one of the more Chinese-knowledgable hounds mind recommending some places to try next? Would also love to try some of the other great cuisines of China but that might risk expanding this thread past it's usefulness.
Thank you!

  1. wienermobile Dec 28, 2013 10:13 AM

    If you want to stay in Chinatown Ocean Seafood has carts with hot fresh dim sum on weekends... but it is well worth the extra 15 minute drive up the 10 fwy to Sea Harbour in Rosemead, my favorite. Not carts but easy to order from an english picture menu. They open at 10am on weekends and if you go at opening you can avoid all the lines and the wait. After 11am the wait can be 1 hour or longer some days but it's still worth it! Enjoy.

    14 Replies
    1. re: wienermobile
      jdwdeville Dec 28, 2013 10:20 AM

      Thanks! I've actually been to Sea Harbour before, but it was kind of a mess. Hit traffic heading out there and so had a huge line, then was out of literally pretty much everything i tried to order. It was the experience that spurred my presence for the carts!

      1. re: jdwdeville
        crocodileguy Dec 28, 2013 02:04 PM

        I've always been partial to 888 Seafood, on Valley Blvd. between San Gabriel and Walnut Grove. Carts galore, and I've never had a bad or gross meal there; sometimes it's even exceptional.

        Pretty wide variety of items, too, and I like that I see something new going around almost every visit.

        This place also has a pretty unique (and delicious) take on pineapple buns.

        1. re: crocodileguy
          Will Owen Dec 28, 2013 04:23 PM

          Second the nom for 888. The late Papa took the family + visitors to Empress Harbor for years until we urged him to try 888. He liked the food and was thrilled by the prices (he was generous but, shall we say, frugal). I've had a so-so dish or two, but never a bad one and frequently one I wanted to adopt and take home. When I practically threw myself in front of the stewed-tripe cart its driver was trying to steer past me, and not only begged for some but said Yes to the hot chile oil, she gave me the biggest grin imaginable. Sometimes if your crowd has no Asian component the innards carts tend to whiz past, or avoid your corner altogether, so you need to be assertive if you like that stuff.

          1. re: Will Owen
            crocodileguy Dec 28, 2013 11:30 PM

            I LOVE their stewed tripe. Was unaware they paired it with the chili oil (never offered to me), so I now have something new to try!

            1. re: crocodileguy
              jdwdeville Dec 29, 2013 10:35 AM

              Thanks for the 888 rec- we are trying it next weekend.

              1. re: jdwdeville
                jessejames Dec 30, 2013 04:04 PM

                went sunday to 888 for first time. Excellent. No soup dumplings but a whole pig cart...this is a good recommendation Crocodile.

                1. re: jessejames
                  suvro Dec 30, 2013 06:25 PM

                  We were at 888 on Sunday also - almost 1 hour wait - but we had a great time for our group of 11! Some carts I had to flag down from across the hall!

                  1. re: suvro
                    jessejames Dec 30, 2013 06:33 PM

                    Rock on! What was your best?

                    1. re: jessejames
                      crocodileguy Dec 30, 2013 08:49 PM

                      I have a few favorites there:

                      My family is very fond of the "crystal shrimp", which are deep-fried shrimp wontons you dip in mayonnaise. Yes, my family is Midwestern.

                      There is a cart that goes around with little glass-lidded pots perched atop little gel fuel dishes; I've seen two kinds, both very good, but the favorite (and the one often out by the time we see the cart) is a mushroom medley with rice cakes in a savory sauce. The lady who works this cart knows us all by face at this point.

                      I love the tripe. Nuff said.

                      Pineapple buns are a favorite, too, and this place has a unique take on them.

                      We like the jellyfish as well, especially with the vinegar chili sauce.

                      Last time we were there, we tried a new item (at least new for us; I had not seen it before): warm almond milk inside a puff pastry-topped bowl.

                      Sticky rice, shiu mai, chee cheong fun, congee, etc. are all very good and sometimes exceptional. Har gao is hit-or-miss depending on how early during the dining service you get there (they clearly rush 'em toward the end) and how long it's been since they left the kitchen on the cart. IMO, the har gao range from "decent" to "thick, gummy mess," and certainly never noteworthy.

                      Items that we don't order (because they're better elsewhere, IMO): egg tarts, daikon (turnip) cake, char siu bao and XLB.

                      The XLBs are the only item I'd consider "bad" here; they're particularly small, doughy, tough and very low on filling. If I want XLB, though, I go to an XLB place; not a Hong Kong-style dim sum house.

                      1. re: crocodileguy
                        jessejames Dec 30, 2013 09:02 PM

                        Afraid of tripe and mayo. But there's a ton for all folks here. We liked the hargao and seafood numbers. Agree on pineapple bun. Delish

            2. re: Will Owen
              yizhang Jan 2, 2014 11:38 AM

              I used to go to 888 many years ago but stopped going because I was fed up by the poor treatment if you only have 2 in your party. Most tables at the restaurant can accomodate 2-4 people and they will seat pratically every party of 4 before going down the list for 2. I understand more people = more revenue but it's not cool when I've been waiting an hour and all the groups of 4 who came in 45 minutes later are seated first. I don't know if this is still the practice but I don't care to find out because there are better options.

              My favorite newish restaurant (and the farthest west in the SGV, so it's the most convenient) is Atlantic Seafood in Atlantic Times Square. The decor is gorgeous, food is dirt cheap (I think $1.88 any item on weekends and even cheaper on weekdays), and the quality is excellent. They have carts and it's always crowded and festive (=constant fresh food).

              Atlantic Seafood & Dim Sum
              500 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 200
              Monterey Park, CA 91754
              (626) 872-0388

              1. re: yizhang
                Moivy Jan 11, 2014 12:35 AM

                Good to hear that it is still open. I heard from a friend that went there but it was closed. Their dim sum was different and my mom didn't like it.. I like Empress Harbor. Capital and Ocean Star used to be good. But NBC is mom's favorite. Good reviews about Elite but haven't tried it yet.

        2. re: wienermobile
          jesstifer Dec 30, 2013 02:22 PM

          Given the OP's requests...carts, Chinatown preferred, I second Ocean Seafood. It is definitely hit and miss depending on turnover, but when you don't have time or desire to risk the drive to SGV (15 minutes to Sea Harbour is the best-case scenario) it's IMHO the best and most reliable in Chinatown. Followed by CBS and Golden Dragon, in that order.

          1. re: jesstifer
            Moivy Dec 30, 2013 10:14 PM

            I liked Empress Pavilion too. Been to many banquets there and dim sum a couple of times.I think Golden Dragon got better with some new cooks from Empress Pavilion, but that's just a guess. CBS is pretty good and if you go late you can get some dim sum in their little deli area. In the SGV, I like Empress Harbour, Top Island and East Gourmet.

        3. ipsedixit Dec 28, 2013 10:53 AM

          Why not go to Chynna in Chinatown? No carts, but right now, I'd prefer it to most dim sum joints in DTLA.

          Not sure where you've already been aside from Chengdu and Yunnan Garden, but you might look at Omar's, Beijing Pie House, Fortune No. 1, or Gui Lin.

          In fact, if you go to my last recommendation, I especially recommend you try the mala sour spicy beef noodles, or any of the rice noodles. In fact, now that I think about it, you should absolutely fucking go to Gui Lin as your next Chinese food detour. Go. Now.

          10 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit
            barryc Dec 29, 2013 10:02 PM

            the spicy/sour rice noodle is almost like a hot & sour pho. i rather like it.

            i detect less enthusiasm for what i'd describe as holes in the wall compared to places that pass for upscale when it comes to chinese food, in which case guilin noodle is an appropriate suggestion .

            1. re: barryc
              JThur01 Dec 30, 2013 01:03 PM

              i detect less enthusiasm for what i'd describe as holes in the wall compared to places that pass for upscale when it comes to chinese food
              I'm noticing this creeping in too. Folks, do you want the best food or a "nice" setting? You can pick one. I choose best food.

              1. re: JThur01
                jdwdeville Dec 30, 2013 02:28 PM

                Frankly, I don't know where I might have given that vibe off- I'm a "quality over polish" kind of guy all the way.

                1. re: jdwdeville
                  JThur01 Dec 30, 2013 02:43 PM

                  jdwedville, oh, not you. I don't think you gave off that vibe at all. I think barryc is referring to a general theme here at CH, which is what I was picking up on.

                  1. re: jdwdeville
                    barryc Dec 30, 2013 04:02 PM

                    well, you did admit to liking empress pavilion... which to me suggests priorities above quality of the food. if it's primarily location, ok.

                    1. re: barryc
                      jdwdeville Dec 31, 2013 09:00 AM

                      Hey, occasionally the meal is about more elements than just the food, I'll readily admit. Empress was 5 minutes from my house…
                      But, then again, so is Sapp Coffee Shop. I literally just made myself hungry.

                      1. re: jdwdeville
                        linus Dec 31, 2013 09:26 AM

                        pardon me for being geographically challenged, but i'm having trouble picturing a place that's five minutes from both empress pavilion and sapp coffee shop.
                        that is, unless you wear a cape and have a big red 's' on your chest.

                        1. re: linus
                          jessejames Dec 31, 2013 09:31 AM

                          they are close, right up sunset, i don't doubt jd - he's got a great location for thai food and china town.

                          1. re: jessejames
                            linus Dec 31, 2013 09:38 AM

                            oh, i know where they both are, hence my question.

                            i guess if it were certain times of day, or all the lights were with you...

                            the batcycle would be a plus.

                            1. re: linus
                              jdwdeville Jan 2, 2014 09:50 AM

                              Say you live near the 2, and could drop down Riverside to Chinatown one way, via Elysian park. You could also pop over the back way to Thai town in about the same amount of time...

            2. TonyC Dec 28, 2013 12:51 PM

              If you enjoy the spicy: Hunan's Mao, Spicy City.


              The only Guizhou province specific cuisine in LA: revamped Xu Garden, Industry.

              Sorta unique Henan lamb dishes: Liang's in Monterey Park

              Sorta upscale Taiwanese: Bebe Fusion

              Anyone sending you to Chinatown for Chinese food should basically be shot. It's like going to Little Italy for Italian food. The cold table should really seen as a marketing schtick than culinary acumen. Anything from Chengdu Taste's apps section blows Yunnan Garden's cold table away.

              2 Replies
              1. re: TonyC
                jdwdeville Dec 28, 2013 01:13 PM

                I did sample several of the cold apps at Chengdu- you're right, they are quite good. I do love the "3 items for $X.99" type cold tables, however, just so I can take a bunch a stuff home for snacking all night on… pig's ears better than popcorn, etc.

                I've been excited to try some Hunan lately, it seems every place we've been so far has been Sichuan.

                1. re: TonyC
                  JThur01 Dec 28, 2013 02:53 PM

                  Why no love for the cold table? ...it's not even carbs :-) Like the OP, I like the occasional cold table combo as I too enjoy the variety.

                  Great suggestions.

                  I'll second Hunan Mao and Spicy City and BeBe is a great place too.

                  Uighur: Omar's
                  Shaanxi: Shaanxi Gourmet
                  Shandong (despite the name): Beijing Duck House
                  Shanghai: Shanghai Bamboo House

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