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do you guys know a better dim sum place than Elite in SGV?

  • m

I'm sure you do. Help me out.

Food quality being the main priority

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      1. re: Mento

        I have a family member who doesn't like seafood. Would Sea Harbor be an issue or do they have enought nonseafood items that it wouldn't matter?

        1. re: bringiton

          For dim sum or for dinner? If it's for dim sum, it should be an issue.

          For dinner, what's the place of going to a Canto place at all, if you don't like seafood? (I don't think Sea Harbour is more seafood oriented than any other Canto place)

          1. re: ilysla

            i hope you meant "if it's for dim sum, it SHOULDN'T be an issue"

              1. re: ilysla

                If I go for lunch on a Saturday with a party of 3-4, how long of a wait am I looking at if I arrive at Noon? Would 11 a.m. help? 1 p.m.?

                1. re: bringiton

                  Between 1 to 1.5 hours.

                  At any of those times.

                  Especially *this* weekend.

                  1. re: bringiton

                    I don't go to dim sum that often anymore, but I assume Sundays are the "big" day. On a Sunday, arriving anytime after 10:30AM at most dim sum places will result in a wait (probably 30+ min?).

                    Not sure about Saturday, but I wouldn't hold my breath....

                    1. re: ilysla

                      Not probably, DEFINITELY 30+ minutes (or as Ipse says, 1+ hours). In this is especially true for this weekend. Likely true about Saturday too. This is not just for Sea Harbour, but pretty much every big Dim Sum place in the SGV. A couple years ago, before it changed names to Five Star Seafood, my family waited an hour to get a table at New Capital. Earlier this year on a Saturday I was at Atlantic Times Square and walked past a couple complaining about the 1 hour wait at Atlantic Seafood (though Tasty Garden, with no dim sum, was not much better at a 45 min wait).

                      1PM is probably better for wait times but if I'm looking for small to no wait times, I always opt for earlier.

      2. Sea Harbour. Maybe Lunasia.

          1. Sea Harbour is still king.

            King Hua (yes, I'm aware of the irony) is also making a bid for throne these days.

            3 Replies
            1. re: J.L.

              King Hua will not ascend to the throne.

              Why? Feng Shui.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Yeah, that location is cursed. But hey, it's close to Fosselman's for that lychee milkshake after all that dim summery...

              1. Hope the OP doesn't mind me piggy-backing. Does SN1 do a good job w/ dim sum? I'm asking b/c a group of friends were talking about meeting up for dim sum in April. One of them is driving a considerable distance (likely w/ young child in tow), so I want to make it worth their time....

                8 Replies
                1. re: ilysla

                  Good, not great. Not in the same class as Sea Harbour, Elite, King Hua or Lunasia.

                  1. re: ilysla

                    IMO SN1 has surpassed Elite these days in quality and variety for dim sum. Even TonyC is on board these days.

                    Check the end of below thread for update:


                    1. re: Porthos

                      I agree with you, Porthos.

                      Shanghai No. 1 has the best food (my opinion).
                      Close in second place is King Hua, Elite and Sea Harbour.

                      I find Lunasia lacking...just blander than the rest, but the space is very nice.

                      This said, each of them has its own flair; each does something better than the others. Overall, however, I find Shanghai No. 1 to be on top...and no one makes better egg tartlets.

                      1. re: liu

                        I like King Hua because they don't put cilantro in their dishes. That being said, the steamed dumpling skins at King Hua are slightly inferior to Elite. They do fried dishes and baked dishes quite well at King Hua. Plus it's close to Costco for the after dim sum run.

                        1. re: lakeshow318

                          King Hua is also pretty easy on getting a seat as well. Of all the places mentioned, it is the easiest in our experience. Typically, Elite has a 30-60 minute estimated wait; Sea Harbour is about the same. SN1 varied for us and Lunasia was about 20-40 minutes. Of course, wait times will vary like crazy, depending on time one shows up. Still, King Hua has always been very easy. Even on Mother's Day, we only had a 15-minute wait at noon.

                    2. re: ilysla

                      SN1 does some things well (po tarts), but overall, they aren't as good as sea harbour, king hua, etc

                    3. I've been to Elite a few times and King Hua once, Not enough to say one is better than the other, but I like King Hua a lot and would definitely come back.

                      Next time I'd do some more research as to what i'd order. Maybe even take some notes. The menu is vast.

                      FWIW - King Hua was highly recommended to me by Hiro Urasawa. Yeah, I know, he's Japanese, but it's not like he doesn't know food.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: foodiemahoodie

                        Actually if you talk with him a bit more, you'll find that Hiro-san is quite the Chowhound...

                        1. re: foodiemahoodie

                          I like King Hua a lot. I like the room and service and food are always excellent.

                          King Hua is second by just a hair to Shanghai No. 1 and this is because I think the food at SN1 is just a tad better. SN1's menu is huge and always interesting, but the space is a little gaudy.

                          1. re: liu

                            Thinking of trying King Hua. I've got simple tastes -- I don't want the roe that atops the shui mai at Elite. I've looked at the online menu at King Hua -- only pan-fried dish I saw was vegetable dumplings. Do they have potstickers? Rice noodles with shrimp or scallop? What are prices like? Can I go solo and bring back leftovers in a box?

                            1. re: nosh

                              Prices are reasonable at King Hua. They have the classic chang fen (rice noodles) with shrimp. And I'm pretty sure they had potstickers when I last went.

                              The golden rule of dim sum (regardless of venue): Go with lots of people. The less people in your party, the more expensive it can get per person.

                              Definitely you can take the leftovers to go. Happy chowing!

                              1. re: J.L.

                                "Definitely you can take the leftovers to go."
                                _ _ _ _

                                In our experience, some dim sum pieces travel better than others. Much of it is okay, but some of the translucent dumpling wrappers turn hard; even a microwave can not restore them. The sweet salted egg balls turn to mush in a microwave. The tofu skin wraps reheat perfectly.

                                1. re: liu

                                  In my experience, the bamboo steamers work best for heating up leftover dimsum. Keep the boil gentle and steady for a longer time, and in many cases it was as though they weren't actually reheated.

                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                    This is good to know.
                                    Thanks, Tripeler!

                                    1. re: liu

                                      that's kinda true but you can still tell the difference with the best seafood.

                                      and yes, prices are reasonable at king hua - i guess how i think of it is that no, the dishes aren't as complicated nor refined as say sea harbor, but they're also not as expensive. i don't mind going to king hua. haven't been in a number of months though. has their business picked up? it's a lot harder to get a table at lunasia nowadays.

                                2. re: J.L.

                                  i recall once when i brought friends who were new to dim sum and we were at large table with a lazy susan. one person unaccustomed to the idea grabbed an entire plate off the lazy susan and put it in front of themselves. i had to stop and explain the concept of family style.

                                  i personally don't like having leftovers at dim sum. to me, it's like getting sushi to go.

                                  1. re: barryc


                                    grabbed the entire plate.

                                    maybe they knew but just simply really really really hungry.

                                3. re: nosh

                                  I was there a week ago. They have potstickers and they also had a filled fried bread dough that was a surprise star!

                                  I think they also have a pan fried pork bun.

                                  So go! Try! I'm a simple gal myself and their har gows are fresh and sweet, the rice wrapper so delicate. And their sui mai, some of the juiciest and most flavorful my husband has had. And I take him all over : )

                                  Plus, as many have said, you can get your leftovers to go and then "accidentally" walk across the street to Fosselman's. The macapuno ice cream rocks.

                                  1. re: happybaker

                                    Fried bread dough... hope you had some Native Americans in your party, hoping to chow down on some Frybread...

                            2. i'm also partial to sea harbor, but the consensus of this board top tier places seem to be elite, sea harbour (it's so weird to remember that it used to be a farrell's) lunasia & king hua.

                              24 Replies
                              1. re: barryc

                                "(it's so weird to remember that it used to be a farrell's)"

                                My childhood memories.. sigh

                                1. re: blimpbinge

                                  Dang! My husband used to work at Farrells! Can do the cheer!

                                  We've been to Lunasia and King Hua, clearly, clearly, I need to get him to Sea Harbour!

                                2. re: barryc

                                  Wasn't it (the building now housing Sea Harbour) another Chinese place prior to Sea Harbour. I remember having frog eggs (or something like that) sprinkled over bok choi for dinner....

                                  1. re: ilysla

                                    No, Sea Harbour which opened in 2002 is the first Chinese restaurant at that location. As noted above it used to be a Farrell's ice cream parlor. The Elite and King Hua locations were previously home to a string of Chinese restaurants.

                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                      I certainly trust your spreadsheet more than I do my memory! I guess it must've been Sea Harbour, then, b/c I'm almost 100% sure it was the old Farrell's spot.

                                      I vaguely recall the restaurant b/f Elite. It was back when the supermarket was Ding Hao. Might've been the first place I had pot stickers. =)

                                      1. re: ilysla

                                        It was farrels, then dixieland (which was still kind of the same), then the next thing i remember is that it became a dimsum restaurant.

                                        1. re: blimpbinge

                                          Yes, Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor (had many birthday parties there). Dai Ho Market was the space that Elite took over in Monterey Park

                                  2. re: barryc

                                    Aside from the odd plug by Clarissa Wei (who has a reputation for sometimes recommending rather odd choices), when did Lunasia slip into the broad Chowhound consensus? I don't think it has.

                                    My meta impression from reading about Lunasia over the years is that they charge higher prices, and they value style over substance. That doesn't read "Chowhound consensus" to me.

                                    I have been reading more and more conversations lately about SN1's Cantonese style dim sum, although this confuses me a bit, coming from a Shanghainese restaurant. I may need to give it a shot-- but the problem is, if I'm going to schlep out to SGV at 10am on a Saturday, I want what I know will be good, and more often than not that means I end up with macau pork, snow buns and egg tarts at Elite.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      It'll be at least as good if not better. Except the sticky rice in lotus leaves. Skip that at SN1.

                                      As one who oft cites the original manifesto, I think you owe it to yourself to expand beyond the board standard Elite and Sea Harbour recs. Road less traveled remember? ;-)

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        Other than the egg tarts and maybe the SJBs, none of the dishes I had there were memorable enough to go back (last time was about 6 months ago).

                                        Last time I went there:
                                        siu mai - oversized, sloppy, oily, flavorless
                                        ja lerng - rice flour sheet was too thick and the you ja gwai was already soggy by the time it got to my table
                                        stone pot fried rice - incredibly bland, no flavor
                                        xlb - generic

                                        The rest of the items were pretty standard, and judging from my friends n relatives all avoiding the place now, probably haven't improved much.

                                        As for lunasia, i don't think they've ever been top anything other than cwei praising them and their ads constantly bombarding the chinese radio and tv stations. Overpriced underperformer imo.

                                        1. re: blimpbinge

                                          i think they're a step up from the cart places. kinda like king hua, they're not necessarily as good as elite or SH, but they're also priced accordingly. i can spend about the same amount as i would at a cart place, maybe have one fewer item and still leave feeling pretty good about it. their siu mai & ha gao are to me noticeably larger and fresher tasting than their counterparts found at a cart place. but you're not going to find a scallop shark fin tamago dumpling like the one's at sea harbor which are excellent IMO. FWIW, i have found lunasia's to be pretty packed on weekends, and not with gwei-lo's. YMMV.

                                          1. re: barryc

                                            I haven't gone there in awhile though, so I have no idea how they are recently. That was just my experience awhile back.

                                            1. re: barryc

                                              Try the scallop shark fin dumpling at SN1. I found the broth more refined and flavorful than Sea Harbour's version.

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                shark fin dumpling ?????

                                                they still serving shark fin ? or is it the faux shit ????

                                                thanks man.

                                            2. re: blimpbinge

                                              That's your opinion. You've been once in 6 months, I've been twice in 2 months. I'm voting with my own wallet and driving a bit further for it. I've already provided a list where I feel SN1 is superior:

                                              -Egg Tarts
                                              -Steamed beancurd with Chinese herbs
                                              -Scallop dumplings
                                              -Giant dumplings in soup (sharkfin dumplings)
                                              -Panfried buns. Far superior to any version in SGV
                                              -XLB. Superior to Elite and Sea Harbour easy. Far better than Dean Sin World or MLV. Recent reports on EaterLA rank it much higher than "generic".

                                              As good as Elite and Sea Harbour

                                              -har gao
                                              -shiu mai. I though the pork is less fatty and more flavorful than Elite or Sea Harbour

                                              -Stick rice in lotus leaves

                                              -lions head soup
                                              -sauteed loofa or pea leaves

                                              Your friends and relatives may avoid it but it's packed every time I've been. Not stupid packed like Sea Harbour but 30-45min waits by Cantonese and Mandarin speaking parties.

                                              Bonus: they take reservations for dim sum.

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                I've been there numerous times actually, but stopped going since about 6 months ago when I felt that quality wasn't the same. Maybe I'll try again since they take reservations.

                                                1. re: Porthos

                                                  Wow, dude, relax.

                                                  You like SN1, we get it. Not everyone is going to like what you like.

                                                  Why not let people dissent without making it a personal affront?

                                                  Dim sum has its personal quirks just like with pizza, sushi, burgers, etc. People will like what they like for no good or objective reason - they will be partial a certain place simply because it makes them feel happy eating there.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Why not let people dissent without making it a personal affront
                                                    Completely agree Ipse. Which is why I didn't respond to Blimpe's first dissenting reply to me upthread. When s/he made it a point to respond to me again with 4 examples that s/he found lacking (completely different from my 6-8 visits) I responded with several examples where I thought SN1 excelled and countered each point made in said dissenting post. Like you said, just a simple trade of dissenting opinion. No need to step in and tell someone to chill out Ipse. :)

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      well they were my experiences.. just like our disagreement about teochew soup bases..

                                                      can't always agree right?

                                                      1. re: blimpbinge

                                                        How boring would that be? ;-)

                                                        Suffice it to say, I'm not daft enough (yet) to recommend a place with sloppy siu mai as the dark horse to unseat Sea Harbour and Elite for the LA dim sum crown.

                                                  2. re: Porthos

                                                    I've only been to SN1 once (today), and I felt rather let down. It wasn't bad, but it really wasn't great. On the plus side, no wait at 11:30 AM. Also, the rice rolls and wrappers for the har gow had nice "q". On the minus side, the shrimp in the various dishes were all a bit mealy, not snappy. The shrimp inside the rice rolls were also lightly breaded, which I don't normally see, and which made the dish a little heavier.

                                                    I couldn't find scallop dumplings on the menu, only the steamed rice roll w/scallops, which were more rice rolls w/lots of tofu and a few pieces of scallops.

                                                    The XLB, siu mai, and giant dumpling in soup were decent. I prefer thinner skin for my XLB, so I did like it better than DSW's. The pork filling in the siu mai was more finely ground and uniform than I prefer, but that's personal taste. The giant dumpling was replete with seafood. The special taro cakes were also pretty good.

                                                    The steamed beancurd with Chinese herbs were probably the highlight of the meal. Probably had the best shrimp of all the dishes too.



                                                    We over-ordered so didn't have room to try the egg tarts, but as lauded as they are here, I didn't see any being ordered or eaten while I was there.

                                                    Unfortunately, nothing I had today would make me want to go back over going to Sea Harbour, Elite, or King Hua.

                                                    Oh, I almost forgot--apparently I've already begun to block it from my memory--but one of the waitstaff was standing around the dining room picking her nose. *shudder*

                                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                                      Appreciate you giving it a shot!

                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                        That's a no-no in the food service industry.

                                              2. re: barryc

                                                i remember that Farrell's.

                                                And I think i went a few months before it closed.

                                              3. I love 888 Seafood in San Gabriel, on Valley Blvd, east of San Gabriel Blvd on the south side of Valley. The food is fresh, it's on carts wheeled around. Love the Chinese broccoli, any of the steamed rice dumplings. Don't forget to get the pineapple bun for dessert...soooo good. The taro and also the eggplant with shrimp are standouts!

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: jennwadd

                                                  "[W]heeled around" on a cart is usually incompatible w/ "fresh" (IMHO).

                                                    1. re: ilysla

                                                      I hear you! If anything though, they sometimes have a problem keeping them stocked, and I've had to ask the waiter for stuff I know they have...

                                                      1. re: jennwadd

                                                        But then I end up w/ my heart broken if they "run out" of stuff that I want. So no carts for me! ;)

                                                    2. re: jennwadd

                                                      888 is one of two, er, cart driven places i have patronized in the last ten years. it might have been someone on CH mentioning it, but my understanding is that some of their offerings are seasonal, which is unusual. ocean star and 888 are my choices when someone in the group NEEDS to watch carts go by (the pictures on the menu just don't seem to do it for them). but it's a truer dim sum experience IMO; you don't go to eat as much as to socialize. ordering the occasional dish as it goes by merely justifies your keeping your table.

                                                      1. re: barryc

                                                        The issue I have with carts is that depending on where you sit, it can be really fresh, or you can be fighting for 30-min-old scraps.

                                                        I usually end up grabbing the ticket and running to the area where the carts come out of and just grabbing them myself.

                                                        Or worse, I get there too late and they have already stopped baking/steaming certain items and there will be no more in the day. (which also happens at menu only places, but less often).

                                                        Then I ask myself why I ever bother playing the "gotta get there early and hope they seat me near the kitchen" lottery and go somewhere without carts. More fresh that way.

                                                        You're right though, many of my (older) relatives like to go and just chat or read newspaper while eating dimsum.

                                                        1. re: blimpbinge

                                                          my understanding is that it was actually about having tea together (yum cha) and doing the bot-paw busybody gossip.thing and it eventually evolved into a tapas-like kind of experience.

                                                          if i go i always aim for around 11 so people get there by 11:30 chinese time. if i don't see what i want i typically flag someone down and ask for it to help guarantee relative freshness. if the group is primarily gwei-lo & new to the experience, i think starting with carts is better, they get to see AND smell things as they go by. and since thing come usually 4 in an order (or they can be cut accordingly), 4 in a group is a good critical mass.to try as many things as possible.

                                                          1. re: barryc

                                                            If it's a noob generally I will take them to a menu joint and do all the ordering. LOL

                                                            1. re: ns1

                                                              sometimes i do that, but only when i suspect that they'll all ask for beef chow fun or curry or something like that.

                                                    3. Sea Harbour and Elite are in the same range, give or take.

                                                      1. I like sea harbor more than elite.

                                                        i can't wait to try SN1 though to see what the hype is all about.

                                                        18 Replies
                                                        1. re: JMan604

                                                          In this context, hype would more appropriately apply to Sea Harbour don't you think?

                                                          1. re: Porthos

                                                            i thought Sea harbor was the premier joint to go to.

                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                              "i thought Sea harbor was the premier joint to go to."
                                                              _ _ _

                                                              I do not think there is a "premier joint" anymore regarding THE dim sum place. There have been lots of changes over the past couple of years and now there are many choices for good dim sum. As ipsedixit just pointed out, now with so many good choices, it is a matter of personal preferences.
                                                              One time I feel like enjoying the space at King Hua and another time I will chase the egg tarts at Shanghai No. 1. No single place rules on everything.

                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                I am by no means a dim sum expert but those chinese turnip hashbrowns at SN1 keep me coming back. Same would apply to that coconut turnip spackle at Elite.

                                                                1. re: liu

                                                                  Some ultra wealthy resident in SGV really needs to bring a top HK chef (ie Lei etc etc) over and setup a new place. There is obviously demand. I'm willing to pay Hakkasan prices (hopefully less) if that's what it takes...

                                                                  Happens every time I return from HK, how LA joints pale in comparison. Had Elite a few weeks back, just thought everything was subpar. Swearing off dim sum for the next few months until my cravings get the better of me.

                                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                                      Hahaha, that was about the same duration for me too the last time!

                                                                    2. re: Sgee

                                                                      Just got back from HK last October... I'm still dreaming of the food there.

                                                                      1. re: Sgee

                                                                        It's not just talent, but also sourcing the ingredients.

                                                                        And not sure the demand is what one may think it is.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          In the SGV itself, I think there's probably very little demand at all, actually.

                                                                          I think demand for something like this might be much higher on the westside....

                                                                          1. re: ilysla

                                                                            Problem with the westside is that anglos here, like me, view dim sum as a bargain brunch/lunch. I don't want to spend elevated prices. I don't want roe on top of my shui mai. I want some shrimp in rice noodle, potstickers crispy, some simple shui mai, a tasty boa with bbq pork (prefer golden-baked to steamed), some egg rolls, and to get chili oil and ginger to accent it.

                                                                            I miss the old place on Wilshire at 30th -- no place has made much off a success since there. I've done the former VIP, now Palace -- it was ok, but it really peeves me to pay for parking and there is scarce street parking around, particularly now with the new Rockenwagner across Barrington.

                                                                            1. re: nosh

                                                                              Quote: "Problem with the westside is that anglos here, like me, view dim sum as a bargain brunch/lunch."

                                                                              Honest question: you don't think the old-time Taiwanese people in the SGV are thinking the same thing? ;) The newer influx of (very rich) immigrants from the mainland may change that, but my impression is that there isn't the critical mass necessary to do that yet.

                                                                              I think a lot of people from that same group (wealthy people from the mainland) are moving to the westside, for whatever reason, and they + the same people who are pay $ for, say, Huckleberry, Literati (I find this a wee bit overpriced for the quality and [in]consistency), and ROC probably won't bat an eye at paying top dollar for *really* good Canto/HK food (esp, and this is the important part, if the marketing is done well).

                                                                              JMO, of course.

                                                                              1. re: ilysla

                                                                                I'd love to see a Sea Harbour on the Westide in addition to Seafood Village and the Ho, Dai Ho, that is.

                                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                                  Some like Sea Harbour would be lovely in the westside. =)

                                                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                                                    How about we trade a Sea Harbour for a Bucato?

                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                      I'd do it, or Flores, or even Spago, for that matter. :)

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        Kind of like a 1031 exchange if you will.

                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                          Haven't been to Bucato yet! Have they changed the no-reservation policy and made the portions bigger? $ must be conserved nowadays, you know.... ;)

                                                                                          We're keeping Flores here! The SGV can have Spago (I don't think I'd find it all that interesting w/ the revamped menu and d├ęcor).

                                                                  1. I like New Capital in Rowland.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: uunngghh

                                                                        I like Capital Seafood in Monterey Park on Garvey at Atlantic -- for carts.

                                                                        That parking lot (with 99 Ranch) is a mess, but street parking is available in that area.

                                                                      2. Why? Sea Harbour is on that same level, but whether it's "better" is open to discussion. Is there something wrong with Elite?

                                                                        1. I'm going to hit Elite - Sea Harbour soon. Any other special nearby places to visit after/before?

                                                                          Bakeries, Asian malls, snack shops, etc in the vicinity..

                                                                          1. I get the feeling that of all the people on CH in the U.S. I'm the only one that found Sea Harbour to be pretty 'meh' I went there about 4 times, once when it first opened(first week) cumulating to the last time about 2 years ago when my brother(NYC) forced me to drive him there as per reviews. I always found it to taste fresh and have some delicate flavors but if I had to give it a numeric value from 1-10 with HK ranging from 5-10 and Yank Sing in San Francisco being a 8-9(3 years ago) then I'd give Sea Harbour a 6. It's certainly better than most places in Los Angeles but it might be worse than any place I tried in Vancouver and worse than the reputation it and SGV has.

                                                                            As far as what I had that was better or on par imo in Los Angeles, the only place that comes to mind is Ocean Star but obviously still below(maybe a 5) I guess what I'm saying is that I feel that Sea Harbour is the best of the limited good dimsum we have available( I don't want to say the 'best of the worst' as that sounds pretty insulting).

                                                                            As far as someone mentioning that a wealthy person in SGV should bring a top rated chef from HK to open such place here, there was actually a place that had some chatter on CH before I joined. I'm pretty sure it was called 'The Kitchen' and it proudly advertised that it had a famous chef from HK(mother and grandmother recognized the chef). I tried scouring street view to find the exact cross streets but I failed. They made it such a big deal that all the cooking from this chef was done on the dining room floor for people to watch. It ended up closing for obvious reasons, chef asked for half the business and owner declined.

                                                                            When we used to eat at this place, we asked if they had any other locations and they mentioned in Millbrae. The funny part is when they ended up closing and we went to the location in Millbrae, they denied ever having a restaurant in SGV. Methinks they didn't want to admit shame.

                                                                            59 Replies
                                                                            1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                              Well, nothing in the US compares to the best places in Hong Kong, and there's still a gap between the San Gabriel Valley and the better places in Canada, so if that's your yardstick I can seen your characterization of Sea Harbour as meh. However, for those of us stuck here in Los Angeles, Sea Harbour is as good as it gets. (Most Hounds wouldn't be caught dead in Ocean Star--they'd rather go to Sea Harbour, Elite, Lunasia or King Hua. Maybe even Mission 261 or Happy Harbor.) As far as The Kitchen goes, it lasted all of 3 years down here, closing in 2009 (the Millbrae branch is still going strong). It didn't really stand out at all among the other SGV restaurants, plus the diners didn't share the chef's vision of what a Chinese restaurant should look like.

                                                                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                I would rather be caught dead at Ocean Star, fully castrated, cut-open from forehead to crotch than alive at Mission 261 in vigorous health, fully clothed in Versace's finest, with some Hermes footwear, and a bagful of black truffles and a sack of matsutake.

                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                  I have a soft spot for Mission 261. That's where my cameo in the General Tso movie was filmed. The producers paid for lunch.

                                                                              2. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                Don't know if I'm reading your post correctly, but I cannot fathom how someone would compare Sea Harbour to Ocean Star....

                                                                                I remember The Kitchen. I enjoyed it (I was quite young, though). Think it was a bit ahead of its time. It was at Valley and Garfield a few doors down from The Hat. The waitress tried to stiff us once there, stating we hadn't paid for our dinner. Even chased us out of the restaurant screaming at us. We screamed back that we had and then my father went into the restaurant to give her a piece of his mind. And we never went back after that.

                                                                                The place that used to be there before The Kitchen was SWAMPED w/ people back in the day. I think it was place I first had shrimp.... (Dave, do you recall the name?)

                                                                                1. re: ilysla

                                                                                  The Kitchen was preceded by NYC Jumbo, which itself succeeded Jumbo Seafood.

                                                                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                    Yes! Jumbo Seafood. I remember how terrified I was as a kid of the shrimp. ;)

                                                                                  2. re: ilysla

                                                                                    I wasn't comparing Sea Harbour to Ocean Star at all as I had given it a lower numeric value, though admittingly my numbers were a bit off. Again giving my experience at Yank Sing before a 9 or so, I'd give Sea harbour maybe a 7 and Ocean Star a 5.

                                                                                    I also ate at The Kitchen early on in my SGV experience so my opinion of it may be inflated due to my previous comparisons to Chinese food having taken place in the Chinese restaurant wasteland of San Diego.

                                                                                    1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                      I have never been impressed with Yank Sing.

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        Yank Sing has some of the best dim sum within San Francisco's city limits. But it also has some very ordinary stuff. Throw in their price point and I'll take the even more expensive Hakkasan over them any day.

                                                                                        1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                          Did you know Hakkasan NYC has a secret menu?

                                                                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                            Part of the reason I may of have liked Yank Sing so much is I immediately wrote it off as a Gweilo place due to the location and the obvious ethnicity of most of the customer's and was taken aback at finding excellent dim sum in a location that I wouldn't associate with such. I was fortunate to not have tried the ordinary stuff as I only went their once due to their price.

                                                                                            I still remember to this day the table next to us with 1 man having a power lunch with a client and when their bill came with limited items ordered, I overheard it being $200.

                                                                                        2. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                          I've noticed repeated negative San Diego references - driving, restaurants - in your posts. Obviously it was either some time ago or you didn't spend much time on Kearny Mesa, particularly Convoy Avenue. Is the Chinese restaurant scene in San Diego like the SGV? Well no, but what is? However, it's hardly a wasteland and it sure as heck beats many other cities (and even the Westside). At least a seed is germinating.

                                                                                          1. re: JThur01

                                                                                            My beloved hometown of San Diego may beat the Westside (a rather low bar), but sadly even I admit that its Chinese food scene is not great. Cantonese food in SD has been stagnant for about a decade since China Max and Pearl opened (and both of them only slightly above their competitors). There's some growing Sichuan and Taiwanese influence, but it all really pales in comparison to even Irvine, which has rapidly improved its Chinese food scene in the past 10 years. I would eat at the Capital branch in the Irvine Spectrum over the many family meals I've had at Emerald or Golden City. Of course, first I'd check to see if my schedule is free enough to go to Sea Harbour, Elite, etc. before any of those.

                                                                                            Pollodeldiablo may be a bit harsh about San Diego (a true wasteland would be my current hometown of Albuquerque), but the scene there is even being outdone by my ol sleepy college town of Irvine.

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                Yes, thankfully for those of us down here. What are you hearing about the new J Zhou Oriental Cuisine in Tustin?

                                                                                                1. re: JAB

                                                                                                  Don't know about dim sum, but a friend went for dinner and said it was bad, which is not a good sign.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                    Thanks, probably doesn't bode well for the dim sum either.

                                                                                                  2. re: JAB

                                                                                                    I hear nothing about J-Zhou. But any place that bills itself as "Oriental" does not bode well.

                                                                                                    RE: OC/Irvine. I have much to thank fellow 'hound Porthos for prompting me to give the area a harder look. And not just for Chinese.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      What have you tried down here in OC/Irvine that you've liked recently?

                                                                                                      I was up on the Westside this weekend and thought I could try Hakkasan for dim sum. Apparently Hakkasan BH is not open for lunch on the weekends (or weekdays for that matter). Odd since even the Miami one opens during lunch on weekends and offers a special dim sum menu.

                                                                                                      1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                        The Chinese places aren't really noteworthy to mention. That's not a back-handed way of saying they're not good, it's just that many of them are simply replicas or branches of SGV or RH stores. (It's like, do we really need another post about Class 302? Or 85C? Or Liang's?)

                                                                                                        Lots of good Vietnamese stuff, like Song Long Restaurant, Huong Giang, Ngu Binh, etc. But I'm not facile enough with the cuisine to really comment intelligently or righteously so I just refrain.

                                                                                                        Other places i've enjoyed, Playground, Chapter One, Ortica, and the new Packing District, which sort of reminds me of the Farmers Market up in SF Ferry Building, but in a sort of "behind-the-orange-curtain" way. Parking sucks. No surprise. But I keep going back ...

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                          The daikon pastries at Four Sea Irvine are pretty delicious. Right up there with DSW at its peak.

                                                                                                          I was hoping you got a chance to try El Cabrito for birria.

                                                                                                          Lots of Vietnamese down here off the CH radar still waiting to be discovered. I haven't even tried the ones you mentioned and I've been down here for close to 4 years now.

                                                                                                        2. re: Porthos

                                                                                                          Hakkasan BH used to offer lunch, including a comparatively reasonable set lunch option (with choices); however, the two times I had lunch there the waitstaff far outnumbered the guests. Too bad, because I really liked both lunches.

                                                                                                  3. re: thewongmann

                                                                                                    Yes, Pollodeldiablo is much too harsh. And, yes, Irvine definitely has much better options - both in number and quality, but Irvine is still considered part of a huge metro area as well.

                                                                                                    Chandavkl is our go to guy about ranking various cities.

                                                                                                    1. re: JThur01

                                                                                                      If you think I'm too harsh then I wonder what you think of this. I attended a relatives wedding reception at Pearl 1 year ago, they invited a very large family tree of people that completely packed the restaurant. 90% of the people there were outside of San Diego with some in the U.S. and most in China. They obviously got the most expensive banquet available with mostly stuff that I don't care for, abalone and stuff. I could tell right away what was echoed by numerous guests who asked myself and my mother since we were locals who wouldn't be offended by the question, why is this food so bad? They asked us if there was a better restaurant in San Diego and when we informed them that Pearl was in the top 3, they were shocked. Most of the guests had recently gotten off a plane and were obviously hungry and yet, half of the seafood dishes had massive leftovers. On top of that, the leftovers were declined to be taken to go. That in of itself should be proof in the pudding.

                                                                                                      I only think harshly of the Chinese food in San Diego, I still think the mexican, filipino, vietnamese, Thai and Ethiopian are top notch.

                                                                                                  4. re: JThur01

                                                                                                    Chinese food in Kearny Mesa sort makes one yearn for Westside Chinese.

                                                                                                    Well, ok. It's not *that* bad. But you get the idea, Jim.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      I disagree ipse, it's nowhere close to the the level of the Westside and it's Americanized and dumbed down ick. The main problem with current San Diego Chinese is it's made up of relatively few restaurants, so it's not deep (that's an understatement), but the few that are there in different styles are good* Given a choice between a week eating only Westside Chinese or San Diego Chinese, I'd pick SD in a heartbeat. No contest.

                                                                                                      *caveat on Cantonese

                                                                                                      1. re: JThur01

                                                                                                        so it's not deep (that's an understatement), but the few that are there in different styles are good

                                                                                                        No, they're not.

                                                                                                        Not all of them anyway. I can probably count out the number of decent Chinese in all of SD County (not just KM / Convoy) in one hand, with at least enough fingers to spare to give someone the one-finger salute on the 405 fwy.

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                          True, but not all of the places even in the SGV are good (does anyone remember Yu Pin? - ouch). A higher percentage, sure :) I believe you, among others, have mentioned some true abominations in the SGV, most of which didn't survive long.

                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                            Perhaps a misunderstanding. I'm not touting SD Chinese or comparing it favorably to the SGV, just that it's hardly a "wasteland." And, to me, it isn't. YMMV. I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Maybe I just hit the "right" places instead.

                                                                                                            Ok, so how about your list of decent Chinese in SD then? (and I know we shouldn't label them "recommendations" any more than TonyC's "Best Chinese Out of the SGV")

                                                                                                            1. re: JThur01

                                                                                                              Ok, so how about your list of decent Chinese in SD then? (and I know we shouldn't label them "recommendations" any more than TonyC's "Best Chinese Out of the SGV")

                                                                                                              Fuck you.

                                                                                                              Write your own articles.


                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                :D ROFL! ipse, again...you are one of the reasons I love this bar.

                                                                                                                Even I wouldn't come up with a Top 10 for San Diego. And you know how much *I* love Top 10s :)

                                                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                              Do you have any idea what happened to Pearl? It used to be what I considered the 1 exception to the Chinese food quality in San Diego, then all of a sudden(coincidentally around when they started offering lunch specials) their quality dropped IMMENSELY. I used to compare Pearl back about 8 years ago to good dim sum in San Francisco and now I'd compare it to Yum Cha cafe. Even Emerald used to be good.

                                                                                                              1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                                                Pearl is owned by the same owners as Emerald and they both have their ups and downs. Emerald has been on a slight upswing in the last year and a half or so (but that's just going from terrible to mediocre). Maybe they traded chefs or something, but I doubt it as they'd likely want to keep their expense account clients in Rancho Bernardo happy. I do agree though. My last time in Pearl was definitely off in quality compared to a wedding banquet I went to a few years back.

                                                                                                            3. re: JThur01

                                                                                                              I'd say that in light of the recent openings of places like Hakkasan, Meizhou Dongpo and even maybe ROC that WLA is now better than San Diego. But this is a recent phenomenon, and prior to that I'd take San Diego with its Little Sheep and a couple of dozen authentic Chinese restaurants in Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo and a few other places over WLA. And Kearny Mesa still has a greater number of decent Chinese restaurants than WLA.

                                                                                                          2. re: JThur01

                                                                                                            You make an interesting point. For those who have been watching the evolution of Monterey Park since it's Chinese inception in the early 80s, I wonder how Kearney Mesa compares, and if it's evolving along parallel lines.

                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                              The evolution of Monterey Park itself, or of how the "scene" has spread to San Gabriel/Alhambra and to Rowland Heights?

                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                Mr. Taster,

                                                                                                                What's going on in Kearny Mesa is very much in it's early days, but seems to be evolving nicely and fairly quickly. It's a much smaller scene, but hardly "a wasteland."

                                                                                                                Interesting that Spicy City was opened by a former Hua's/Yunkun/Yunnan/Yunchuan, etc. partner, whose family eventually opened another place in San Gabriel. So, Monterey Park-San Diego-San Gabriel in their case.

                                                                                                                1. re: JThur01

                                                                                                                  I think Kearny Mesa first hit the Chinese map about 25 years ago when East West Bank opened up its branch on Convoy St. (since closed). Chinese restaurants started popping up in all of the shopping centers up and down Convoy St. By the time 99 Ranch Market opened up on Clairemont Mesa in the mid-90s, Kearny Mesa was a pretty distinct pan Asian district with a heavy Chinese influence. The difference I see between the SGV and San Diego is that I don't see the large continuing migration of Chinese to San Diego, especially Mainlanders. San Diego Chinese food seems heavily weighted to Cantonese (yet, with little in the way of Hong Kong cafes), and in that regards seems to be the mirror image of Irvine.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                                    Yes, you are correct. I remember when I was a young child when Emerald opened (in 92 or so I believe) and it immediately put Chinese on the map in San Diego. The following decade brought a tremendous amount of growth of Chinese (mainly Cantonese) in the area with the opening of Jasmine (around 94), 99 Ranch and the editions of Sam Woo and 168 in that complex, Dede's, and the earlier outpost of Golden City in the old McDonald's (now a Persian market).

                                                                                                                    Then there was a slow growth of some Sichuanese and Taiwanese joints in the 2000s, along with the addition of China Max and Pearl and ever since there's been really slow growth with a few gems here and there (like a SD branch of Little Sheep). Comparatively, Japanese cuisine has expanded much more in San Diego.

                                                                                                                    San Diego seems to be at least 10-15 years behind the SGV, and I think part of that is immigration (slower than LA or SF), part is the easy access to LA for weekend trips, and part is the fairly spread out nature of the Chinese community in San Diego. Population is spread out like the Bay Area, but in far smaller concentrations. For all the Chinese in Carmel Valley, Rancho Bernardo, Linda Vista, Mira Mesa, Rancho Penasquitos, and Chula Vista (mainly Eastlake), none of them can really compare to the concentrations in Cupertino, Millbrae, et al. It's closest comparison is probably Irvine, at least for Northern San Diego.

                                                                                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                  I wonder how Kearney Mesa compares,

                                                                                                                  It doesn't.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                    I know you're more familiar with San Diego than any of us here except perhaps for the Wongmann. But I have to tell you I was so thrilled when places like San Choy and Wei's Potsticker opened up on Convoy, after nothing but dreadful Chinese eating before that.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                                                                                                      Actually, interesting thing to note: the owners of San Choy were family friends (they went to the same church as my family). It was definitely pretty good for the late 80s/early 90s but sadly it was relatively short lived and from my hazy child memory, didn't get as much praise as it deserved as Emerald or Jasmine. I'm pretty sure my "month old" party was at San Choy, but I'd have dust off the old family photo albums to be sure.

                                                                                                                      1. re: thewongmann

                                                                                                                        San Choy's address (4444 Convoy) was the killer. No Chinese restaurant followed them at that location.

                                                                                                                3. re: JThur01

                                                                                                                  You can't really say the seed is germinating because the chinese community has existed in San Diego for over 100 years. If there was no chinese history or community in San Diego, I wouldn't say anything but logically when there's a large population of an ethnicity, usually the community and restaurants follow. It's because of the Chinese population and history that I make such a comment.

                                                                                                                  1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                                                    I'm not sure if you can really use history as a measuring stick while ignoring the nuances of immigration of who, where, and when immigrants in certain regions came from China. Philly and Boston have long Chinese histories too (with a Chinatown that survives compared to San Diego's lack of one), but you wouldn't say that their Chinese food is great either after all these years.

                                                                                                                    Ror 120+ years, between the Gold Rush and the Immigration Act of 1965 (which lifted all restrictions on Chinese immigration), it was mostly Chinese immigrants from the Taishan region of Guangdong that were in the US. Part of my family is from Taishan and while I love the remarkable resiliency and accomplishments my family has made...food wise, to paraphrase Chandavkl I think, it's akin to the only Americans in China for 100+ years to be from Victorville and the only American they know is the Victorville version, adapted for Chinese palates.

                                                                                                                    It really wasn't until the Immigration Act of 1965 that more diverse populations of Chinese people came to America, starting with middle and upper income families from Hong Kong and Taiwan. That's when the diversification and development of really good, more authentic Chinese food came to the fore and the SGV became the SGV we know today.

                                                                                                                    And in that respect, San Diego has fallen behind the Bay, LA, Orange County, and even places like Las Vegas, Austin, and Houston where those Chinese populations are growing a lot more (fueled by immigration from mainland China). For instance, Irvine, has a population that is 12.9% Chinese which is far larger than San Diego as a whole (2.9%) and probably even larger than some more Chinese neighborhoods in San Diego.

                                                                                                                    But now we're really veering off the OP so I'll end by saying that basically, no, even with historical context, San Diego won't have a chinese scene like the SGV soon and I really wish there was an Elite or Sea Harbour quality place down there.

                                                                                                                    1. re: thewongmann

                                                                                                                      I wish Irvine had an Elite or Sea Harbor quality place.

                                                                                                                      1. re: JAB

                                                                                                                        Sam Woo Irvine is pretty good for dinner. The dim sum is not at the level of Elite or Sea Harbour though.

                                                                                                                        There were rumors of a Sea Harbor making its way down here. Any updates?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                          I've been waiting on that myself.

                                                                                                                          1. re: JAB

                                                                                                                            My parents have been waiting 15 years.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                            I gave up Sam Woo for S.W. many years ago. Perhaps, I should give it another shot.

                                                                                                                            1. re: JAB

                                                                                                                              Get the live seafood and winter melon soup. I personally really like the steamed chicken and mustard greens in supreme broth. Roast duck is very good there.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Porthos

                                                                                                                              I'd say that Capital in the Spectrum is the best dim sum in Irvine with Sam Woo as best for Cantonese seafood dinner. Granted, I haven't been to Sam Woo for dim sum in a long time and to be honest, I'd probably get Taiwanese at one of the many places on Walnut/Jamboree or go to Tasty Garden before going to either of those restaurants.

                                                                                                                          3. re: thewongmann

                                                                                                                            I didn't realize it was only 2.9% wow. I had always assumed it was in the vicinity of 10% without ever actually checking the percentage. I indirectly noticed less Chinese coming to San Diego through lion's senior center in the Gaslamp. When my grandmother first moved from HK to San Diego, the lion's center was roughly 90% chinese and was in effect a chinese apartment building. Last time I went it was about 40% Chinese and maybe 50% Russian which personally I can't identify why but then again, I never looked into any Russian history in San Diego.

                                                                                                                            I do think that there's potential for a high quality dim sum restaurant in San Diego, but it wouldn't be convoy area, I would sooner see it in mira mesa near the H Mart vicinity where there's already been reasonable Chinese restaurants in it's past as well as more asian locals nearby.

                                                                                                                            1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                                                              Mira Mesa is ideal but Silver Ark did try at a place near or next to Tea Station in the Seafood City shopping center. Unfortunately the food was just okay and there weren't a lot of people there. HMart vicinity is definitely better but space is an issue. Probably the most ripe place for a restaurant was a space in the Edwards or Albertson's plaza across the street if, say, On the Border, Mimis Cafe, O's, or Islands decides to close. Or the Golden State Seafood owners decided to sell and the new owners were able to expand the space (like expanding all the way to the Cali-Mex place in the corner) and do a badly needed makeover.

                                                                                                                              The Mandarin Garden space in the Mira Mesa mall could also be a possibility, especially if they changed the layout of that horrible strip mall.

                                                                                                                              1. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                                                                The Chinese demographics in SD county will not support a place like Sea Harbour or Elite, or even SNo1.

                                                                                                                                In other words, not enough Chinese folks driving around in Mercedes to get foot massages, or hanging out at Lexus dealers wondering why they can hear wind noise in the cabin while cruising the 5 fwy to Del Mar.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  But, ipse...there are quite a few foot massage places on Kearny Mesa, including even more that opened in the relatively short span of months between my visits. That's one of the reasons I'm somewhat encouraged :-)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: JThur01

                                                                                                                                    There's actually a pretty good foot message place in, of all places, Point Loma.

                                                                                                                                    Er, ahem, at least that's what my, um, friends tell me.

                                                                                                                            2. re: polldeldiablo

                                                                                                                              Well, I did write *caveat on Cantonese :-) thewongmann covered it quite well and I defer to him. The "germinating" remark is admittedly based on a couple visits last year where I noticed the strip mall scene along Convoy and noted more restaurants had opened in just those several months. I agree that anything resembling the SGV, or particularly higher end, is a long-ways off. I never said it was "great" just that it is hardly a "wasteland" (perhaps for dim sum, Cantonese or higher end, yes). To me, there is promise and it wasn't the horror show, bitter disappointment or terrible experience many seem to claim...and I'm hardly a glass half-full kind of guy :-) I know Chinese food "wastelands." I live in one and San Diego has it beat by miles. With San Diego's Chinese population being in the 2.9% range, it's even better yet :-)