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ipsedixit's Top 10 Dim Sum

Since I've gotten a few e-mail requests for dim sum recommendations, I thought I would just open it up to the entire peanut gallery here and see what the collective beehive thinks is good dim sum these days.

Cuz, really, what do I know about dim sum; I don't even really like the stuff that much.

Anyway, here's my Top 10 list based on the past 3 years and at least 6 visits (unless otherwise noted).

1. Sea Harbour
2. Hakkasan (based on 1 visit in LA and multiple visits in NYC)
3. Elite
4. Happy Harbour
5. King Hua
6. Lunasia
7. 888
8. Ocean Star
9. New Capital (Rowland Heights)
10. Full House

(Others that didn't make the list but are quite good based on less than 6 visits, in alphabetical order: Atlantic Seafood, China Red and Shanghai No. 1)

So that's *my* list.

Feel free to critique, but if you do so you better bring your own Top 10 list with you. Cuz only those of us who live in glass houses can play with rocks.

As Rome would say, "have a take and don't suck"

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  1. I refuse to click on lis--oh dammit.

    "Cuz, really, what do I know about dim sum; I don't even really like the stuff that much." That's a great tagline for this list!

    1. Thank you for sharing, ipse. Much appreciated.

      1. Hakkasan isn't open for lunch anymore so aside from the steamed dumplings option at dinner, no longer has dim sum.

        8 Replies
          1. re: Porthos

            http://tinyurl.com/k9zvqhp

            Problem. Solved.

            I mean, seriously, if you're going to pay $100+ for dim sum, what's a few hundred more. It's like a rounding error.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Not a problem for me. I'm in Miami once a month. ;-)

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Why do you keep thinking I'm some sort of baller?

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I mean, I suppose, but you can go to San Francisco Hakkasan for dim sum and avoid any jet lag or 6 hour commutes.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Chicken puffs at Hakkasan Miami.
                    Where hakkasan excels is dim sum for vegetarians and those who can't have pork or shellfish. Not to say they don't have excellent shellfish and pork laden dim sum also.

                     
                  2. re: Porthos

                    Well they still have their dim sum platter with a few items on it at dinner, but you're right that those unique dim sum specialties aren't around any more.

                    1. i'm sorry, but as a protest against this sort of thing and how it's not only destroying journalism and food, but the very earth itself, i patently refuse to click on this thread.

                      i encourage everyone who reads this to do likewise.

                      also, please ignore theoffalo's blatent pre-stealing of my idea or
                      risk the disappearance of all traditional foods.

                      1 Reply
                      1. Since Rowland Heights generally gets less rave due to it's location, how close do you personally feel Rowland Heights is to SGV quality in general? I've personally tried both Happy Harbour and the New Capital(Rowland Heights numerous times and agree with it being up there.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: polldeldiablo

                          Since Rowland Heights generally gets less rave due to it's location, how close do you personally feel Rowland Heights is to SGV quality in general?
                          _________

                          If we're talking dim sum only, then I think it's still a step or two behind. The chasm between Happy Harbour (eSGV's best) and Sea Harbour/Elite (wSGV's best) is quite big. And certainly bigger than the numerical difference between 3 and 4 on my list up above would indicate.

                          Now, if you're talking just general Chinese food, in many respects Rowland Heights is not only better, but more interesting.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Yeah, I had meant the latter as I was pretty impressed the numerous times I was there with new restaurants opening up and being surprisingly good.

                        2. Only gripe I have is having New Capital ahead of Shanghai No. 1. Only a small gripe, but nice reference and should steer people in the right direction.

                          1. Elite
                          2. Sea Harbour
                          3. Happy Harbour
                          4. Shanghai No. 1
                          5. Lunasia
                          6. King Hua
                          7. J Zhou
                          8. 888
                          9. Ocean Star

                          I will stick with a top 9. Never had dim sum at Hakkasan.

                          23 Replies
                          1. re: A5 KOBE

                            Can't eat at Shanghai No. 1 after watching waitstaff picking nose, repeatedly during my meal, in plain sight in the dining room. I know everyone does it, but have some discretion!

                              1. re: A5 KOBE

                                One man's treasure is another man's *gag*

                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                  fresh on the heels of the rave review of the dickhead

                              2. re: TheOffalo

                                For someone that likes to eat the portion of animal where feces is excreted from, what's a little nose picking? :-)

                                Rest assured that's not the only waitstaff in the SGV picking their nose.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  For someone that likes to eat the portion of animal where feces is excreted from, what's a little nose picking? :-)
                                  _____________________________

                                  As we used to say in kindergarten.

                                  "Different hole, same shit."

                              3. re: A5 KOBE

                                i only have a top 6 since i've patronized only those 6 in the last 5-10 years. but those 6 are in pretty much the same order. actually, i did go to harbor village once during the holliday season. but even with only 6 places filled, i would not include them in my top 10..

                                1. re: A5 KOBE

                                  Can you comment on the J Zhou dim sum? The only report I received was on dinner.

                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                    It is definitely good, but for my money it does not rank higher than many others in the SGV. I live close to Happy Harbour so I can easily get slightly better dim sum for less money and in closer proximity. It would make no sense for someone living near the SGV to go there.

                                    Price is high. I saw a party look at the menu and leave, probably due to price.

                                    Service was great. There are a ton of waitstaff.

                                    I mean, if you live in the area, it is the best around. And I doubt you will find anyone digging for nose goblins.

                                    I might go again because I am out that way quite a bit. But my go to dim sum are easily Elite, Sea Harbour, Happy Harbour and SN1.

                                    1. re: A5 KOBE

                                      Thanks, sounds worth a shot from where I'm at.

                                      1. re: JAB

                                        Went today. It's certainly expensive. It seems as though they are trying to be lighter and more refined and in doing so have shorted the flavor. Hits were the lobster congee at $12.88 although it was hard to eat from the shell dripping in congee. I also liked the egg plant with shrimp paste because it was fresh but, the flavor was missing in the black bean sauce. The turnip cake with beef belly was good as well. A big miss was the steamed beef ribs in which the beef tasted off.

                                          1. re: JAB

                                            I did notice the mildness of some dishes. The one dish I did enjoy its delicateness was the shrimp sticky rice. And the duck webs are calling my name next time.

                                        1. re: A5 KOBE

                                          +1 on assessment of J Zhou. Its the best in Irvine but on the expensive side. You're paying for the dining room and service. No where near the class of the top dim sum places in SGV.

                                          1. re: js76wisco

                                            Thanks, I'll give it a shot and see if it'll keep me from driving all of the way to Seafood Paradise which isn't all that either.

                                      2. re: A5 KOBE

                                        Agree. Good list. I personally put SN1 ahead of the pack these days with Elite as #2. Everything else is essentially about the same.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          Mrs. Chandavkl didn't like SN1's dim sum at all (and she has very perceptive taste buds) so I'm precluded from going back. I thought it was good, not great.

                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                            There is that too. Even disregarding the nose-picking, I like Sea Harbour, Elite, and King Hua more.

                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                              After going to SN1 several times for Dim Sum only after they opened, I have come to a conclusion that there is nothing special that sets them apart from the others, except perhaps the interior.

                                              By the way, nice list ipse.

                                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                                Mrs. Chandavkl and my mom would get along fabulously.

                                                It's one of the several reasons I don't get to SN1 very often.

                                              2. re: Porthos

                                                You've been to J Zhou for Dim Sum already?

                                                1. re: JAB

                                                  No. I meant ipse's original list. Minus Full House. Haven't been to that either.

                                              3. re: A5 KOBE

                                                Only gripe I have is having New Capital ahead of Shanghai No. 1.
                                                _____________________

                                                My reason for leaving SN1 off the list, officially, is that I haven't been there at least 6 times in the past 3 years.

                                                It was a baseline requirement for any restaurant to make the list.

                                                But agree with you that SN1 does have *some* outstanding items during dim sum service. Now, if they can just do something about the tea, and the nostril detritus pluggage (or NDP) issues ... we might be onto something.

                                              4. You really should get yourself an agent to get this and your other thoughts published.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                                  For $40 a post, which is what LAW was paying last time I checked.

                                                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                                    LOL - everyone don't quit their daytime jobs all at once now...

                                                2. Thank you ipsedixit!

                                                  Continues to steer the crowds away from King Hua.

                                                  1. randomly, has anyone here been to Hakkasan LV? Any comparison to our local guys?

                                                    1. Thank you so much for such a darn good list….

                                                      1. Not another f***ing list...oh, wait... :-)

                                                        1. Unlike Our Host here, I adore dim sum and wish to hell I had it often enough to HAVE ten favorites! 888 and Empress Harbor are the only cart places we've been in maybe five years; we went to Mission 251 this past year, but while we enjoyed it I just didn't feel much at home. The one time we were in Full House – Arcadia, right? – it was before they enlarged and remodelled it, and though we were almost elbow-to-elbow with adjacent tables we loved it. If I had my druthers we'd go at least once a week …

                                                          1. Sheesh! I clicked on this expecting a list of things like chicken paws, steamed pork buns. soup dumplings, garlic sea cucumber... <sigh>

                                                            31 Replies
                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              Chicken paws?? Paws?

                                                              What kind of foul fowl are you eating C1?

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                I think she's referring to the Paws That Refreshes.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  5 looong days ago Ipsedixit asked: Chicken paws?? Paws? What kind of foul fowl are you eating C1?

                                                                  Sheesh! I replied to this, but the reply is not here and I feel confident it was not deleted by the mods... I've been having computer problems from Hell for waaaaaaaay too long now, but in answer to Ipse....

                                                                  Dunno where you shop, kiddo, but even my local Asian emporium (99 Ranch Market) has chicken paws right there in the meat department! (Before cooking, please remove the claws for a more delicate dining pleasure).

                                                                  I've even seen "chicken paws" on a dim sum menu. I suspect (but hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, my fluency in Chinese is about a -273!) it may be a literal translation of the Chinese. I'm sure there are a gazillion Chowhounds around here who know for sure...!!! '-)

                                                                   
                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    Dogs, cats and things like bears have claws (as in donuts).

                                                                    Chicken have feet. As does the Phoenix.

                                                                    Although if we're talking paws, Ocean Star makes a fabulous stewed cat paw dish. Toenails clipped, too. Pairs really well with all those XLB you order.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      I've learned to order it in mangled Cantonese :) And the ladies always want to be really, really sure that I want chicken FEET. (I'm not Chinese.)

                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        I mean, technically the dish is called "Phoenix Claws/Talons" as opposed to feet, though obviously you're correct on what's actually being served.

                                                                        Regardless I don't like the dish that much. Thin layers of fat and cartilage around lots of small bones just doesn't do it for me.

                                                                        I would love some garlic sea cucumbers though...

                                                                        1. re: thewongmann

                                                                          My young nephew can go through about 3 lbs. of chicken feet (boiled, salted) in an afternoon while working his way through Assassin's Creed IV.

                                                                          Me, personally, I like chicken feet but they need to be stewed in soy sauce and some good ginger/garlic combo. Otherwise, it's like Vaseline mixed with a cornstarch slurry.

                                                                          Best dish I've had recently was geoduck braised in turtle broth and served on fried beancurd skins. Good shit.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            I like chicken feet the way you do.

                                                                            And, how cow, yes that geoduck prep sounds like good shit indeed!

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              Where did you get the geoduck? That sounds delicious. If it's Sea Harbour, I suppose I know what I'm getting when I travel to Vancouver...(or next time I'm in LA)

                                                                              1. re: thewongmann

                                                                                I saw it 'live' at a seafood market in SF.

                                                                                1. re: thewongmann

                                                                                  Yes, at Sea Harbour. Call ahead and reserve it.

                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                        BTW XLB/soup dumplings are Shanghainese not Cantonese so not a staple for the standard (Cantonese) dim sum. And when they're present I've found them quite disappointing.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Really?

                                                                          I did not know that. How interesting.

                                                                          Tell me more. Please.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            Ipse-factor :), please note that I was replying to C1 :)

                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                            I'll be sure to let my local dim sum restaurants know they're not supposed to have them on the menu. '-)

                                                                            Unfortunately, like any other classic dish of any country, the end result is only as good as the cook. My biggest objection to soup dumplings is that the soup is nearly always in my plate by the time I get them due to rough handling in the kitchen!

                                                                            And actually, most Chinese restaurants make what will sell, and that includes dim sum. Like any other "buffet," its a gastronomic polyglot.

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              You've unknowingly stumbled into the proverbial lion's den of Chinese cuisine protocols and procedures. :) These hounds truly know so much about the cuisines of Chinese Asia (as well as substantial experience in most other cuisines). But as much as delineating boundaries between (in this case) Cantonese and Shanghainese foods would be appropriate, the desire for money goes beyond cultural respect. The entrepreneurial drive of these restaurant owners is deeply seeded in the marrow of their bones.

                                                                              Finding xiao long bao aka soup dumplings on dim sum menus is pretty common in the San Gabriel Valley as well. They are delicious when done right and fit nicely in the profile of what many expect for a dim sum meal. Unfortunately, the representations of xiao long bao at dim sum houses tend to be poor. So I think not only do many who are intimately familiar with Chinese cuisines find it odd and out of place to see this on a Cantonese menu, the fact that they are often under satisfactory is even more grating on one's expectations.

                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                We agree, but....! I find the embrace of the corporate euphemism "globalization" has also crept into the food of all nationalities at some level or another. I live in the Dallas metroplex and the blurred or erased borders of ethnic cuisine of ANY culture is badly blurred in this city.

                                                                                Both here in the Dallas area as well as El Paso, where I lived nine years ago, have several Chinese "super all you can eat buffets" that, according to their menus, offer Chinese specialties exclusively.... SOME of them even offer pizza on their dim sum buffet tables! LOL One in El Paso sets out sushi too, except the extra wasabi paste is served in a BIG bowl that sits right next to the steamer trays of cold vanilla and chocolate puddings )also in the dim sum buffet bar). And yes, I did watch someone serve themselves a bowl of it thinking it was pistachio pudding.

                                                                                But it isn't just Asian cuisines that are being broadsided by the commercial world of restaurateurs... The last five Greek/Turkish/Lebanese sit-down restaurants I've been to make their tzatziki/cacik with sour cream instead of yogurt. Big yuk!

                                                                                I've about concluded that if you want authentic anything, you'd better learn to make it at home! Oh, and it's been 5 years or more since I last made soup dumplings, but the method I found most useful is to freeze the soup contents (preferably in those tricky round ice cube trays if you have some) and then wrap the dumpling wrapper around it and let it sit in the steamer basket at room temperature until the ice has melted completely, THEN fire up the wok and steam them.

                                                                                "Food fusion" is as old as man, but our modern age of planes, trains, automobiles and smart phones means that what used to take centuries (or a great war) now happens in about a week. <sigh> But there are a few side benefits.... 99 Ranch Market has now opened a branch near me, which means I now have a source of fresh/flash frozen sea cucumbers and no longer have to send a husband scuba diving when I want a fresh supply.

                                                                                I grieve for the massive number of traditional cuisines that have become "polluted by progress." Good thing I like to cook....! '-)

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  Here's my post, including the recipe I used.

                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/645623

                                                                                  The 'soup' wasn't a problem cause I made the gelatin stock. Really quite traditional.

                                                                                2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                  That's been my experience and it's my opinion. I tried them a couple of times at Cantonese dim sum and was disappointed. And I also agree that they have a 'cool factor' so people are making them who really shouldn't be.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    I don't actually think that's just your opinion. My HK friend can't stand XLB (or sen jiang bao and the like), and I think that's a cultural thing. When I told my parents (from Taiwan) about my friend's aversion to XLB, my parents simply laughed and said, "Of course he does; he's Cantonese."

                                                                                    However, IMHO, since dim sum patrons don't consist solely of Cantonese/HK clients, the XLB has found it's way to the menu. They definitely weren't around even 5 yrs ago, let alone 10-15 yrs ago....

                                                                                    I also agree that since XLB isn't a signature dish for Canto style places, they often end up subpar. It's kind of like ordering a hamburger in France.... Not sure what the point is.

                                                                                    1. re: ilysla

                                                                                      I'd much rather see XLB on a Cantonese restaurant's menu than Orange Chicken, General tso,tao,chu,ching,changwallawallabingbang, beef with broccoli and so on. I guess when Panda Express starts offering XLB, you'll know it's gone too far.

                                                                                3. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  I just saw the part about "buffet." I've never seen dim sum on a buffet and it really sounds quite awful. If there's a genre that suffers from sitting around on a buffet, I'd say it's dim sum.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    Quite a few dim sum buffets in Vegas, with Bacchanal at Caesar's probably being one of, if not the, best.

                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                      Really? Is "best" a relative term? I just can' imagine dim sum sitting on a steam table.

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Trust me, the dim sum service (as well as everything else on tap in the buffet service) lives up to the restaurant's name.

                                                                                        In other words, it's a fucking orgy of gastronomical delights.

                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                          Do you have an idea how they keep it fresh?

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                The same way non-buffet places do. Turnover.

                                                                                                It's not like your typical dim sum place makes everything à la minute, be they cart or menu style (especially the former).

                                                                                                All of them make stuff ahead of time and hold it until its ordered. Some items more so than others, but few are actually only made when ordered.

                                                                            2. So that's 10 restaurants x6 visits which equals 60 dim sum meals in the last three years, not including the other non-qualifiers. That's a lotta shiu-mai for someone who doesn't like it much.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: jesstifer

                                                                                Ipsedixit is THAT committed to helping us fellow chow hounders!

                                                                                1. re: jesstifer

                                                                                  That's a lotta shiu-mai for someone who doesn't like it much.
                                                                                  ___________

                                                                                  Shiu-mai.

                                                                                  Amateur.

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    Amateur dim sum eater. Professional comedian.

                                                                                    "That's a whole lotta shi--"

                                                                                2. I had a moment of joy - woo hoo! I've been to 5 of the 10!

                                                                                  And then - shoot. I've only been to 5 of the 10? Time to get cracking!

                                                                                  1. LOL Rome said that quote to my friend Jack! You can find his call on youtube, Jack from Sacramento, it's hilarious!

                                                                                    1. Okay, after my visit today at J Zhou I am must say that the place is very good. I am going to have to revise what I stated earlier. Maybe they have gotten all the kinks out of service but J Zhou was pretty impressive today.

                                                                                      Food was very good. Service was also very good. I mean, we actually got refills on water and they refilled our tea with hot water.

                                                                                      My revised list.

                                                                                      1. Elite
                                                                                      2. Sea Harbour
                                                                                      3. J Zhou
                                                                                      4. Happy Harbour
                                                                                      5. Shanghai No 1
                                                                                      6. Lunasia
                                                                                      7. King Hua
                                                                                      8. 888
                                                                                      9. Ocean Star

                                                                                       
                                                                                       
                                                                                       
                                                                                       
                                                                                       
                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                                                        BTW, the place is really baller.

                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                        1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                                                          Whats the garnish on the second (from the left) picture of what appears to be dry wontons? It looks like Fritos.

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            Lol
                                                                                            They look like corn flakes but tasted like garlic

                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              I'm not exactly sure which picture you're referring to, but if it's the third picture in the series, it looks like thinly-sliced garlic that was deep fried.

                                                                                          2. I am going to eat my way through your list one by one.