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Shi Hai Has The Best Dim Sum In Town

That's what TonyC just tweeted. His Friday Eater LA column indicated that the restaurant just opened. I presume it's going to be a madhouse for quite a while so I'll let the others fight the crowds.

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  1. hmm. i don't recall there being a lot of open parking around that intersection

    1 Reply
    1. re: barryc

      Well, the restaurant has a double parking lot, one with an entrance on Valley, the other on Garfield. But if you can't squeeze in those lots you may have a good hike.

    2. Drove by just now, it's pretty busy.

      1. What's the deal with African abalone?

        12 Replies
        1. re: jessejames

          Most likely referring to South African varieties of farmed abalone. (Though I do not know the provenance of the abalone served at Shi Hai, specifically.)

          1. re: J.L.

            Thanks. I think it said they had that in Tonys article. Glad we are farming abalone. Same with oysters. Smaller but good quality if you ask me. Love to find a spot that pounds it flours it and fries it in garlic butter old school style. No problem with sushi of course. What's your favorite type jl and where do U get it?

            1. re: jessejames

              I like my abalone 2 different ways:

              (1) Slow-steamed whole, with sake or rice wine - In this format, I recommend Sushi Hanesaka in Tokyo for the best version of this.

              (2) Braised Cantonese-style, with mushrooms and vegetables. The best version of this I had was at my relative's house in Vancouver. BUT, restaurant-wise I recommend Lei Garden in HK.

              1. re: J.L.

                Thanks. Sounds great. Had a similar prep in Tokyo but need to try hanesaka next go round. You know what your talking about obviously.

                Is that braised kind same vein as what you can get at sea harbor ? I found sauce kind of gloopy and with bok choy when I got it there last and maybe just didn't know what to ask for.

                What's your best bet in these styles in SoCal?

                1. re: J.L.

                  Braised Australian abalone at Lei Garden IFC. Spectacular.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Where do u like to get abalone in la?

                      1. re: Porthos

                        Re read your recent review. Quite good. I'll have to bring some vino too.

                      2. re: Porthos

                        That photo brings back so many great food memories...

                        1. re: Porthos

                          the pic at seafood village, looks a lot like this but i'm guessing this version is about a thousand times more delicious ????????

                2. omg so much personal history for me in that building. I'll take my mum out there for weekday dimsum (since I always work weekends).

                  1. Had lunch for 2 here today, Monday. Madhouse in terms of crowd, it is not. But the place was full at 11:00 am with a 10 minute wait. This is a cartless dim sum restaurant.
                    They did not have oolong, so settled for Jazmine.
                    Five minutes after the order form is taken, the food comes in a pretty good stream, nice and hot and by servers wearing sneeze guard (just like at Lunasia)
                    The chicken feet was excellent, very tender but retaining its texture and mildly spicy and generous amount of peanut in the sauce it came in. However,I felt it was on the sweeter side of all the chicken feet I've tasted. The egg tart was likewise very, very good.....soft, creamy and heavy for its size. You can also tell from the smell that it is freshly baked. Taro puff was delicately crispy without the smell of oil it was fried in and is another great dish. The pork shumai had bits of unchewable tendon mixed with the ground pork. The salted chicken porridge came in a nice clay pot accompanied by a small plate of scallions, fried wonton skin and a third item which up to now, I could not discern. It was good, but I've tasted better. The mini baked chasiu bao also had the aroma of a bread shop as soon as you take a bite.
                    They still have to get their act together in the dining area. Food for the next table came to us twice by mistake. Change from the same table also came to us before we even paid. They also had to confirm our change / check by asking how much we paid.
                    Having two entrances (one on Garfield, the other by the parking lot) increased traffic inside the restaurant even before one can check in to get a number or table. They also need to have a sitting area for folks to comfortably wait for a table.
                    Overall, the place was new, modern, clean and spacious.
                    Paid $35.00 and change before tip.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: selfportrait93

                      Thanks for the note re: chicken feet and peanuts. That is unfortunate for the wifey who is allergic but loves chicken feet

                      1. re: selfportrait93

                        So....you had a good meal. as good as the vaunted SH/elite/king hua/lunasia tier?

                        1. re: thefatknightrises

                          having just had lunch there last week, i'd say china red deserves consideration. i reviewed them in the thread about unlucky locations in the SGV.

                          1. re: barryc

                            Agreed that China Red is in that tier.

                        2. re: selfportrait93

                          >They did not have oolong....
                          Went to Shi Hai with my mom at noon today. She ordered chrysanthemum tea while I ordered Oolong. I did not try the chrysanthemum tea but the Oolong was indifferent at best. I typically bring my own "prime grade Oolong" purchased from Wing Hop Fung to dim sum and pay the tea service fee. Several of the more upscale dim sum places will also sell you their better tea for a bit more money.
                          BTW China Red uses significantly better looking chrysanthemums in their chrysanthemum tea. You have to open the tea pot lid to notice. My other first impressions are posted elsewhere in this thread.

                        3. Drove by Shi Hai this morning and when I saw there was no crowd outside I jumped out of the car and ran in. Negligible wait. (Taking over the former takeout area has increased dining capacity.) Ordered 6 items but only 5 showed up--would have gotten out 20 minutes sooner if they had told me #6 was not available--and after asking three times. The others came out slowly over a 30 minute period.

                          -Baked bbq pork and chicken buns - Chicken bun was pineapple top, bbq pork wasn't. Both very good, but not superior either. Both also a little on the salty side, which is a little unusual for these items.

                          -Turnip bowl. Quite good, again not superior.

                          -Taro egg roll. A little salty and nothing exceptional

                          -Pan fried shrimp and vegetable roll. Essentially small empenadas. By far the best of the bunch.

                          Lots of other interesting stuff on the menu. For an interim grading, I'd rank them with Lunasia/King Hua/China Red. Whether it's up with Sea Harbour remains to be seen.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            I'm more curious about their dinner service.

                            Already know about their dim sum moxy, or lack thereof.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              >I'm more curious about their dinner service.
                              Me too.
                              Soon after my mom and I were seated at a table near the parking entrance this afternoon. I was enthusiastically greeted by someone saying "Hello. do you remember me from 半島?" in chinese. (For reference, 半島, New Capital Seafood in Focus Plaza started in my recollection as Sam Woo Seafood and is now Five Star Seafood. (please correct me here everyone)
                              I confess that I had previously hosted several excessively exorbitant dinners at various upscale Chinese restaurants in the SGV but I remember no one in particular. Perhaps as a result, I am marked. Check my Shanghai #1 warm beer post if you wish.
                              Then, I was asked to be introduced to their VIP rooms.
                              I am happy to report that Shi Hai has 4 VIP rooms on the San Gabriel Bivd side that ranged from a room that warmly accompanying a table of 6-8 to a large room that can accompany a party of 20+ in a round table setting for corporate events . Also, every room is presentation/karaoke equipped. None of these rooms were open for business at the time despite there were people waiting inline for dim sum in the main hall.
                              Then I was introduced to two additional VIP rooms on the Valley blvd side of the building. By the time we left , close to 1pm, one of the Valley blvd rooms opened for the dim sum folks.
                              Thus, Shi Hai may have more reserved VIP rooms than any other Cantonese Seafood Restaurants that I have encountered in the SGV. Again please correct me if this is wrong.
                              I remain curious about their dinner service.

                              1. re: FallingLeaves

                                > 4VIP rooms on the San Gabriel blvd side should read
                                4 VIP rooms on the Garfield blvd side.

                                1. re: FallingLeaves

                                  I think that's right, but I lose track of how many rooms there are at Ocean Star.

                                  They did alot structurally with that building. Just walking around the place you can tell some major feng shui was in the works. In and outside.

                                  One obvious sign: they changed the direction of the front door. Now faces south (and the building sits northwards); whereas previously the entrances faced west and building sat eastwards.

                                  1. re: FallingLeaves

                                    i saw that. looked like an elevator lobby,

                                    and i think you were at the table next to mine! i was 3 tables down on the left side coming in from the parking lot entrance.

                              2. re: Chandavkl

                                great review Chandavkl.

                                thanks. saves me time from trying it. :> not worth the hassle (especially that corner area, with terrible parking and crowded intersection in general).

                                i'll stick with Sea Harbour then.

                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                  i personally choose to rate them lower. i'd go as far as to say that if they were in beverly hills they'd probably be ok, but if the experience i had today was a fair representation, IMO they need to up their game if they want to survive in the SGV.

                                2. went today at 11:30, seated promptly. people waiting to be seated when i left.

                                  i posted pics of the menu mainly for the pics of the food.

                                  S $2.88
                                  M $3.88
                                  L $4.88
                                  SP $5.88

                                  and other special items priced up to $15 or so. most pictured items were L or SP.

                                  we ordered. the custard tart came first. you think they'd have the sense to bring it near the end. i suspect that they brought stuff out in order of degree of quality, but i digress. the tart is billed as macao-style. i don't know what that means, but i thought the crust was quite flaky and i liked that the filling was on the not quite set side.

                                  then came the beef short rib in black pepper sauce. the ribs were meaty tender, and the taro underneath soaked up the flavors and melded in a pleasing way.

                                  they were nicely flavored, but chicken feet are chicken feet.

                                  the "stuff meat dumpling" looked like it was baked in the pic, but it turned to be a stuffed sticky rice ball. slight sweetness of the sticky gooey dough did not IMO go well with whatever the filling was. OTOH, if i wanted to play a prank and pretend that i lost an eyeball, i would take one of these home and drop it on the floor. it would be the main reason i ever ordered it again. or maybe to throw it against the wall and see how long it took to slide its way down with a sticky residue marking its passage.

                                  chang fun with beef. i preferred china red's version with shrimp in terms of the dough.

                                  i found the chang fun with BBQ pork and sweet corn to be an interesting concept but a failure in execution.

                                  the salty pancake (no pic) was essentially a soggy scallion pancake topped with indifferently flavored meat.

                                  the siu mai was flavorful but the color and texture of the siu mai filling screamed CORN STARCH. there may have been individual pieces of shrimp in the filling, but the texture was too homogeneous for my liking. i was expecting more than this.

                                  i'm not necessarily the most adept user of chopsticks, but i've never had a ha gao shred like this at sea harbor, elite, king hua, etc. the texture of the wrapper wasn't as bad as it looked but again, i was expecting more at these prices. and that's not a bad way to sum it all up. as much as i liked the beef short rib & the custard tarts, it's not enough to make me want to go back, especially when i feel like i could go to king hua and spend less and get better quality for the kind of stuff i'm going to order for dim sum with an eye to spending less than $15. what we ordered today split 3 ways was almost $20 including tip.

                                  as a group we were pretty much underwhelmed. two of us went over to banh mi my tho for a sandwich afterwards. at price point this place fails to break into my top 8 (which includes china red BTW).

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: barryc

                                    Almost makes you yearn for MPV Seafood. Almost.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      if people still keep eating there, then shi hai might survive, though i wouldn't be able to explain why.

                                    2. re: barryc

                                      BC, we must have been at Shi Hai at the same time this afternoon.
                                      Since there were just my mom and me, we ended up ordering 3 dim sum (har gao, siu mai and turnip bowl) and 2 chef's specials (Cold roasted pork belly and pan fried rice noodle with beef).
                                      *Two other items in additional to the two specialties were marked on the full-color glossy printed ordering sheet by us using the quater-pencil supplied but they were missed and not registered/ordered. We had to ask for the specials and not the other two items to be added afterwards. Blame it on light pencil mark+glossy paper or inexperience staff.
                                      Both the shrimp dumpling and siu mai were fine/okay. Better than most $2 versions but not impressive. However, the tobiko garnish topping the siu mai were bright and crunchy, ie they were added after steaming. A nice touch but does not compensate for their shortcomings already noted by others.
                                      We both liked the panfried rice noodle with beef and the turnip bowl. King Hua used to offer a very good turnip bowl and perhaps 'better' version but not now.
                                      Now the cold roasted pork belly is not cold at all, but served warm with a fancy carnation+shiso presentation delivered under a beautiful clear glass dome and a dish of mayo sauce on the side. The presentation alone is worth the price. There are photos of this dish san the dome on Yelp. The pork belly is perfectly cooked and understatedly seasoned (in contrast to the more common noticeably salted and five spiced version) letting the clean pork flavor to be truely appreciated. Crowning each morsel is an incredibly light and crisp roasted pork rind. Superb! The lightness and crispiness of the roasted skin in conjunction with the perfectly cooked underlying pork is unmatched elsewhere in LA.
                                      PS. serving the dish warm is in contrast to tepid/room temperature that most HK style BBQs employ is genius and is needed to fully appreciate the dish. It can sell for many times its price on the west side.
                                      As a MSG connoisseur, I must say that I cannot detect any overt MSG in any of the dishes we tried. Instead, I am missing it quite a bit. Perhaps it is a new trend in dim sum. Natural taste rather than enforced umami a la sushi.

                                      1. re: FallingLeaves

                                        i replied previously but i don't see it.

                                        i was at the 3rd table on the far left side looking from the parking lot. basically looking down the aisle of private rooms that looked like an elevator lobby. i must have been within 1-2 tables of you.

                                        i'm pretty sure those orders of siu mai/ha gao were L which means they were $4.88. they clearly were not twice as good as a $2 order.

                                        the pork belly looked good, but no one else at the table wanted to shell out $15 to try an order. it may have been worth it, but based of the quality of everything else we tried, it didn't seem worth the risk. if i want to spend $25-30 for dim sum, i prefer sea harbor and something like their scallop/shark fin/tobiko dumpling where i could taste all three ingredients together and separately.

                                    3. While I can not agree that this is "The Best Dim Sum in Town" as Chandavkl has titled this post, it was good.

                                      The room is pleasant and fresh, although the carpet needed a vacuum. We entered before 11:00am and were seated within 5 minutes. The tables seemed to be turning quickly.

                                      They asked what kind of tea I wanted; when I requested oolong, they said they did not have any. My choices seemed to be either green or chrysanthemum. The jasmine green was okay; I have had better.

                                      We ordered 7 items: veggie rice noodles, tofu skin wraps, coconut buns, a couple of orders of dumplings, the soft bbq buns and the more crispy bbq buns. I agree with other posters here that the dumpling skins were not delicate; they were a little heavy and gelatinous. I liked the rice noodles. The coconut buns were quite good as were both of the bbq buns, although the soft bbq bun was served rather cold and a little dry as though it had been sitting out just minutes too long.

                                      The service was attentive and friendly, and generally, Shi Hai is another option. I would put this in the next tier down from King Hua, Sea Harbour and perhaps a couple of others.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: liu

                                        If I knew you were going to deviate from your regular Elite routine, I would've suggested China Red.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          I think everybody needs to try China Red and Shi Hai to see how they line up below Sea Harbour.

                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                            China Red is definitely one of the few top dim sum places I haven't tried in the SGV that sound like from this board is very good. I'm going to have to try both China Red and try Sea Harbour again since my previous experiences at SH back when they opened were so bad.

                                            Since I unfortunately work most weekends, my question is whether the quality like most other dim sum restaurants I've tried drops heavily on weekdays due to less turnover/less staff or can I expect the quality to be similar as I'd obviously prefer a 10-30 min wait as opposed to a 1+hour wait.

                                            1. re: polldeldiablo

                                              i was there on a friday and was quite pleased. you may miss out on some non-menu specials that apparently get schlepped around on weekends but everything else was good enough that it didn't matter to me.

                                              oh yeah, the shi hai waitress kept schlepping the same item about 3-5 times over the course of our meal. i suspect the items i saw the first time were the same ones 30 minutes later. not good.

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            "...deviate from your regular Elite routine..."

                                            Hi, ipse...Yes, I'm laughing! So, let's catch up.

                                            I have not been to Elite in the past year. These days I much prefer King Hua and Sea Harbour...and just below that, Shanghai No.1 and an intermittent rotation on a whim of a few others.

                                            Then we rotate into all of that our regular visits down to Torrance for that amazing Farmers' Market and subsequently a bowl of ramen at Santouka accompanied by the salmon roe rice bowl. Then we head over to Marukai Gardena for some fun shopping..oh, how I love their dishwares.

                                            Am I missing something these days at Elite?

                                            YOU? Where can I find you?

                                            China Red is next on my dim sum list and we will get there before the end of August.

                                            1. re: liu

                                              Interesting. I always thought of you as *the* Elite fan-girl.

                                              What happened?

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Ipse, nothing happened. A few items were served cool that would have been better hot, but the service remained consistently very attentive. The place was feeling a little dank and I think it is mostly the carpeting. I would love to see a remodel there with a lighter, more modern feel...and new carpet.

                                                Where are you eating?

                                                1. re: liu

                                                  Where are you eating?


                                                  It was at Annabel.

                                                  Good pizza, weak cocktails. But good pie.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Pizza is good sometimes.
                                                    Dim sum? Are you still loyal to Sea Harbour?

                                                    1. re: liu

                                                      Loyal is an odd choice of words.

                                                      Not really loyal to any place, much less for dim sum.

                                                      I do think that Sea Harbour is the most consistent at putting out quality dim sum.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        I feel a loyalty to places that "CONSISTENTLY" deliver good service and food. I felt this way about Elite for a long time because our service was always remarkable.