Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
(3939 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead)
The first of this list is Sea Harbour. Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant is one of the few dim sum places that really pays attention to both quality and portions. Although the restaurant has become a Mecca of sorts for hard-core dim sum pursuants, there is no loss of authenticity. The staff is pure Cantonese. Even fluent Mandarin speakers struggle a bit, but the language barrier isn’t that big of an issue when you order off a checklist accompanied by a complimentary picture menu with numbers. Sorry traditionalists: No carts here. But what it loses with the lack of speeding dim sum ladies, the restaurant makes up for in atmosphere. There’s no heckling or unbearable noise levels; you can enjoy your breakfast in peace. Dishes fly out of the kitchen steaming hot and the restaurant makes a point of creating a menu that combines classic dim sum dishes (har gow, pork ribs, rice noodles) with eclectic new flavors (radish cubes in pastry cups, baked BBQ buns). The tab comes out to be bit on the pricier side, but the selection, quantity, quality and overall attentiveness of the staff makes Sea Harbour the first to come.
Lunasia Chinese Cuisine
(500 W. Main St., Alhambra)
Since the changeover from Triumphal Palace, Lunasia has risen to the top of the dim sum ranks. It has a non-traditional set-up, with large plasma TVs and a much more casual décor, but what distinguishes Lunasia from all of its competitors is that you can have dim sum here all day long. Yes, you can finally get your har gow fix after the sun sets, as dim sum is served until 9 p.m. In terms of food, Lunasia takes pork shu mai to a whole other level. No fillers here — the shu mais are huge. As with most dim sum places during key hours, the wait can be a little daunting but thankfully there’s a Tea Station next door to hold off eminent starvation as you watch the plates of spare pork ribs float by on silver platters and into the mouths of voracious patrons.
(2000 W. Main St., Alhambra)
Though it’s located across the street from Target, King Hua exudes the atmosphere typical of a Chinese wedding banquet hall. The bottles of Conjac lining the walls are an indication of higher prices. Though the menu is not unlike any other dim sum restaurant and mirrors that of Sea Harbour’s, they do have a good handful of stand-outs. For one, the rice noodle rolls have a unique bitter melon filling that distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill rice noodles. The steamed shrimp and pea-tip dumplings wins our nomination for most unique dim sum dumpling: stuffed with chopped shrimp and snow-pea shoots and topped with a wolfberries, pea and corn. It may not be the most user-friendly restaurant, but there’s a picture menu and a complimentary checklist.
(700 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park)
Nestled in an unassuming plaza on Atlantic, Elite is an all-around favorite of SGV foodies. It’s on the higher end of dim sum joints: clean and devoid of rushing carts, tacky dragons and glaring red wallpaper. The egg custard, or dang ta, has a cult following in and of itself. It’s piping hot with a flaky crust that is rich and creamy but not overwhelmingly sweet. An honorable mention is the sticky rice in lotus leaf simply because it is filled with a good ratio of shrimp and pork nibbles. The staff speaks an adequate amount of English and although the wait can be horrendous on a weekend afternoons, you’ll be sufficiently happy with the pork shu mais (topped with a scallop) to justify it.
(111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park)
Empress Harbor is the best dim-sum-on-carts joint in the area. The highlight is the service, which is impressive given the reputation of the cuisine. If your desired har gow is missing from the nearby carts, the managers have a track record of going out of their way to get it for you. The decor is Chinese banquet-style at its finest, and the golden pillars and crystal chandeliers create an atmosphere set to make Chinese transplants feel right at home. There is an amazing steamed taro cake — and two people can easily eat their fill for around 20 dollars. Note: they offer chicken shu mai for those opposed to pork.