Dim Sum at Elite (Los Angeles, Summer 2013)

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I am currently in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks with the family, visiting in-laws and catching up with some old friends. As I have a backlog of tasting notes saved up, whisky reviews will continue to appear regularly, but I am going to also be posting discussions and photographs of some of the meals we will be eating. Here to start is a report on our dim sum lunch from yesterday. Please excuse the quality of the pictures. I have a 8 year old Canon Powershot with a scratched lens and have never been the best amateur food photographer, and my clean-up abilities in Photoshop are only marginally better.

My wife is from Los Angeles, and I spent 10 years there (1993-2003). The greatest adjustment we had to make when we left for Colorado, and from there to Minnesota in 2007, was in our careers as great greedy guts. We love to eat and we have very high standards. We love in particular those Asian cuisines for which there is no better place in the United States than the greater Los Angeles area: Korean, Chinese, Thai and Japanese, especially sushi. Indian is not as urgent as I am an above average cook and cook a lot at home (the missus makes Korean food too, but ingredient availability in Minnesota is not all it could be for the Korean cook).

And so, while there is now acceptable Sichuan food and dim sum available in the Twin Cities, and barely acceptable Thai food (the less said about sushi the better), we tend to go a little nuts when we visit Los Angeles. We’re no longer very current, of course, with the hottest places; but as I’m no longer as active in the food forum world as I was a decade ago I’m less consumed than I used to be with eating at the foodie-approved places (especially when it comes to Asian cuisines). We still do pretty well though, I think.

Click on a thumbnail to launch a slideshow with descriptions. For a little more information about the restaurant, dim sum in Los Angeles, and why we crave it (and other foods) when we’re not in L.A., read on.

The San Gabriel valley, just east of downtown Los Angeles, is the epicenter of new Chinese immigration to the United States–at least it used to be–and the range and depth of Chinese cuisines available in restaurants in the adjoining towns in the valley is quite staggering. As the clientele at all these places is predominantly Chinese, there is an in-built quality control in play, and restaurants that aren’t very good don’t last very long, or at least don’t maintain their reputations very long. Given our preferences Sichuan and dim sum are the major Chinese itches we scratch on our annual visits.

Back in the day our haunts for dim sum were Ocean Star and Harbor Village in Monterey Park, and later 888 Seafood in Rosemead (never the best but particularly cavernous and thus a quicker seater). In recent years, however, we’ve switched our allegiances to some relatively newer places. On our last few visits we’ve stuck with Sea Harbour in Rosemead, but on this visit our first stop was at Elite in Monterey Park yesterday. Both places eschew the rolling cart system. You have a menu with item names, numbers and pictures and you mark what you want on another sheet and place an order. You skip the theater of confusion of the rolling carts but get fresher food in the bargain. Works for us.

Sea Harbour has a more extensive menu than Elite. This is not to say that Elite has a more limited range of dim sum; merely that Sea Harbour’s menu is more extensive: there’s a bunch of stuff on the ordering sheet at Elite in Chinese characters that is not listed on the menu but the staff is more than happy to tell you if things you want are in fact available and you can always point and ask about things you see flying by to other tables. Yesterday’s lunch was particularly good.

If you happen to be from Los Angeles, or know it well, and have other places to recommend for dim sum, please leave recommendations in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Dim Sum at Elite (Los Angeles, Summer 2013)

    • Not on this trip, alas (or when I’ll be back again for two weeks in August to pick up the family). But once the kids are a little older we’ll doubtless begin to do some Seaworld/Zoo outings.

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          • Yeah, I used to live right off of Westwood and Santa Monica. Do like Persian food a lot, but it’s not at the top of the major cravings list.

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          • ’twas Midvale and (little) Santa Monica for me–back when there was a little Santa Monica*. That was a long time ago though. I started out down by USC for two years; then two years at the Midvale apartment (1995-1997); then three years in Santa Monica; then one and a half years in West L.A; and finally one and a half years in “Beverly Hills Adjacent” (aka right off Olympic between Robertson and La Cienega). If I hadn’t got a job in Boulder, CO I would have eventually lived in a crappy 1-2 bedroom apartment all over the Greater Los Angeles area (though I have to admit the Santa Monica sojourn was quite luxurious). Couldn’t afford to be a foodie or drink good whisky for most of those years as graduate school teaching assistant’ships mandated a life of genteel poverty.

            *Or is little Santa Monica still around? I haven’t spent real time on that side of town since 2003 and was under the impression that all the construction there some years ago was doing away with little Santa Monica. And things looked different when we briefly crossed Santa Monica on Veteran last week.

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  1. I’m wondering how you feel about NBC Seafood, also in Monterey Park. I went several times and thought it was truly outstanding. I’ve also heard, however, that it’s gone through management changes over the years and that the quality has likewise fluctuated.
    Also, on a tangent, any chance you’ve tried Mas’ Chinese Islamic Restaurant in Anaheim? It’s a hike, yes, but honestly SO very worth it. The sour lamb stew with cabbage is simply incredible.

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    • I do believe I’ve been to NBC Seafood, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I have little memory of it except that it was solid. My suspicion is that we stuck with Harbor Village and Ocean Star because we are creatures of habit. Maybe we’ll try to check it out either on this trip or in August. We do have to go back to Sea Harbour too, and I also want to try King Hua of which I’ve heard good things. And no, have not tried Chinese muslim food anywhere other than the two old stand-bys in SGV–China Islamic and Tung Lai Shun (which is, I believe, now deceased).

      Very good Shanghainese dinner today, by the way, of which more later.

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