My very slow slow-motion survey of the major dim sum houses in the San Gabriel valley continues with this rather excessive meal at Lunasia—which was also eaten on our trip to Los Angeles in late December/early January.
Lunasia, depending on who you ask, is currently in the third or fourth position in the SGV’s dim sum hierarchy (Sea Harbour and Elite are uncontroversially above it and some would add King Hua as well). It is located in the same space in Alhambra that once housed Triumphal Palace, and like its predecessor (and the aforementioned contemporary luminaries) it offers dim sum not from carts but from an a la carte menu. When I first started eating dim sum in L.A (back in the mid-late 90s) the chaos of the carts was a large part of the attraction but the difference in quality between food that’s rolling around a large restaurant in carts and food coming straight from the kitchen to the table as it is ready is very hard to deny.
There were eight of us at this meal, which allowed us to both get a reservation and skip a wait that was 1.5 hours when we arrived at 11 on a Saturday and to order a very wide range of what’s on offer. There were the two of us and our boys and Sku and Mrs. Sku and their kids (the children were all pretty game, though some more than others).
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This came to roughly about $25/head. That might seem a lot but we ordered enough for at least another two hearty eaters—so really about $20/head. But even at $25/head this is an incredible value. I thought this was a far superior to our last King Hua outing and only a hair below Sea Harbour and Elite at their best (mostly palpable in the dumpling skins). I didn’t taste everything but nothing I did disappointed. I’ve read some complaints about service here but I didn’t find it to be any more or less functional than at any of other top places in the SGV—even without the carts no one is going to dim sum for a relaxed meal or solicitous service.
I would recommend it highly. And what I wouldn’t give to have a place even 2/3 as good in the Twin Cities (and, really, people, there’s no comparing the Twin Cities options to anything in the top two or three tiers in the SGV—this is not an insult, just reality). On our next trip (this summer) we’ll be checking out the newer China Red and Shi Hai (no relation, I think, to the Taiwanese breakfast institution). Lunasia is usually clubbed in with those two in the second tier and if they’re truly as good then we’ll be happy.