L.A.'s best dim sum restaurants
After all these years, Sea Harbour is still a crowd favorite. The cozy dining room has been offering made-to-order dishes since 2002. Dare to visit on a weekend morning and you’ll find a line that formed long before opening. With a menu of more than 100 items, you’ll do best to stick to the well-executed basics, like crystal shrimp dumplings and pork dumplings. The vibrant pork soup dumplings are hot and juicy in their tins on arrival, while the springy rice noodle rolls nail the ideal filling-to-rice-paper ratio and are some of the best in the city. Highlights beyond the basics include fried whole smelt, black fungus and celery dumplings.
Once home to the famed foie gras dumpling, the dim sum spot now serves dainty golden egg buns, with runny, sweet yolk centers that ooze out from fluffy white exteriors. The almond milk with puff pastry is another one of their signature creations, with hot and just-sweet-enough almond milk beneath a fluffy, flaky top. House-made dumplings are aptly labeled “jumbo," and their sticky rice wrap has exceptional flavor and just the right texture. Arrive early to avoid the inevitable brunch rush, but note that this spot serves dim sum well into the night. Pro tip: You’d be better served by going to Lunasia's original location in Alhambra than to their second location in Old Town Pasadena, where you don't quite get the same feel or quality.
At this regally appointed banquet hall ensconced in red and bronze, excellent dim sum dishes roll out to meet your pencil-and-paper order menu. King Hua's shrimp dumplings are exceptional, with springy shrimp in tender, stretchy skin. On the back of the menu, you'll find a selection of flavorful congee and desserts and a variety of noodle dishes: The pork with preserved egg congee is spectacular, but you can also go all out with the market-priced lobster variety. Can't decide which to choose? Flag down one of the restaurant's friendly servers wandering around, who are more than happy to advise.
This mainstay in Monterey Park not only offers great service, it also has some of the best congee you can find on a push cart. The rice porridge receives a jolt of flavor with tiny slices of beef and crispy wonton chips sprinkled on top, which you'll plow through until the bowl is scraped clean. Other items that make their way through Empress Harbor's elaborate red and gold dining hall: crystal shrimp dumplings and bean curd rolls featuring thin sheets of tofu skin. The dim sum essentials do well above average here, making for a spirited, festive meal that you'll likely return to again and again. (Next weekend, perhaps?)
Capital Seafood is one of the last great push-cart places in the San Gabriel Valley, with the ultimate aim of being authentic (and inexpensive). There's plenty to choose from, but you'll want to try the sliced crispy pork belly with its fantastic, crackling texture, along with the chicken feet—you know, if that’s your thing. The egg tarts are superb, boasting a multilayered, flaky crust. Service is top notch at Capital, where dishes land promptly on your table and frequent check-ins ensure that you'll always be able to order more.
Food is ordered hot off the menu at Elite in Monterey Park, where your lengthy table wait time gets rewarded with dishes like fluffy, buttery baked pork buns. True to its name, this high-end spot tends to showcase more delicate and nuanced flavors, with a wide selection of noodle roll dishes and unique offerings like coconut in BBQ buns, fake shark fin dumplings in broth, and fried taro and pork with flaky, gauze-like breading that melts in your mouth. The dumplings are large—but you'll finish them, of course.
Make your way to Arcadia for a standout dim sum experience at China Red, where diners pick from a robust menu (no carts here) that includes steamed bao, shu mai, har gow and plenty of other staples. Service is attentive, plates come out hot and there's no shortage of dishes to order. Finish with a few egg tarts and China Red's signature yam dumplings.
Make no mistake: This is no dine-in, cart-wheeling, head-over-heels-in-love-with-the-space dim sum spot, but it's one of Monterey Park's hidden gems. This tiny, cash-only to-go counter serves dumplings and combo plates for as little as $3. Roast duck hangs behind the plexiglass from the "roast" section, where you can also snag golden chicken, soy sauce squid and BBQ pork for $10 or less. This takeout joint is no-frills for sure, and tucked into a strip mall, but it's not to be overlooked for a quick, inexpensive stop when your dim sum cravings hit.