Mario’s Birthday Lunch

Remember Ravi’s trip to the zoo on Mario’s birthday?  For those that didn’t know, we also celebrated Mario’s birthday in a small way, mainly due to his busy school schedule.  We took him out to his favorite restaurant for lunch, the Sea Harbor Restaurant, right after the zoo trip.

In the good old days when we didn’t have Ravi, Mario and I used to eat out at good restaurants every week and we enjoyed those experiences very much.  However, every time we ate at Sea Harbor we always ordered the same things.  So this time, we decided to step outside of our comfort zone and try couple of things we never had before.  Additional to Pork and Shrimp Dumpling (Shumai), Shark Fin Scallop Dumpling, Chicken Feet (yumm) and other staples, we ordered Beef Egg Porridge and Dry Scallop and Mushroom Rice Noodles.

 

Beef and Egg Porridge

The Beef and Egg Porridge was okay, but not pregnant women friendly.  It has tender slices of beef in soft porridge, and I am guessing once it got put into a big bowl, an raw egg was dropped into it.  When served,  the egg was supposed to be broken up and mixed with the hot porridge to allow it to cook somewhat.  I didn’t know about the raw egg part and happily ate some of this porridge, only to find out about its raw ingredient.  So I felt a little scared after.  But the porridge was really good and Mario had no problem finishing the rest.  Though in my book, I probably wouldn’t order it again.

Dry Scallop and Mushroom Rice Noodles

It is in Chinese tradition to eat noodles on the birthdays because it symbolizes longevity.  So Mario went fancy and ordered something expensive ($13) and sounded pretty cool.  However, when it arrived to our table, our opinions were split.  Mario didn’t like its blend taste.  Me on the other hand thought it was pretty good.  The most expensive ingredient in the dish was the dry sea scallop and there’s certainly plenty found in this dish.  There were also slices of dried Shiitake mushroom and minced pork.  I loved the simplicity of this noodle dish and even Ravi indulged me and ate couple of bites.

By the time we were there for about an hour, Ravi started to become agitated sitting in his seat so we had to hurry up and go.  But overall, it was really nice eating out again.  Mario certainly enjoyed his birthday lunch at our old hangout.

-Flo.

Lunasia Chinese Cuisine Restaurant

Ever since we ate at Sea Harbor Restaurant a couple of weeks ago on our half day off, we have been itching to try its potential competitor.  Last Saturday was Mario’s last day of summer quarter, and of course we wanted to eat at Lunasia Chinese Cuisine restaurant the first chance we get.  So with Ravi in tow and diaper bag to match, we headed out to Alhambra on Sunday.

Since Ravi woke up around 7AM, we were ready to go pretty early in the morning.  After half an hour of a car ride, we arrived about 9:45AM.  There wasn’t any line formed yet and we got a seat right away.  Good thing we arrived early, when we headed out about 10:30AM the line outside seemed pretty long.

From start to finish, Ravi dictated our eating experience.  We only ordered six dishes because we knew that keeping him in his seat was going to be a challenge.  We gave him chopsticks, tea cups, and our cell phones to play with, but he still publicly displayed his unhappiness by fake crying and getting attention from neighboring tables.  Though as food arrived, Ravi stopped his complains and played with his toys for a while.  We didn’t waste anytime and wolfed everything down so we could get out of there as soon as possible.  After half an hour, only five out of six dishes arrived and we decided not to wait any further and leave before Ravi has another breakdown.  We got our bill adjusted and left the restaurant within 45 minutes!  That’s our fastest dim sum experience ever!

What’s the Price?

The price at Lunasia is on the same level as Sea Harbor, or may be just slightly more expensive.  We ordered five dishes (exclude the one never arrived) and cost us $23 without tips.  Each dish is rated small, medium, large, or special and are priced accordingly.  The small was priced at $3 per dish.  Additionally, we were charged $3 for the tea.  Maybe they were counting Ravi as a tea drinker, either way it is a bit on the high side.

What’s Cool and What’s Not?

There’s the same “order off the menu” system rather than the “order off the pushed cart” system.  The menu is just one sheet of paper tri-folded, printed front and back.  So it was easy to look at all the names of the dishes but does not have spaces for pictures associated with each dish.  Sea Harbor has a real menu for dim sum and pictures and prices associated with each dish.  We loved that about Sea Harbor.  There were some choices that Lunasia offers that Sea Harbor doesn’t, and also true the other way around.

How about the Service?

The tea arrived about 5 minutes after we sat down.  We also had to wait a few minutes before anyone took our order.  Our second desert order of a “thousand layer cake” didn’t arrive after half an hour of wait time, but they had no problem adjusting our bill.  Overall, good service, even though it wasn’t as good as Sea Harbor’s where we got our tea instantly and any request answered immediately.

What about the Food?

Lunasia offers a good number of choices in dim sum.  We stayed with mostly the dishes we loved and order some we haven’t tried before.

Here’s their menu and our order list.

Baked Pastry with Duck. This was the first time we’ve ordered this dish and we really didn’t expect it to turn out in this form.  It looked like the traditional baked BBQ pork pastry and it tasted like it too, but it was really filled with duck and costed a little more.  I am not a huge fan of this dish.  It tastes okay, but not great.

Pork and Shrimp Dumpling.  This was my favorite dish of the day.  It was bigger in size than I expected.  It was also very juicy and tender, with a touch of mushroom to it.  Very tasty!

Chicken Feet.  The color of this dish was spot on. I was concerned initially since the chicken feet kept their form so well and didn’t looked so tender, but once I bit into it, it was very soft and juicy and the tendon and skin fell right off the bone.  I consider this quite amazing, Lunasia managed to keep the form but at the same time made it so tender.

Egg Custard Bun.  This bun had a good amount of filling to it, but it was more a regular egg custard with a more pasty feel to it.  Sea Harbor’s version had that golden flowing butter and preserved duck egg yolk, which was an instant wow.  This is good, but not great.

Bacon and Onion Pancake.  This was probably the least liked dish of the day.  We had no idea that this would be fried.  It was too cruchy and oily.

Overall, Sea Harbor is a better dim sum restaurant in LA, with Lunasia a close second.  However, we will come back and eating here so we can get some varieties we don’t get at Sea Harbor.  I think maybe being rushed has something to do with us not enjoying the experience so much.  Besides, Lunasia is one of the few places that offers Thousand Layer Cake that we didn’t get to try this time.  We’ll definitely order it when we go back next time.

-Flo.

Sea Harbor Restaurant

A couple of days ago, Mario and I said to each other: “I’m so tired of working!  I need to have some alone time away from it all!”  Translation: “Time to take a day off without the kid so we can pamper ourselves without a care!”

So that’s what we tried to do yesterday.  Unfortunately we could only take off half a day from work, and the only pampering was to visit our old hang out spots to have lunch and get hair cuts.  But what a wonderful day!  Lunch was absolutely fantastic, and my new hair stylist turned out great.  He worked on my hair for about an hour and half while Mario got so tired of waiting and that he ended up taking a nap.

But this post is about the restaurant, so lets get down on the food.  In my family’s opinion, Sea Harbor Restaurant is one of the best Dim Sum house in Los Angeles.  Why “one” of the best?  Recently my dad had found a newly opened Dim Sum house that seems to be on the same level of Sea Harbor.  So these two in my opinion are the best.  Mario has been a long time fan of Sea Harbor, so when I asked him where we should go, Sea Harbor was his first choice.  In any case, I’ve never been disappointed after a meal at Sea Harbor.

What’s the Price?

Sea Harbor is a little bit on the expensive side compared to other Dim Sum houses in the area, but well worth the price.  Normally, we go with thee orders per person but today we were feeling adventurous and ordered a total of seven dim sum dishes.  The bill came to $28 without tips, and we had to take some of the food home.

What’s Cool?

First thing to mention is that Sea Harbor has an “order off the menu” system rather than the “order off the pushed cart” system.  This way, you order what you want, when it is ready in the kitchen the waiters will bring it to your table steaming hot!

How about the Service?

I joke about this, but normally the level of service of a restaurant is inversely proportional to the taste of the food.  That means the hole-in-the-wall with the best Kun Pao Chicken generally has the worst service.  The owner or his kid is probably the waiter, and they would take your order with an expressionless face and hope you get out of your seat fast so they can serve the next guy standing behind you.  Not so here at Sea Harbor!  The service has always been top notch.  You can speak Chinese or English, the staff fulfills your request very quickly.

What about the Food?

Now our favorite topic!  We started with some Chrysanthemum and Po-Er tea.  It literally came within five seconds after we sat down.

Here’s our order slip.

Within minutes, food started to arrive.  Pork and Shrimp Dumplings, and Shark Fin Scallop Dumplings.  The Shark Fin Scallop Dumpling is absolutely gorgeous!  It has beautiful pink shrimps inside the dumpling, on top of it is a large piece of white scallop and fish roe with strings of shark fin on top.  Taste is wonderful too.  It was the first dish that arrived and I burned the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t wait for it to cool… so worth it!  My husband loved the Pork and Shrimp Dumpling and ate most of the order.  He said he particularly loved the peppery bite to it.

The Shrimp Dumpling is also awesome!  Mario complained that it was too big, like that’s a bad thing.

The chicken feet were exceptionally good this time, so soft, the skin and tendon falls right off the bone.  Mario has never been a huge fan of this stuff and I was surprised that he ate two out of the four chicken feet yesterday.  I would have no problem eating them all.

Stir Fry Radish Cake with XO Sauce, one of my favorite.  It disappeared from the menu for a while, but I was glad to see it come back.  You may not be able to tell from this picture that the inside of each piece is so juicy, it is amazing it got through the stir fry and maintained its shape.

Ma-La-Gao is a traditional dessert.  It’s very fluffy and taste!  We order this one every time we come here.

Of course there’s one dish missing from these pictures. Pretty much we ate it before we realized that we forgot to take a picture.  It was Sea Harbor’s take on Egg Custard Bun, except it is made with butter and preserved duck egg yolk, so it would flow out of the bun after the first bite.  I absolutely love the dish!

Flo’s Take:

I love it!  I would definitely come back again and again.  Please note we ignored any Dim Sum house in the West LA neighborhood where we live, which are much more expensive and less tasty, and drove about 25 miles to get to Sea Harbor.  All worth it!  Because it is so good, the lines are long on the weekends.  We once waited over an hour and a half even though we arrived 10 minutes before the restaurant opened.  So don’t try this place on a holiday unless you don’t mind the wait.  Dinners here is fantastic too.  I usually take my parents here for their birthday.

I hope you enjoyed the post.  We hope to venture out and try the other good Dim Sum houses in the near future.  And I will definitely blog it here!

-Flo.