Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
3939 Rosemead Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
If you were to ask a number of Chinese food ‘experts’ on where the best Chinese food in America is, a lot of them would say the San Gabriel Valley part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Due to the waves of immigration, particularly of fairly wealthy families from Hong Kong and Taiwan, after the Immigration Act of 1965, the San Gabriel boomed with upper middle class Chinese immigrants. The gastronomic result was a continuing explosion of authentic Chinese food starting in the mid-1980s, including the recruitment of chefs from China to run the kitchens in many of the most successful Chinese restaurants.
I could certainly write a whole paper on this topic, but in the interest of your time, and appetite this Thanksgiving, let’s turn to Sea Harbour. Sea Harbour is considered one of the best Chinese restaurants in the nation, ranging from ‘celebrity diner’ David Chan (known for his experience at eating at 6,000+ Chinese restaurants in America) to renown LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold (who listed it as the best dim sum restaurant in Southern California). Therefore, it was the place I really had to go to during my one day in LA on this Thanksgiving weekend.
When my sister and I arrived in the parking lot, it was already at full capacity. This was during a weekday, so you can imagine how crowded this place would be on a weekend or holiday. We got seated promptly, at the only table for two available and was promptly given a picture menu of the dim sum items as well as an itemized tic sheet to place what you wanted to get (kind of like the order tic sheet you get at most sushi restaurants in America). There are no carts at Sea Harbour, similar to the trend in Hong Kong, which apparently can make the food items fresher when they are served.
We ordered the following items: sichuanese string beans, ‘soup dumplings’, siu mai, stick rice wrapped in lotus leaves, steamed daikon cake, buns with cream filling, and egg custard tarts. Most of them are items typical of any reputable dim sum parlor in America with a few, like sichuanese strong beans and buns with cream filling, being slightly harder to find. I eschewed some really interesting and ‘exotic’ items due to their price point.
The sticky rice came first, followed by the soup dumplings. The sticky rice was pretty good with rich, but not overpowering fillings, including a whole salty egg yolk. The soup dumplings were disappointing with dry skin and soup that was rather bland for a soup dumpling, even if the meatball inside was decent. Next came the siu mai, which was perfect with a mixture of both shrimp and pork (when most dim sum places go cheap with just pork). Along with that came the string beans which were absolutely amazing. The string beans had perfect crisp and the ground pork were seasoned well, with a hint of spice. The best part is that everything in that dish came together well and it was not very oily, which sometimes can happen with this dish. The best savory dish came last, which was the daikon cake. While steamed, rather than the traditional fried version, these daikon cakes were still very well flavored with a light soy sauce mixture to flavor at the base and bits of bacon as a garnish. The bacon gave this dish a crunch and saltiness that worked very well.
The desserts came last and they were pretty good as well. The buns came first with a rich, white filling that was sweet but not overpowering. The egg custard tarts were nearly perfect, with a good flaky crust and a warm, soft, and perfectly baked egg custard filling. It was probably the best egg custard tart I have ever eaten, even beating the oft-praised ones from Golden Gate Bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The service was pretty good and efficient as well, with servers regularly checking to ensure water glasses were filled and picking up empty small steamers. There was no need to flag down waiters for 10 minutes in frustration, as you would have to do in nearly every dim sum parlor elsewhere in Southern California. The prices were fairly reasonable too, albeit somewhat pricey for the San Gabriel Valley. Items started at $2.98 for a small with my total bill for 7 items coming to around $32. Given the quality of the food, aside from the soup dumplings, I would say it was worth every penny.
All in all, it was one of the best dim sum places I have ever been to and it’s no surprise, given that the restaurant is an offshoot of one that has locations in Hong Kong and Vancouver.