We had a visit to Sea Harbour just before experiencing the best Dim Sum we’ve ever had in the U.S., and then right afterwards, we had to go back immediately this weekend to confirm our feelings.
Scallop & Preserved Egg with Bean Curd Congee:
This was excellent. The Congee Rice Porridge was a nice consistency, I loved the balance of Scallops and Preserved Egg, a bit of briny and creamy funk.
Sticky Rice Wrapped with Lotus Leaf:
As fragrant, moist and tasty as usual. The Marinated Chicken and Salted Duck Egg were fantastic with the fragrant Sticky Rice (in Lotus Leaf).
Deep Fried Smelt Fish in Spicy Salt & Pepper:
So enticing from the Garlic and nicely fried. The Smelt Fish was the highlight of the meal!
Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce:
Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow):
Nicely steamed, the Dumpling skin was a touch overcooked. The Shrimp were fresh and plump.
Ox Omasum in XO Sauce:
This was really tasty! Even though I’m not an offal fan, this Steamed Beef Stomach was very mild, a bit chewy (in a good way), and fragrant in the light broth. It didn’t really taste like XO Sauce, so I think it’s a typo on the menu (in English).
Black Fungus & Celery Dumpling:
This is one of the more creative dishes at Sea Harbour during Dim Sum, making a Dumpling with Wood Ear Mushrooms and Chinese Celery. There’s a pleasing crunch from the Celery, and the Wood Ear Mushrooms give off a separate type of slight crunch, all evened out by the soft, plump Dumpling Skin (perfectly steamed).
We just got back from a visit to Sea Harbour this weekend, curious to see how everything would taste after our stunning visit to the best Dim Sum we’ve ever had.
Pork & Shrimp Dumpling with Truffle Sauce (Shumai / Siu Mai):
So it seems Sea Harbour has done away with their original “basic” Siu Mai / Pork & Shrimp Dumpling, and they are now only serving a version with “Truffle.” Like Din Tai Fung, they are using some cheap, fake Black Truffle (probably Chinese Truffles) as the price of this dish is the same as before they added it, so clearly they couldn’t be giving away real Black Truffles from Italy / France at that price.
The Siu Mai are moist and tender, and the fake Truffles add a bit of flavor, but nothing like real Black Truffles. Overall, it’s a very good Siu Mai, but it’s not even in the same ballpark as the ones we had at Dragon Beaux.
Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf:
This visit was slightly drier than the previous visit, but still very good. Everyone liked the flavors, and the Salted Duck Egg.
Deep Fried Squid in Spicy Salt & Pepper:
Delicious! Nicely fried, and the Salt & Pepper and a bit of heat from the Chili was spot-on.
Dry Scallop & Meatball Congee:
Their Housemade Pork Meatballs were just the right balance of fatty and lean Ground Pork, and the Congee was perfectly cooked again (not too thick or thin).
Deep Fried Chicken Knee in Spicy Salt & Pepper:
Another very good dish. We had 2 friends who joined us who couldn’t stop eating this.
Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow):
These turned out much better than Dragon Beaux (the only item, though), with Sea Harbour’s Dumpling Skin being steamed perfectly, with a nice subtle chew and plump Shrimp inside.
Steamed Rice Noodle with Shredded Chicken & Bitter Melon:
One of the more unique dishes and now a mainstay on Sea Harbour’s menu, I like it because of the strong bitter taste from the Bitter Melon, balanced by a bit of the Marinated Chicken and Soy Sauce blend on top. The Rice Noodle exterior was nicely steamed (not overcooked).
House No. 1 Baked BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao):
These were as… underwhelming as before. They arrived soft and doughy, not really “toasty” nor having much of anything notable on the exterior. The interior Char Siu BBQ Pork was fine - sweet and salty and tender enough. The version from Dragon Beaux was so far ahead of this it was shocking.
Shrimp Dumpling with Gold Leaf:
As if magically in-tune with our conversations on FTC, imagine our surprise when we saw this new Special being offered (limited time special, for now)! @ipsedixit @PorkyBelly @J_L @bulavinaka @beefnoguy @chandavkl and others…
It looked gorgeous and shocking. And encouraging that Sea Harbour might once again be innovating?
Taking a bite… it tasted like a thicker skinned version of the standard Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow). It wasn’t bad at all, the Shrimp were delicious and tender, the Dumpling Skin here was made with Squid Ink, but it tasted pretty mild, and really just like a slightly thicker version of the same Har Gow.
So it’s maybe more for visual bling / Instagram perhaps, and maybe to get exposure? It was fine, but I wish the taste was innovating.
Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce:
These could have been steamed a bit longer, as they were a touch too firm, but still fine.
Fish Roe with Scallop Dumplings:
Meaty, plump Shrimp and Scallops with a nice briny burst from the Fish Roe. Tasty!
Almond Pudding (with Tapioca):
Their Almond Pudding with Tapioca was cool and refreshing, not overly sweet and with a nice Almond scent with each bite.
@ipsedixit they removed / rotated out the French-Style Taro Buns! I’m so sad, they were the best dessert on Sea Harbour’s menu and really innovative.
Steamed Salty Egg Yolk Bun with Gold Foil:
And the 2nd Special Item added to the menu for this visit, even more stunning than the Shrimp Dumplings with Gold Foil, these Steamed Salty Egg Yolk Buns with Gold Foil were just gorgeous!
We couldn’t stop looking at them, and other tables around us were looking at them as they brought this to the table.
Visually, this is the type of stuff that’s engaging and exciting, and something that looks like it could’ve been on Dragon Beaux’s menu.
Taste-wise? It tasted exactly like the regular Salty Egg Yolk Steamed Buns, except the dough here was a touch firmer.
To be fair, the actual taste is delicious. If you’ve never had Sea Harbour’s Salty Egg Yolk Steamed Bun, despite the name, it’s a beautiful salty-sweet Dessert Bun, almost like the hit of Salted Caramel (some salt, with sweet), it arrives piping hot and is delicious!
But besides the visuals, we were hoping the taste might be slightly different.
So, besides Dim Sum, we wanted to see how Dinner was, and we hadn’t had a good Hong Kong-style Dinner in a while.
We started with a Chrysanthemum Tea. I love how fragrant and light it is.
Live Prawns - Steamed:
I was so looking forward to this dish. To this day, this has to be my favorite Shrimp Dish of all-time…
Half of the Live Prawns arrived full of Roe!
Look at how much Roe was in 1 of these Prawn:
Make sure you dab the Prawn in some of this Magic Sauce from the Heavens:
Taking a bite…
Perfectly cooked, plump Spot Prawns, tender, moist, meaty, inherently lightly sweet. Some of that Shrimp Roe and that amazing Dipping Sauce and some Steamed Rice…
We take it for granted sometimes, the greatness we have in L.A., but seriously this is still one of the Best Bites I’ve ever had!
Stir-Fried Fish Maw with Egg White:
A new dish on Sea Harbour’s dinner menu, the Fish Maw and Egg White combo was tasty, light and fluffy with a little bit of nice chew from the Fish Maw. The Choy Sum Vegetable underneath was a bit of a miss: It’s not bad, but it’s a hearty, fibrous vegetable, and I think this dish would’ve been perfect with something more tender, like Asparagus instead. Otherwise, it was fine.
Steamed Mince Pork with Water Chestnut and Black Bean Paste:
This looks so basic and simple, but the Steamed Minced Pork (so perfectly marinated) with a bit of crunch from Water Chestnuts chopped up, and Black Bean Paste, a bit of wonderful Green Onions and some Steamed Rice…
Another Best Bite of 2017 easily!
This was so delicious, we couldn’t stop eating it! Thanks to all the veteran FTC’ers (and my friend from the SGV) who recommended this dish on our old board, back in the day!
Braised E-Fu Noodles with Stewed Chinese Mushrooms:
Soft, tender E-Fu Noodles, quite different from the usual Crispy Egg Noodles (that Sea Harbour also serves). I loved the aromatic Mushroom flavors coming through in each bite (from the Stewed Mushrooms).
(Complimentary) Ginger Butternut Squash Soup:
Sea Harbour was serving a complimentary Dessert to all tables that didn’t order one of their more fancy Desserts. For this evening, a Ginger & Butternut Squash Soup. It was served hot, with a strong Ginger aroma coming through in each sip. It was only mildly sweet and a perfect palate cleanser to end the meal.
Sea Harbour continues to be L.A.'s best Dim Sum, and delivers some tasty, excellent offerings. Their weakness has been a strange stagnation recently (no new, interesting dishes), but the 2 new Specials offer a ray of hope that perhaps they might try innovating again. The Shrimp Dumpling in Gold Leaf and Salty Egg Yolk Bun in Gold Leaf are downright stunning visually, but taste-wise, it’s really the same dish as their predecessors.
But after having tried the best Dim Sum I’ve ever had in the U.S. at Dragon Beaux, it is so far ahead of Sea Harbour in terms of execution and flavors and innovation (sans the Shrimp Dumpling) that it’s hard to get excited about eating Dim Sum in L.A. right now.
However Dinner at Sea Harbour remains a wonderful experience: The Steamed Live Spot Prawns and Steamed Minced Pork with Water Chestnuts & Black Bean Sauce this week delivered two of the Best Bites of 2017 (don’t forget to add in their amazing Steamed Live Rock Cod)! They are so deeply satisfying, tasty, and crave-worthy, that this remains one of L.A.'s treasures not to be overlooked.
Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant
3939 Rosemead Blvd.
Rosemead, CA 91770
Tel: (626) 288-3939
I dunno why people don’t believe me, but dinner is so much more interesting (and better) than dim sum is at Sea Harbour.
As an aside, how is the renovation / expansion coming along at the place?
Thanks. Yah we really like Dinner here a lot.
I was wondering what was going on (with the boarded up area to the left of the entrance). It’s still boarded up and during Dim Sum, we heard construction workers hammering away. Are they just adding more banquet rooms I wonder?
I don’t think it’s a matter of not believing you. Dim sum seems more accessible, casual and economical. Trying to recall the last time we went to dinner at Sea Harbour, I think our meal was something like $150-170 per. That alone is a barrier for most. A Porthos/ipse meal would be at least 2x, not including personal wine cellar cherry picking.
Nobody ever mentions that this fabled steamed shrimp half filled with roe is $30/lb
IMHO, totally worth it. Interestingly, Newport Seafood charged us $39 / lb for their steamed shrimp(!), and it was far worse than Sea Harbour. Newport completely overcooks their steamed shrimp (the last 3 times we’ve ordered it).
My friends in the SGV (and here on this board I think a few people mentioned it), that Newport is nowhere near as good as before (some of the staff left to do Boston Lobster and 626 Lobster).
For our latest meal (above), that was about 1 pound of the spot prawns, and it was enough for 3 of us as a nice “small plate” (we were stuffed and had leftovers after all of those dishes). Of course if we want to totally fill up on just the live shrimp, I agree, it might be really expensive, but in moderation and spread amongst a few friends the total meal was definitely reasonable in price.
I remember the 70s, 80s and maybe even the early 90s when we Angelenos would go to the Bay Area to get better Chinese food than we could get here. Then it was Vancouver from the early 90s until recently. Strange but true that it’s that way again for dim sum. My favorite is the Tim Ho Wan style crispy bbq pork bun, which is hardly available here, yet which you can get a decent version for $1.25 at a bakery in SF Chinatown.
Very interesting info, thanks for the perspective. How does the one at Dragon Beaux compare to the $1.25 ones you get in Chinatown?
Obviously Dragon Beaux is much better, as are the versions at Hong Kong Lounge I, Hong Kong Lounge 2, and Lai Hong Lounge. Per unit price is a little higher at these restaurants (I thought it was $4 or $5 for an order of three), but the crispy bun at i Cafe Chinatown is much bigger. Indeed I’d take the i Cafe Chinatown version over that at Golden Valley in Industry, which is the only place I recall seeing the Tim Ho Wan bun down here actually on the menu. Lunasia has it sometimes as a bonus item on trays, and I’m not sure if it’s currently on or off at Sea Harbour.
Whatever happened to almond gelatin that used to be served at Chinese restaurants?
You mean almond tofu? (or 杏仁豆腐)
Many still have them. Need to ask
Tofu? I seem to recall it was more like jello. Milky, little cubes of almond scented jello, sometimes served with diced lychee.
It’s white and jiggly. Termed ‘tofu’ until proven otherwise.
You can make it home, pour some Del Monte canned fruit on top, and voilà!
Jell-O at dim sum restaurants were rather popular many many years ago. But no more. If you want Jell-O (or Jell-O ish) desserts go to HK-style cafes or a Boba joint.
Nowadays, if you see Jell-O at all at a dim sum place it’s usually, if not exclusively, Osmanthus Jell-O. A very delectable treat popularized by Tim Ho Wan. Apparently, it’s a good palate cleanser for those yummy pork buns.
And now that I think about it, almond Jell-O would be kind of cool, maybe even topped with some chocolate sauce? It would like Chinese Almond Joy for people who lost their dentures.
Hong Kong cafes it is then! Thanks.
@paranoidgarliclover That sounds suspiciously familiar. In fact, I think I may have made that once, when I was just a little cook. I know I ate it at Chinese restaurants, but where the heck did I find that recipe? I’d forgotten all about that!
@Bookwich when we were little, my Mom used to buy the package mix at the Chinese grocery store. I think you just need to add hot water to the mix to make the almond jell-o. She’d cube it up after it set and mixed it with cans of fruit cocktail, canned peaches, canned lychee, and canned longan. She hasn’t made it in years, but I imagine the mix is still sold in stores.
Well not really tofu or jello, but agar. Was the 20th Century free Chinese dessert until more recently usurped by that awful red bean soup.
Red bean soup when done right is like anko nectar.
Done in the way of a gratis dessert at Chinese restaurants, it’s like used motor oil. Spiked with too much sugar.