Sea Harbor Seafood on a budget


#1

My mom has been to SH dim sum. It only only took about a decade for her to agree it is the best dim sum around. She would never agree to a dinner because “it’s too expensive.”. Well, I’ve finally convinced her to give it a shot for New Year’s Eve. I convinced her by saying we won’t have to order all the expensive stuff to have a good meal. Am I wrong? If so, recommendations?

I have had dinner with friends. It was a few years ago and I don’t remember everything we ordered. I hate it to admit it because I love the dim sum so much, but the dinner was a little disappointing. But I’d like to give it another shot.


#2

it’s not necessarily expensive if you skip fresh seafood from the tank / pre-ordered items


#3

Hi @tdonline,

Some of Sea Harbour’s best dishes are its live seafood and how it prepares them. It’s like going to a, e.g., pasta specialist and skipping all of the pasta and ordering other stuff in some ways. Their steamed (live) fish (red grouper is the cheapest option I think we were charged $39/lb the last time we went) is my favorite in the SGV, their steamed (live) spot prawns are legendary, their (live) crab (you can choose like 4 - 5 different options for prep - with garlic, with ginger and green onions, etc.) are all excellent.

The regular menu items have some standouts, I defer to our expert @ipsedixit to give you some non-live seafood suggestions here. I remember enjoying the Steamed Mince Pork with Water Chestnut and Black Bean Paste, and the Truffle Chicken.


#4

Never been, but as with all Cantonese banquet type dining:

  • avoid the upsell of any banquet menus, might not be the best value (unless you have difficulty choosing and have 8 to 10 people in your party) and the dishes seem ok to you.

  • don’t order any of the dried seafood delicacies (like abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber…shark fin used to be in this category prior to the ban) but unless one knows to order this stuff it’s generally not touched much these days unless someone is feeling generous. Generally I don’t trust California seafood restaurants to cook them properly, as technique is crucial…and you don’t want someone less skilled or unknown to be doing the braise (and master braise stock) since you are paying top dollar.

  • balance it out, appetizers, a soup, various proteins, vegetables. Order bowls of rice as needed, and wrap it up with a plate of fried rice or noodles, dessert only if you feel the need to. The fried rice or noodles save it towards the end to fill you up. As for the proteins, it can be trying the BBQ items / roasties, or order half or a whole chicken. A pork dish here or there is good. Balance the proteins across a mix of style and flavor profiles…stir fry, steam, braise for variety. You can also do something similar like oyster sauce beef stir fried with greens (or just mushrooms), and the pork can be a steamed pork patty. Items that need a bowl of rice to go with can help fill your stomach a bit quicker.

  • it’s winter, fit in something involving a claypot. And if you have hardcore Cantonese tastebuds and follow traditions, make it a Chinese sausage rice claypot (preserved / lap mei fan), but this might be custom order at the restaurant. Another variation is to do a claypot rice of shittake mushroom and chicken…the more hardcore folks will customize and add Chinese sausage in there. “Lap Mei” is actually mixed preserved meats, so the trifecta should include Chinese sausage (lap cheung), liver sausage (Yun cheung) usually made from duck, and lap yuk (cured thinner pork belly slices with fat)…and some places might do lap ngap (cured preserved duck). If you only get lap cheung in a lap mei fan it’s not legit. But perfectly fine to only have the sausage added on to chicken and mushroom claypot rice.

  • order seafood only based on your budget. Fresh live seafood will be more costly but if you have more people in your party it is do-able. I’m going to guess that shrimp/prawns are a lot safer to order. Live fish, lobster etc can be over steamed if the kitchen cannot properly gauge the size and fat content of the fish. If a lobster is too large, it’s also easier to stir fry it. For shrimp or prawns, parboil/steamed for natural taste/freshness (you will have to peel the skins) or if they are medium to larger sized, you can ask for them to do pan fry in supreme soy sauce (usually it’s Maggi for incredible umami) and if they pan fry it right, it tastes insanely good and you can also eat the shells but the best stuff will be the juices in the head. You get the best of cooking technique, umami burst, and if they cook it right the natural sweetness retains of the live shrimp and it’s way more fun than just eating the tried and true boiled. Corral shrimp should work with that just fine. Check the price you could be running $30 a pound and then you’re out $50 to $60+.

Overall strategy, keep the ordering simple and stick with cleaner flavors, and see if the restaurant can shine with the basics. Less disappointment that way.


#5

Thanks all. We splurged on 2 pounds of steamed prawn and then prudently ordered 4 dishes off of the non-seasonal menu. I love the Chengdu Tastes as much as the next person but it was great to have a relatively light and non-oily meal.

Memory may be a little fuzzy and I can’t remember the exact names but the four other dishes were:

Maw soup–Good, maybe a little bland before the vinegar and pepper additions

String beans with roast meat(?)–So good, fantastic crunch and wok hei.

Deep fried tofu with greens–Very good, deep fried but not at all heavy and oily. Greens perfectly sauteed.

Glass noodles with mushrooms casserole–Initially underwhelming (bland), but it’s a grower and we went back to it throughout the meal. Seemed super healthy and it’s the one I’m going to try to make at home.


#6

Wanted to add the prawns were about $56 per pound. I’d like to go back and order the steam fish–we regretted not ordering it. Didn’t feel like a proper Cantonese dinner without it.


#8

Ha yup Cantonese dinner must. A whole steamed fish, a plate of greens, and soup! Cantos LOVE soup. It ain’t a Canto dinner without those 3. I hope Sea Harbour served up some complimentary soup


#9

@Chowseeker1999 What dimsum items would you recommend for a party of 2 with average appetites?

I’ve been to Lunasia a few times and have enjoyed the food, but dislike the ambiance (too cramped and noisy).


#10

Is it possible to order 1/2 lb of the prawns? Is there a minimum order?


#11

Hi @BlurA14,

I love those live spot prawns! :slight_smile: It’s 1 lb increments only.


#12

Darn. Going for dim sum on Sunday, but not sure my group of 6 wants to take down a pound of prawns at roughly $56 a pound. Do you know how many prawns equal a pound?


#13

Wasn’t Siri built for this sort of thing?


#14

The flipside is that the group of six ends up loving the bees knees out of the prawns once they try it, that they want more, I’d say 1.5 to 2 pounds is a safe bet. It also depends on how large the prawns are. If they are very large, perhaps try steaming with garlic over vermicelli (butterflied), or pan fried with superior soy sauce (well let’s not lie, it’s Maggi based but the umami is incredible) which is better for medium sized ones but the larger ones can still be done that way (or boiled but more chewy). Check to see if there are other varietals…e.g. corral shrimp (you might get more mileage through these, though a bit more of pain to peel them after boiling, but more sweeter).

56/6 = $9.33 per person or $14 pp for 1.5 pounds for the prawns. Some of the more expensive items for dim sum may go near that for one plate depending on what it is.


#15

Yeah, I’m going to give them the hard sell, maybe I’ll hold back on a dim sum or two.


#16

Not sure if this will happen to your party but we got shut out by two different waiters when asking for two pounds of live ones during our dim sum visit three weekends ago.

My wife is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin. She asked for and was denied two pounds on a Friday morning. Each waiter told her SH does not serve live seafood anymore during dim sum.


#17

This also raises the question of who’s in the kitchen during dim sum hours. Certainly mostly dim sum chefs and possibly not anyone who could competently cook live seafood.


#18

In addition if the kitchen is set up for dim sum, dealing with live seafood just might not work logistically


#19

Thanks for the heads up. I’ll still certainly ask, but if they turned your wife down, likely there’s been a permanently policy change. Ah well, will have to head back for a dinner one of these days.