Thursday, September 16, 2010
When it comes to dim sum, I count myself pretty lucky that I live in San Gabriel Valley. Whenever I'm in the mood for shau mai and dumplings, the question is not where to find a good dim sum restaurant, but which one to choose. Whether it's cart, menu-driven or both, you're bound to find dim sum restaurants that will make for a very deliciously happy morning. For this particular post, it's all about Lunasia where my group tried 27 different dishes. I've actually just amazed myself seeing the number of dishes typed in front of me. 27 different dishes? After recounting, it still stayed at 27 dishes. I guess we were just very hungry that morning.
At the Lunasia, you choose your dim sum items from a menu and once you turned in your checked-off list, the bounty begins. A sign of a good dim sum restaurant worth visiting shows in whether or not they can properly execute staple menu items like their shau mai, bbq pork buns and shrimp har gow. All three dishes were solid. Nothing to complain about.
My group of 12 must have been craving rice noodle dishes, because we ordered three different ones. The shrimp rice noodles were definitely plump with sweet, juicy shrimp while the vegetarian rice noodles were filled with crunchy, tasty vegetables.
We also ordered the cilantro rice noodles which were just plan rice noodles that were rolled with the cilantro so that the herb was inside as well on top of the noodles. Unfortunately, it was a bit on the bland side, which is surprising because of the cilantro itself. I think if they had been more aggressive in adding more cilantro, the noodles would have had a nice bite to them.
The Sweet Pumpkin Pie interested quite a few people. What I was thinking in my head is not what actually arrived at our table. But then, one thing I've noticed and I'm sure all of you as well, is that the English translation on Chinese menus (or any other Ethnic menus) doesn't always translate well. This version of a pumpkin pie was a glutinous pumpkin dumpling filled with a red bean paste, topped with sesame seeds and not a pie with crust that some might envision. It was good and not overly sweet, which is my preference.
Foie Gras Dumplings? "Yes, please," said many a hopeful face at my table. Of course, how could I refuse and I must say that these dumplings were a pretty package tied with a green onion strand and topped with fish roe. As for how it tasted, it got mixed reviews. Some liked it and some didn't, but I'm not much of a foie gras eater in general, so I could take it or leave it.
More noodles again and this time it was Steamed Noodles with Spare Ribs. The noodles had a nice firm texture and the meat added a bit of flavor to them. Nothing mind-bending, but tasty for what it was.
The same could be said for the Chinese Broccoli. How crazy can you get with it after all? It's a classic dish that's good to offset some of the carbs that everyone is usually consuming at Dim Sum.
Here's a warning for you. Don't order Soup Dumplings at a restaurant that doesn't specialize in them. I'm not sure how it happened, but we ordered them at Lunasia and it ended in disappointment. There was little to no soup in any of those dumplings, so don't bother wasting your calories or money on them.
Another dish you should avoid is the Taro Cake with Chinese Sausage. That cake was really dry. Many of us just ended picking off the sausage and eating that instead.
I've rarely been disappointed by Lotus Wrapped Sticky Rice regardless of what Chinese restaurant I've ordered it at and that meal was no exception. The rice was appropriately sticky and absorbed all the great flavor from the pork and shrimp that it was cooked with.
The Tofu with Abalone Sauce was also tasty and enjoyed by all.
For most people, dim sum isn't dim sum without Phoenix Feet, better known as Chicken Feet. In my case, chicken feet is just not for me, but we did end up ordering Poached Chicken Feet and it wasn't well liked. The cold temperature of the feet and its rubbery texture wasn't too appealing.
Two dishes that were similarly prepared and that everyone really enjoyed were the Salt and Pepper Diced Fried Chicken Wings and Salt and Pepper Tofu. Both were cooked to crispy perfection, with the pepper adding a nice spice factor to both dishes.
Be sure to order the Macau Roast Pork Belly. The skin was crisped just right and the pork was meaty, fatty and juicy.
Speaking of crispy, the Bacon Ginger Scallion Pie had a lovely crunch to it, although I didn't taste as much of the ginger as I would have liked.
The Duck Pie should also make your list. It had a nice flaky pastry with a flavorfully marinated duck filling.
To round up the last of the savory dishes we tried out were three dishes that honestly weren't that memorable to me, although I can't say that I disliked them, so they must have tasted fine at the time. Those dishes included Sauteed Eggplant, Braised Chilean Sea Bass (which was actually more fried than braised)and Pork Meatballs
Finally, it's dessert time. First, there was the obligatory Mango Pudding, which is usually a must order. I didn't try any so I can't speak for how good it tasted.
My favorite dessert was actually Wolf Berry Cake which was more of a Jello than anything else. Wolf Berries are known as Goji Berries, but we're talking more pieces of berries as opposed to whole berries. I enjoyed it because it was light and refreshing, a welcome change from all the heavier aspects of our meal.
I also liked the Honey Sugar Cane Cake, which reminded me of a rum cake, because of it being drenched in either honey or sugar or both. It was a little sweet, but had a raisin-y taste that I thought was appealing.
We also had a Durian Cake which was more like a durian filled pastry. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it. Can you believe it? Although it had the durian flavors I liked, the pastry itself was a little try for my taste.
Overall, this is my second visit to Lunasia and I enjoyed the dim sum this time just as much as the first time. When you also consider that we ate our way through 27 dishes and found only a minimal number of objectionable dishes, that's pretty darn good in my estimation. Just note that the service can be slow at times, but sometimes you just have to be aggressive (but still polite) when asking for what you want and generally, you'll get what you need.
500 W. Main Street
Alhambra, CA 91801