California

Seafood Village: Dim Sum and Roast Meats in Rowland Heights

By Joshua Lurie | August 30, 2011 12 comments
Seafood Village: Dim Sum and Roast Meats in Rowland Heights
Seafood Village
1463 South Nogales Street
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
626 913 2338

Date of Visit: July 1, 2011

Chinese Restaurant Los Angeles
A business meeting brought me to Rowland Heights, but it was dim sum that kept me in the San Gabriel Valley, a wide swath of land that’s justly renowned for Chinese food. Drink Eat Travel co-founder Stan Lee, who grew up nearby, knew about Seafood Village. The restaurant also has a location in Monterey Park, probably serves the best barbecued meats of any dim sum house in L.A. County, and their other offerings were also above average.

When questions like the owner’s name and where they’re from came up, Stan and his friend Jason made it clear those were the wrong questions. They proceeded to enlighten me about the inner workings of SGV dim sum houses. The owners change, but the quality can never dip because competition is so fierce and customers shift allegiances after a single bad meal. Based on our meal, it was clear that Seafood Village was still paying careful attention to food that left the kitchen.

Chinese Restaurant Los Angeles
The decor in the sprawling dining hall inspired plenty of other questions, including, What happens when a griffin squares off against a dragon? We didn’t find out the answer, since this mythical battle wasn’t settled by the time we paid the bill.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Seafood Village has a 104-item checklist menu, plus House Special Crab and Duck with Soy Sauce & Tofu. The three of us split about a dozen dishes, which was more than we needed, not that any food went to waste. By ordering from a checklist, all of our food stayed nice and fresh, which isn’t always the case from carts.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Despite the restaurant’s oceanic name, the meats were definitely the heavy hitters on the Seafood Village menu, particularly B.B.Q. Pork ($3.68) with caramelized slabs of infused pork set upon what were basically baked soy beans.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
House Roasted Pork ($3.68) was also no slouch, with crispy chicharrones-like skin, juicy meat and salty, savory hoisin sauce

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Roasted Duck ($3.68) resulted in most of the fat rendered from the skins, which were fairly crisp, locking in the fowl’s natural juices and plated on more beans.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Shrimp Dumpling Chiu Chow Style ($1.98), aka Har Gow, featured fresh shrimp but the rice skins were too thick.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Pork & Shrimp Dumpling ($1.98), aka siu mai, featured fairly juicy fillings, thin, egg-rich wrappers and topside clumps of roe. They were pretty much SGV standard.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
The dish of chile mustard sauce came in handy with all of the dumplings and radish-related items.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce ($1.98) was the only dish that went untouched by my chopsticks. The limp texture of the skin has always been a turnoff, despite repeated efforts, and the yield isn’t worth all the trouble.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Short Ribs with Black Pepper ($1.98) were much more rewarding, with big flaps of juicy pork meat instead of the typical bony nubs that pervade lesser dim sum houses.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Fried White Radish Patty with Shrimp ($1.98) were griddled until the slabs sported a good browning outside while remaining creamy inside.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Sticky Rice with Preserved Meat ($2.98) was savory and somewhat pungent, studded with dried shrimp and topped with scallions and roasted peanuts.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Pan Fried Leak Dumplings ($1.98) contained juicy pork and a winning sear.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Pan Fried Buns ($1.98) hosted big patties of juicy pork instead of the gristle-y bits that pop up in lower-grade dim sum spots.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Chunks of Pan Fried White Radish ($2.98) featured and good outer caramelization and hosted crunchy bean sprouts.

Dim Sum Los Angeles
Poached Water Spinach with Preserved Beancurd Sauce ($3.68) was our token green dish and was indeed waterlogged, though the pungent sauce with the consistency of Russian dressing helped to balance out the blandness.

Everything was pretty to very good at Seafood Village, which going by Stan and Jason’s dim sum rules, means that the restaurant is liable to remain full. Now, whether the owner remains or sells off their culinary asset is another matter.

Comments

  1. atarunomiko says:

    I’d heard of Koi Palace, but I was always afraid to try it when in the bay area for 3 reasons:

    1 The non-traditional items on their menu (black truffle shiu mai? Really? I feel the same way about Happy Harbor’s foie gras dumpling soup: intrigued but frightened. Also the picture on Yelp, with the truffles all soggy and just stuck on top, did not look appetizing.)

    2 The fancy P.F. Chang-y decor (General rule of thumb: the ghetto-er the better when it comes to Chinese restaurants.)

    3 The name (a Chinese restaurant with Japanese in the name? What’s that all about? o.O)

    I’ve read online that Sea Harbor is better. I gather you disagree. I would be interested to hear what makes Koi your preference.

    • atarunomiko,

      You’re obviously very perceptive, and it’s probably smart to be wary of items 2 and 3, but Koi Palace overcame my doubts during two visits over the years. They probably have the best system in place of any dim sum parlor in California, and employ technology to good effect. This helps to manage and communicate wait times, and thus, expectations.

      Sea Harbour’s foie gras dumplings were pretty pathetic, measly slivers of foie. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about those particular dumplings afflicting Angelenos anymore. The black truffle and pork xiao long bao at the original Din Tai Fung in Taipei, however, were special. Non-traditional isn’t always a bad thing, as long as it’s thoughtful and well prepared.

      • atarunomiko says:

        I’ve never been to Taipei, but the Din Tai Fung I went to I was extremely disappointed with. The XLB skins there, despite being thin and delicate, always tasted doughy and undercooked to me. I went multiple times thinking it must be a fluke because there’s always a line out the door, but it was the same every time. Now I save my L.A. XLB trips for Golden China, Supreme Dragon and J & J. Or I skip the dim sum and XLB entirely and just get handmade dumplings and bao at FFY Noodle House where you can see the cooks making your food. It’s like dinner and a show.

      • atarunomiko says:

        You mentioned Koi Palace has a system? What kind of system?

        • atarunomiko,

          Here are my thoughts on how Koi Palace has developed a systematic approach to dim sum:

          http://www.foodgps.com/koi-palace-daly-city

          • atarunomiko says:

            As I understand from your article, you are speaking of the ordering of dim sum off a checklist rather than from carts. Koi is certainly not the only place that does checklists or allows ordering from an off-cart menu. Off the top of my head, Happy Harbor in Rowland Heights is one.

            In fact, many of the best Hong Kong dim sum houses have off-cart dim sum, albeit not with checklists. I’m told by my elders that there used to be more off-cart dim sum choices in New York. However, in New York and New Jersey, even some cart places often do also allow menu ordering if you ask (probably have to ask in Chinese), so I can’t imagine there are none in CA that allow this.

            I miss Royal Seafood, as it was my first L.A. dim sum experience. I hear John Woo used to go there every time he came to L.A.

            • atarunomiko,

              A number of dim sum restaurants have checklists, and that’s better for me, since the food is fresh more often than with carts. However, I was referring to the other front of the house methods at Koi Palace that impressed me, including the seating process.

              • atarunomiko says:

                I missed the part about the seating in my first skim of your article; apologies. I have seen similar systems on occasion but it’s definitely a lot rarer, between the technology being newer and the technology being affordable for a small enterprise being more recent as well. Also it’s only worth it for the restaurant to implement if they have over a certain amount of foot traffic. I suspect the calling out of numbers over the PA will remain for smaller, less busy operations.

  2. atarunomiko says:

    That is a phoenix on the wall, not a gryphon/griffin. It’s de rigeur to have a dragon and phoenix in a banquet-style Cantonese restaurant.

    And the vegetable is a leek, not a leak. Your typo made me lol because it made me think of the phrase “take a leak.”

    • atarunomiko,

      Thanks for catching my typo, but since it made you laugh, I may as well keep it intact. Letting that one letter go is worth some laughter.

      And thanks for clarifying on which mythical creature that Seafood Village chose to feature.

      Are you a fan of Seafood Village? If not, which dim sum houses do you prefer in the San Gabriel Valley?

      • atarunomiko says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that gryphons are a Western mythological being, and the whole phoenix-and-dragon yin-yang thing is so steeped in culture, symbolism, luck/superstition and feng shui, that it isn’t likely that any Chinese restaurant would ever choose to feature mythological creatures other than phoenix and dragon. Although I can’t not think of Fushigi Yuugi (Japanese animated TV series) when I look at them after having seen that. One of my favorite shows (animated OR live-action) of all time, by the way.

        I’ve never been to Seafood Village. I’m not terribly well-versed in the food scene of southern California. As a born-and-bred New Yorker, I prefer the dim sum in New York (and Hong Kong, of course). I did go to Empress Harbor in Monterey Park (not to be confused, apparently, with the lesser – much lesser – Empress Pavilion in the not-so-Chinese-anymore Chinatown of downtown L.A.) once for the 90th birthday of my great-aunt who lives in the San Fernando Valley. I thought it was good but not amazing. The peking duck was solid but I thought it was a little weird that they served it with mini-taco shaped buns (I think my mom said it was the northern style of serving that dish) rather than the thin moo shoo-like pancake wrappers I’m used to.

        You seem to have tried more than your share of dim sum in the greater Los Angeles area. What would be your top recommendation? For our next big family L.A. visit. :)

        • atarunomiko,

          Thanks for taking the time to write such thoughtful responses. And there’s clearly no need to correct you, as there’s nothing to correct.

          At this stage, many of California’s top dim sum restaurants are not in Southern California. L.A. has no equal to a place like Koi Palace, but I still enjoy certain dishes at Sea Harbour, Lunasia, and Seafood Village. Seafood Village is especially strong on roasted meats. Sea Harbour has solid seafood, and great durian pastries. East Gourmet Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead also has some great egg custard tarts and cocktail buns, especially when they’re still piping hot.

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