When it opened, Mission 261 was among the most ambitious Chinese restaurants ever to hit California, a sprawling, sweetly old-fashioned seafood palace carved out of San Gabriel's old city hall. Some of the banquet rooms were cavernous and featured live Chinese classical music; others, mostly arrayed around a patio dominated by a 150-year-old grapevine, were home to more intimate celebrations. It was for a long time one of the most prestigious Chinese banquet halls in the San Gabriel Valley, famous both for its refined Hong Kong-style seafood cooking and for its elegant dim sum lunch. Then the restaurant abruptly closed a couple of years ago. The kitchen had been declining a bit, the employees dispersed all over Southern California, and there were rumors that an enormous real estate deal - Mission 261 is in the heart of San Gabriel's Mission District, one of the oldest areas in Los Angeles - was in play. Mission 261 is back again, looking more or less the same, and with cooking that is pretty much as you may have remembered it before it closed: elaborate versions of things like abalone with oyster sauce and pan-fried crab with garlic at dinner; and menu-based dim sum that is at the moment a tick or two below the level at places like Elite and Seafood Harbour, without the intricate rabbit-shaped dumplings or shrimp-filled "bees'' that distinguished the place before, but with properly gooey steamed rice noodles and meaty roast duck. Is the restaurant on the upswing? I'm hoping.
Cuisines: Cantonese, Chinese
Payment Type: All Major Credit Cards
Parking: Lot Available
Reservations: Accepted, Not Necessary