Sea Harbour: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011

I am reasonably sure that when Jackie Chan dines at Sea Harbour, he is whisked to a private room, plied with Bordeaux and fed the supreme luxuries of the Hong Kong billionaire's table: that one, live fish in the tank your waiter will never tell you the price of; sun-dried Japanese abalone; rare and costly conpoy, sea cucumber and geoducks. Sea Harbour has long been one of the major Cantonese seafood restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, an import from China by way of Vancouver, and it is where to come when you are planning to splash out for crystal crabs, live prawns the size of plantains or the soup that dare not speak its name. It is the Cantonese equivalent of a Michelin two-star restaurant and, taken on its own terms, it is as expensive as Spago.

Sea Harbour is more accessible at dim sum, and it introduced the concept of ordering with checklists, instead of from carts, nearly a decade ago. But as the level of most other local dim sum restaurants has stayed mostly the same in the last several years, Sea Harbour seems driven by a different sort of competition, perhaps from restaurants in Hong Kong and Shenzen, because there always seems to be something we've never seen before — duck kidneys fried with shiso; XO-encrusted radish cubes in pastry cups — as well as the usual har gow, bao, snow buns and fried chicken winglets dusted in pepper salt.

In exotica-obsessed Los Angeles, it is perhaps not unusual to dine on things like spinach sautéed with minced foie gras, steamed rice sheets with bitter melon, fried ox tripe and tendon with noodle rolls, dumplings stuffed with chestnut and shrimp or clay-pot rice with house-cured duck, sausage and pork. But at Sea Harbour, it's breakfast. 3939 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead. (626) 288-3939. Dim sum Mon.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner nightly, 5-10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Chinese.

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:

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