Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead is the embodiment of Chinese haute cuisine. The management runs the show, and everyone else from the chefs to the waitstaff is at their call. Walk in during slow hours and you'll probably see a group of men dressed in crisp suits exchanging business cards around a pot of tea and the restaurant's finest silverware. Business cards are exchanged the Chinese way — they're presented and held out with two hands. Tea is mandatory, and the waitstaff makes sure clients' cups are never empty. There are a lot of people behind the scenes at Sea Harbour. They even have a food and beverage consultant. And they have spectacular dim sum; in fact, we think it's the best dim sum in L.A..
But perhaps the pretentiousness is justified. “Sea Harbour was the first of the advanced wave of high-quality gourmet Chinese dining, with menu-driven dim sum, following a trend that began previously in Vancouver, and subsequently followed in the Bay Area and Toronto,” said David R. Chan, the man who has eaten at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants.
Managed by Oriental Garden F&B Management Ltd., Sea Harbour is part of a family of high-end Hong Kong restaurants with locations in Vancouver and Hong Kong. The management company is a member of Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gastronomic society that celebrates fine dining. “We're always changing our menu,” said Ping Wang, supervisor of Sea Harbour. The restaurant refreshes its menu once a year, at the end of December.
“In dim sum, you have your four big kings: (si da tian wang, 四大天王) chicken feet, shu mai, shrimp rice noodle rolls and pork ribs,” Wang said. “But we go above that. Our methods are innovative.” According to Wang, at Sea Harbour, the innovation comes from the top down. Chefs are told to create dishes based on concepts delegated by the corporate office.
Squid Ink sat down with Wang, who gave us a insider look at six of Sea Harbour's most popular dim sum dishes — other than the four classics.
6. Sticky Rice Ball Stuffed with Salty Egg:
The sticky rice ball has a mochi-like texture. “It's searing hot inside, so use your hands to open it,” Wang said. “Don't just pop it in your mouth.” Inside of the ball is hot egg yolk, which is a salty contrast to its sweet compartment.
5. Fish Roe with Scallop Dumpling:
“We introduced this dish this year,” Wang said. “The steaming process is very important. If you overcook it, the flavors are lost.” The dumpling skin is made with rice flour.
4. Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp Paste:
The eggplant is stuffed with shrimp paste and then fried. “We add a sweet and sour sauce on top,” Wang said. “Just a little bit, so it's not overpowering.” The dish is then garnished with scallions.
3. Shrimp Dumpling with Chives:
“We get our seafood from American suppliers,” Wang said. The shrimp dumpling skin is also made with rice flour.
2. Lowfat Milk Bun:
“When you snatch it, it feels hollow, but the lowfat milk inside sits on the bottom,” Wang said. This bun exterior is coated with a little bit of sugar, but according to Wang, it was designed for the health-conscious. “Less salt and less sugar,” he said.
1. House No. 1 Baked BBQ Pork Bun:
“This bun is usually sold out,” Wang said. Stuffed with barbecued pork in the middle, the buns are steamed. “It's very fresh, very round,” he said. “The top glaze is not oil; it's a thin layer of maltose.”
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Clarissa Wei blogs about Chinese food and tweets @dearclarissa.