Knowing that the SF Chowhounds have been tasting their way through the Bay Area's dim sum offerings, I started my own dim sum explorations at Ocean Star in Monterey Park. With only 2 of us, I wasn't able to explore the menu as much. I did try to stick to the items that Yimster and the SF tasting team have been using to judge dim sum restaurants by. We ordered 7 items total from the carts:
Siu mai: These were a good version but not as refined as some I've had. There was no attempt to decorate them (not that it really makes a difference in taste) with a bit of carrot, mushroom or scallop on top.
Crab dumpling: I've never had a crab dumpling and decided to try this out. I didn't notice much flavor of crab since the filling included Chinese celery, the strong flavor of which overwhelmed the crab.
Scallop and shrimp dumpling: I went for this variation instead of the traditional har gow. Again, the Chinese celery was strong in these dumplings but I was still able to appreciate the taste of the shrimp and scallops a bit more than the crab. The skin was appropriately thin and non-gluey. Minus was that the scallops were chopped up in tiny pieces instead of left in large chunks.
Shrimp rice noodle roll: Perfect texture and freshness of the whole shrimp. The rice noodles were smooth and slid easily down the throat, something that I look for when enjoying this dish.
Pan-fried turnip cake: I think this is the best version that I have ever had. Fried tableside, the outside was perfectly crispy and the inside was melt-in-your-mouth.
Shrimp balls covered in glutinous rice: This was shrimp paste formed in a ball and steamed in a coating of glutinous rice. I did not think that this dish had any discernible flavor and even some chili sauce couldn't really perk it up. It was my first time trying this but I don't think I'll order it again.
Egg custard tart: I thought that the pastry of these tarts were wonderfully flaky but too much for the tiny tart. There wasn't enough of the custard to balance out the pastry. Nevertheless, a good version.
We arrived at 10:30 and were seated right away. When we left at 11:15, there were still plenty of tables available. Ocean Star's selection of dim sum was amazing. Since it's the Autumn Moon Festival, they were serving plates of 3 small moon cakes and selling whole boxes. I did notice some favorites that were missing, including taro dumplings, bean curd wrapped shrimp rolls, and BBQ pork buns. Our bill came out to 21.00 before tip.
As a point of reference for Yimster's visit in November, I think Ocean Star is much better than ABC in downtown LA. However, I think it's comparable to the ABC Restaurant in Milpitas. Out of the SF dim sum places I've tried, I would rank them: Yank Sing, Fook Yuen, ABC Milpitas, Sam Kee in Cupertino, Pacific East in Richmond, Ton Kiang, Peony, Hong Kong East Ocean in Emeryville, ABC Foster City, Jade Villa etc. I ate at Harbor Village and HKFL too long ago to remember. Hope that helps!
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