Of course, as most of you know, saying they have the best dim sum in Santa Monica is meaningless, since the newly opened Xino is also the only source of dim sum in that city. However, that's the only way I could get the words "best" and "Xino" together in the same sentence. I did go to Xino with an open mind, since many of your top authentic Chinese dishes in the San Gabriel Valley and elsewhere these days are nontraditional. Furthermore, as Chinatown Brasserie in New York City has demonstrated, you can have a non-traditional but authentic and outstanding Chinese restaurant located outside of Chinatown and serving a largely non-Chinese clientele. On the other hand, Xino has a sister restaurant in the Bay Area which has not registered a peep on the Hound scale in the years they have been open. It is this latter fact that defines the dim sum at Xino. I had the following four items from Xino:
Baked bbq pork bun - I was encouraged by the fact that their buns come with pineapple bun tops, which I absolutely love. The top is pretty good, and the filling is not bad either. But the rest of the bun was weird--kind of like eating white bread or a brown and serve roll. Definitely not Chinese in taste.
Steamed chicken bao - Equal in quality to the average version of the same item in Chinatown (not San Gabriel Valley), though a little saltier than I've ever tasted.
Kung pao lollipops - Read some favorable commentary on these, but really this was a big mistake. Think kung pao fried chicken drumettes. For the same price I could have gotten three orders of similar tasting food from any number of steam table Chinese restaurants in the 'hood. Or an order of much more delicious Panda Express' orange chicken, for that matter.
Chicken siu mai - The one thing I like about Chinese restaurants on the Westside and the Valley is that I can get often get chicken siu mai, since they don't make those at authentic Chinese restaurants. However, the chicken siu mai here did not have the expected texture or taste. I've had better chicken siu mai in Encino. One nice touch was a few pieces of dried scallop.
Bottom line is that the dim sum here is more than double the price you pay in Chinatown or the SGV, and if you're lucky it'll approach Chinatown quality. So if you want to spend $20 per person on dim sum (much more if you try the $14 Kobe sliders or the $12 lobster potstickers) for barely average dim sum, this is the place for you.
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