I took advantage of a short day at work to check out Louie's California Chinese Cuisine, a new upscale place across from the Chinatown Holiday Inn on Washington.
Thanks to Junior and Peter for the tip!
As Junior said, the lunch specials are an expensive $8.95, but they include the choice of two of the ten entrees, plus soup and rice. As the name suggests, the choices sounded quite Cal-Chinese, including Mango Beef. There's also a short menu of noodle dishes for lunch.
But I went for the dim sum (served every day from 10:30-3:00). Check off menu supplemented with tray service on weekdays and carts on weekends. As Peter said, the decor is quite plush, if rather schizophrenic (sleek modern-looking room with mirrors downstairs, dark cool look on the street level, private alcoves with 10-tops behind shoji screens, and a lattice-work ceiling covered with plastic grape vines, for that Cal Moderne-Japanese-Italian look ).
Very attentive and friendly staff -- I think everyone in the restaurant who spoke English came by and greeted me, and the hostess chatted me up as I left, proudly showing off their newly remodelled decor (only open a week). She handed me a business card and when I said my friends were looking for new dim sum places she enthusiastically grabbed me a handful.
Best of all, as I was scanning the dim sum menu my waitress offered to help me choose. She said the chef is from Shanghai, and pointed out what she considered his specialties (and didn't just push the higher-priced items, which I appreciated). Then every time she came by my table she'd rearrange my dishes, making sure I got the right dipping sauce with the right dish.
I ended up with Steamed Shanghai Dumplings (are these Melanie's soup dumplings?), har gao, pan-fried leek dumplings and shrimp stuffed eggplant.
They were all excellent! The har gao, in particular, were the best I've ever had. As I sat there nibbling and sipping my iced tea (nice glasses and I think they didn't charge me for the refill) I also succumbed to some egg tarts from a passing tray, which were good but not as good as Yank Sing (I want butter in my tart crust).
Tab came to $17.50 (five dishes plus iced ice plus tax), which felt very reasonable for the quality and the atmosphere.
Louie's California Chinese Cuisine
646 Washington St. (between Montgomery and Kearny)