Okay... normally I just put the name of the place and the town it's in when I write a title. But, still... DIM SUM IN VILLA PARK. Okay, technically it's the other side of the 55 from Villa Park proper, but still... DIM SUM IN VILLA PARK!!
I'm very excited. You see, from East Anaheim, Rowland Heights, Westminster, Irvine and Monterey Park are all a bit of a schlep. (That's a Chinese term, by the way, meaning "a long and arduous journey about which one can complain when it's over.) Villa Park is a hop, skip and a six-minute jump from our house.
So I had been passing this place and thinking, "Meh, we'll try it some other time." I couldn't even fix in my head where it is (Tustin Avenue and Meats Avenue, by the way, cattycorner and a bit south from Trader Joe's), so we had to go down to Katella and work our way up. We figured we'd have a nice Cantonese lunch, and if it was bad we'd go to Darya instead.
But when we entered, the host said, "Three? For dim sum?"
"B-B-B...你們有點心呀?!" I blurted out. ("You have dim sum?!")
"Of course," he replied. So we sat down and -- wait for it -- he BECKONED THE CARTS OVER. I s*** you not. He sat us down, took our tea order, and SENT OVER THE CARTS. I've never, EVER had that happen. As it happens, what's on the carts is not all that's available -- there is a dim sum menu should you wish your dim sum to be made to order, which I recommend.
We had haa cheung fun (floppy rice rolls with shrimp), haa gaau (translucent shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork and shrimp "beggars' purses"), fish steamed with ginger, seaweed and some sort of green leaves, gaai baau (steamed chicken buns), lotus-seed buns, and daan taat (egg custard tartlets). I wanted more but there is a limit to how much two people and a bab...er...toddler can put in their bellies at one sitting.
The cheung fun were excellent. The siu mai and haa gaau were just OK -- the waiter explained that it's best to order those fresh as they don't age well (this is how we found out that they waffle on the carts-vs.-menus question). The daan taat were the flakiest I'd ever had, and I enjoyed the lotus-seed buns. The gaai baau were very tasty -- the chicken was a little "densely packed" but otherwise excellent. The winner, by far, though, was the fish -- I have no idea what it was called but it was very tender and flaky, and when dipped in a tiny bit of the Chinese mustard brought to the table with the chili paste, even better.
Service was unexpectedly excellent. This is a very, very accessible introduction to dim sum for those who are new to the experience, and in fact half the room were non-Asians. (There were, however, the usual Asian families at the large tables... fear not.)
Prices are somewhat high if you are used to the stiff competition of the Monterey Park dim sum palaces. Tea charge is $0.75 per person (they didn't charge us for Die Uberbaby). "A" level dishes are $2.60, "B" level dishes are $3.60, "C" level dishes are $4.60 and "special" dishes vary but may be as much as $6.60. Noodle and fried rice dishes are priced individually and range from $7 to $11. A 20% discount is given for food ordered from the carts, so the prices are $2.08, $2.88 and $3.68, respectively. Certain items (mostly fried items, but also porridges) are not available on the cart. ("Too soon bad," explained one of the servers, "but you can order anytime and we make fresh for you.")
Our bill, including a much-more-generous-than-usual-for-dim-sum tip, was $27.
I have a feeling this is going to be a regular stop. The dim sum, for comparison, is better than Ten Ten Seafood in Anaheim, but not as good as the SGV places. It is not meant to be imaginative like Elite or Triumphal Palace. This is meant to be quite serviceable dim sum in a place that has heretofore been devoid of Chinese food worthy of the name.
I did grab the dinner menu -- it reads like a less-fancy version of Ten Ten's menu. Given the difference in service (I won't go to Ten Ten anymore), I think I'll live without the esoteric items not found on King Lobster Palace's menu.
In summary -- DECENT DIM SUM IN VILLA PARK!!
King Lobster Palace
2045 N Tustin St, Orange, CA 92865