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Restaurants & Bars 5

Royal Star-NOT closing or being sold-from the horse's mouth

LACheesemonger | May 11, 200509:59 AM

I've seen numerous posts of speculation here and else where that Royal Star was going out of business, was closing, was being sold; etc., etc. etc.

Here is what I know, as a long time customer of almost a decade, after having spoken to the owner.

I have always gone primarily for, weekend and sometimes weekday, dim sum at Royal Star. While not the absolute best Dim Sum in all of So. Cal. I can say after numerous trips to various HK style seafood restaurants of high repute that have Dim Sum service , Royal Star on a good day could match and exceed many of them... IF you knew which items were the best from the long list of regular items. Last summer I was telling the hostess at Royal Star that I had recently been to Empress Pavilion in Chinatown for the 1st time in a few years and that while the Dim Sum menu had expanded to include new items (like the deep fried weekend special fun gow that they used to have at Royal Star) the quality had suffered. In fact I thought a good many of the Empress Pavilion's steamed dumplings suffered from a pervasive chicken flavor, as though they were all steamed with a chicken broth instead of water! Disappointing drop in quality at Empress Pavilion (which had always been a step down the ladder in quality compared to what Royal Star used to have).

In the summer 2004, Dim Sum ceased to be served at Royal Star. My understanding from speaking to the hostess/cashier who was relatively new there, but speaks and comprehends English as well as a native born USA citizen, was that the entire kitchen was being remodeled. Months and months after the kitchen had been remodeled, still when I asked my favorite hostess/cashier about the situation, she would only be able to tell me that the owner was still planning to have Dim Sum sometime in the future. Employees-waitresses/waiters, and the manager where quitting while the kitchen was under a lengthy renovation, with rumors that the restaurant was going to be up for sale or was closing in the near future.

I spoke to the owner of the restaurant in December 2004 and she told me that she wanted to do Dim Sum, but that her manager had quit while the extended remodeling of the kitchen took place. She said that once she hired a manager, the possibility of having Dim Sum again was something she wanted. I told her then, that other than VIP Harbor Seafood 2mi east on Wilshire Blvd. there was no Hong Kong style seafood restaurant doing Dim Sum on the Westside. Empress Pavilion in downtown's Chinatown section was the nearest alternative. Without question, Royal Star's Dim Sum was qualitatively and cost value, above VIP Harbor Seafood Restaurant (hereafter "VIP") .

Fast Forward to this past Sunday May 8th, 2005. I went to VIP to order Shrimp Egg Rolls (they do not have the more traditional Vegetable Spring Rolls that I typically order from Royal Star). I mentioned to the manager that I usually order vegetable spring rolls at Royal Star, and told him when I had recently ordered weekend Dim Sum for takeout at VIP, I was surprised to see just how diminutive/very small the VIP Shrimp Egg rolls were. He said that for Dim Sum, they were much smaller and cost less than at dinner. Hearing this, I cautiously ordered the $6.44 dinner Shrimp Egg Rolls. Upon seeing a familiar face of a waiter, I asked the manager if the waiter had been formerly at Royal Star. He said with a smile 'yes', further that Royal Star was "closing, she [the owner] is going to sell”. Well I got my order of 4 Shrimp egg rolls and I can tell you that they were barely larger than the diminutive order of 3 for lunch that cost less than half the dinner price. Trust me, these Egg rolls are simply not of the same quality as Royal Star's.

For comparison purposes I went on over to Royal Star, and ordered my favorite Vegetable Spring Rolls (which cost $4.95 before tax--either vegetable or shrimp). As usual I got 4 standard sized Spring rolls, the same size as I would have received at any of the 'high-end' HK style seafood/Dim Sum restaurants in Monterey Park, Rowland Heights, or anywhere else east of downtown Los Angeles. Royal Star's Spring Rolls are as good as any others; VIP's Shrimp egg roll on the other hand, in addition to being more expensive and smaller, was of lower quality/taste. Not sure how to describe the differences, but side-by-side tasting, easily reveals the lesser offerings from VIP.

The owner of Royal Star was there at her restaurant as usual on a Sunday evening. She does not know me by name, but recognized me as a frequent customer. I told her about how I noticed her former waiter now working at VIP, and how the manager had told me that she was going to 'close, and sell' her restaurant. Royal Star's owner became livid, telling me that next time I go to VIP I should tell the manager to stop this unethical spreading of false rumors about her restaurant. That she owns 4 restaurants in Las Vegas, including one at the Venetian Hotel, and that she was NOT planning to sell Royal Star, or close it.

For all of you who have read rumors otherwise, I have had it said from the horse's mouth (and very angry at the moment); if you patronize VIP for Dim Sum and they tell you Royal Star is going out of business and is up for sale; please tell these individuals to stop spreading unsubstantiated and false rumors!.

The owner of Royal Star told me that the Dim Sum business, at least on the Westside where we don't have a high population of Chinese customers like in Monterey Park/Rosemead, is NOT a very profitable (if not money losing) endeavor unless you have a steady and constant clientele. Dim Sum service not only entails specialty chefs, it requires greater numbers of wait staff and managers. While Royal Star did excellent weekend business, weekday business is not great enough to justify the liability/expense in her mind. She would like to do Dim Sum in the future, but is reluctant to hire the staff necessary to take this risk. From speaking to the former manager Steve, long before he quit from Royal Star; he had told me that it was difficult to compete with the Dim Sum service in the areas of highest Chinese residency. Telling me that Dim Sum, like sushi, is best consumed as soon as it is made and that at Royal Star; without high turnover of constant customers, it is more difficult to constantly send out new batches of steamed dumplings through out the lunch hour period... lacking the full capacity volume that Monterey Park/Rosemead/Rowland Heights restaurants enjoy.

Whether or not Royal Star (and I hope they do at sometime in the future re-establish Dim Sum service, as VIP is not even up to Empress Pavilions standards, leaving me no choice but to travel out to Monterey Park for decent Dim Sum) has Dim Sum service in the future; the fact remains that their regular HK style seafood menu items are without question superior to VIP. That's my opinion, and you will always find quality day-to-day variations; but I am rather selective. VIP doesn't compare to Royal Star at any time of the day.

Believe the rumors and stop patronizing Royal Star, and you deserve VIP and their lower quality service and food. I told the owner of Royal Star that virtually every time I order Dim Sum takeout at VIP, I ALWAYS have to double check the order as they invariably get one or more items mixed up with some other order. Royal Star typically hires part-time college students as hostesses/cashiers. Not that all of them are great employees, but you can't get much worse than the bumbling incompetence of employees at VIP. For whatever reason, Royal Star's employees have a higher level of competence compared to VIP. VIP disappoints with all too much frequency; and this has been the my experience since VIP opened years ago. Never the less, if Royal Star continues to lose both good employees and customers because of unfounded, unsubstantiated rumors---they will eventually have to close for lack of business.

NO I will not tell the manager of VIP that he should not be spreading vicious false rumors, simply for the fact that I rarely go to the disappointing VIP for Dim Sum or anything else. I understand those who do go to VIP, because the only nearest alternative is a lenghty drive away.

If I can't get good quality Dim Sum at Royal Star, then it's all the way out to Monterey Park or farther east! I have had the non-Dim Sum items at Royal Star and I think they are of equivalent or higher quality than most Westside Chinese restaurants. But for those of you who do go to VIP and are incorrectly told that Royal Star is 'closing, she is going to sell'; please inform these people at VIP that they both lack integrity, ethics, or honor (ah, old-fashioned traditional Asian values are moot and irrelevant points in a cut-throat business climate of modern America?). Sad day for the Westside if VIP remains and Royal Star closes from lack of business.

Royal Star seafood restaurant
3001 Wilshire Blvd, (just west of Centinela Blvd, on north side of Wilshire Blvd at the corner)
Santa Monica (310) 828-8812

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