I went to Sea Harbor with a friend for lunch this morning because I had a decent dining experience the first time I went. That first time I ordered typical dim sum dishes (hao gao, coconut taro custard, chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf, etc.). This time around I was hoping to try more of their unique dishes.
We ordered the bitter melon ball with sesame after hearing how innovative a dessert it was. It certainly looks very different from most dim sum desserts I am familiar with but it didn't taste all that special. Personally, I thought it tasted more or less like the yellow sesame seed balls (jian dui) that most dim sum places serve. But it certainly looks interesting.
We also ordered the baked tapioca because it looked interesting. I wasn't too impressed by this dessert either. The tapioca was in a yellow custard and had a nice flavor. The ball of peanut paste buried in the middle was new, but overall, the dish didn't blow me away.
I also ordered their version of the egg custard bun where the custard turned out to simply be their tapioca filling sitting in the middle of white buns shaped like sea shells. A cute idea but my bread was a bit over-steamed and chewy - not soft and sweet like I was expecting.
My first time there I LOVED their layered, coconut milk and taro pudding/custard; but the one at Phoenix Food Boutique (multiple locations including Alhambra, Arcadia, Pasadena, Irvine) is just as good and cheaper.
The meatballs were normal - I didn't have these since I was getting full but my dining companion said they were good. The spinach bun with pork and seafood was well-presented and tasty. The sesame pancake filled with ham and onion smelled delicious! The pancake was crispy and the filling was savory - unfortunately it also had cilantro which is an herb I dislike. But without it, I would've gobbled up the pancake in a heartbeat.
EXPENSIVE WATER: We asked our waiter for the bill and for 6 dishes (2 small, 4 medium) the total was a little over $20. I saw that they added $2 for tea ($1 per person) but my friend and I didn't drink tea - we were drinking hot water out of a teapot. Being poor graduate students, a dollar saved goes toward purchasing our $80 textbooks so I asked the manager (who happened to pass by) to correct our bill since we clearly only had hot water in the pot. I lifted the lid and the manager looked into the pot - after thinking for about 30 seconds he said "We charge for hot water," and ran off.
I guess I was hoping a place that seems as classy and sophisticated as Sea Harbor would be so in all respects. I know $1 isn't that much, but the manager could have corrected the problem and he just did not want to.
Though I am miffed by my $2 hot water, rest assured that my review of Sea Harbor's food is mostly untainted. I like that my food arrives piping hot and most things taste good, just not spectacular (though you're paying spectacular prices). Probably a good place to take someone special or visitng since it is very crowded and the hostess is pretty... but I won't be going any time soon.