For obvious reasons, I chose to dine at Shi Hai, because LA Times Food Critic Jonathan Gold’s restaurant review convinced me to go. My friends and I didn’t order what he recommended, but ordered the basic dishes that you’d find at any dim sum restaurant as a way to compare this place with the competitors. Overall, my friends and I had an enjoyable dining experience at Shi Hai Restaurant. The food critic was 100% right about the quality of the food. It’s delicious!
Considered the high-end dining of dim sum, Shi Hai Restaurant satisfies my needs to dine in a classy place. I love dim sum, but I don’t care for the tacky decor that I find at budget dim sum restaurants. Shi Hai is an attractive looking restaurant that commands the impression of high-end dining when you walk through the doors. You won’t see folded pieces of paper to level the table (so your food does not fall off) and you will not see photocopies of menus tucked underneath the glass tabletop or taped to the walls. You also won’t see dim sum carts that travel around the tables nor will you hear the Cart Servers hustle you to buy more dim sum. Shi Hai is not that type of dim sum place. It’s modern with an upscale appeal and they take their food seriously.
Like any high-end restaurant, you pay pay for comfort. I felt relaxed and comfortable at Shi Hai Restaurant. There is plenty of room so I didn’t accidentally rub elbows with the person sitting in the next table. The spaciousness also provided for a sense of privacy. It’s so roomy that I didn’t hear the conversation from the dining party next to us. The noise level is average, but not obnoxious like a budget dim sum restaurant where Servers talk across the room to each other.
Then there’s the clientele. The Asian clientele are exactly what the business publications have been writing about for the past two years…the new upper-Middle to upper class Asians attracted to the finer things in life.
The Service was definitely top notched at Shi Hai; very attentive and consistent, the quality of service expected from a high-end restaurant. The Servers and Managers were very professional and hospitable. The only drawback was the lack of basic English conversational skills. What made up for this flaw was the clever dim sum menu. I believe it was designed to attract the Western customers. It’s very well organized with lovely food photos of each dim sum delicacy served at the restaurant. These photos helped me and my friends decide what we wanted to eat.
Ordering food is easy at Shi Hai. In a nutshell, you find and write the number of orders you want on the menu. Then you flag down a Server to give him or her your list. In a matter of minutes, your food arrives at your table. When you want more food, you flag down any Server to hand them your new list of orders. Oh, and it also helps to point to what you want on the menu.
The timing from the kitchen to the table was excellent impressive. It wasn’t a long wait at all.
My friends and I agreed that everything we ate was well made and the seasoning was appropriately balanced. Not one dish was mushy or burnt or overly salty or bland. For instance, the BBQ Pork with Sweet Corn Rice Noodle Roll was magnificent. The rice noodle wrapper never fell apart and it didn’t taste greasy either. As a matter of fact, it was quite nice to pick up a piece with chopsticks and not watch it slip back onto my plate. Even the soy sauce poured over the roll was nicely balanced. It didn’t have the overpowering harsh taste.
The Minced Beef Ball was incredibly tasty too. It was plump, meaty, juicy and tender. The Har Gow (aka Chinese Shrimp dumplings) is a dish that I always judge a dim sum restaurant on. It was a surprise to find that the dumpling did not fall apart when I pulled it away from the steamer. They also didn’t skimp on the shrimp and pork fat stuffing inside the dumpling like the budget dim sum places. The Har Gow is an incredibly awesome item to eat at Shi Hai Restaurant.
Then there’s the Shu Mai (aka the Pork and Crab Dumplings). This dim sum delicacy was perfectly prepared with an over abundance of tasty surf and turf meat inside. Like the Har Gow, the Shu Mai didn’t fall apart when you picked it up from the steamer. It’s a winner.
The very last thing we ordered were the Baked Egg Custards. This delicacy is the most popular dim sum item at any restaurant, which made sense to try the ones at Shi Hai. OMG these are so good! The egg custard tastes like a fresh made vanilla pudding. It’s eggy and sweet. The puff pastry, on the other hand, didn’t have a greasy feel on your fingertips.
Overall I felt dim sum at Shi Hai Restaurant were appropriately priced for food that tasted really good. Generally, depending on the item, the prices are either $2.88, $3.88, and $4.88 per order. Of course, the prices were slightly higher than the budget restaurants by 60 cents more per dish, but (in my opinion) the higher prices comes with better quality food that tastes superior.
Before leaving, I took a look at the regular lunch and dinner menu. It was a shocker to see the prices were comparable to the restaurants in the area. Since the dim sum was so wonderful, I plan to return to Shi Hai to try their dinner service. On the dinner menu is a whole roasted Suckling Pig that I would love to try.
Shi Hai Restaurant
1412 S. Garfield Avenue
Alhambra, CA 91801
Open 9:30AM – 10:30PM Monday – Sunday