Sunday, May 06, 2007

This Past Weekend: Elite Restaurant & Rule of S. Irene Virbila

Since Eat Drink & Be Merry's review of Elite Kitchen (formerly New Concept), I'd been waiting for a weekend when I'm jones-ing for dim sum to go. That came on today and I went on an impulse, totally forgetting that LA Times' S. Irene Virbila gave it a pretty positive review this past Thursday ~ 2.5 stars.

Thus, even arriving after 10 a.m. for a small table, there were already about 20 people lingering about and I waited 40 minutes before getting seated.

(Sorry, food pic-o-philes, forgot to bring my camera this time -- but I had many of the same items EDBM had ~ so check out photos there.)

Overall, the place matched my predictions almost too perfectly: upscale food and service reminiscent of Mission 261 before they downsized their creative and delightful menu (for a nostalgic trip - read J Gold's 2004 review here).

Like most other higher-end dim sum joints, things are ordered off a checklist menu (available in English & Chinese, with an accompanying picture chart to tell you what's what) rather than having to hail down a surly cart lady bejeweled with jade accessories.

The shu mai (pork-shrimp-mushroom) dumplings were among the best I've had in a while, which may have to do with them being topped with bay scallops. I was also pleasantly surprised by the lo mai gai (chicken & assorted meats wrapped in glutinous rice and steamed in a leaf), which had just the right amount of fattiness from the chinese sausage and delighted me with a succulent slice of abalone. All went well with the very nicely prepared chrysanthemum black tea, one of the most fragrant that I've had. Finishing off the meal were the flakey macau egg tarts, with a subtly sweet creamy custard that practically liquifies in your mouth.

I also had their har gow shrimp dumplings and their scallop rice sheet rolls, which was solidly good as well; too bad I missed that they had ja leung on the menu (chinese youtiao doughnut wrapped in rice sheet rolls, usually served with peanut & hoisin sauces and OMG good!)

Not so impressive-the macau roasted pork that's been raved about. It's good (crispy skin, great intermingling layers of rich fat and lean meat), but nowhere delicious enough for me to justify paying $6 for 11 miniscule slices -- where for the same price I could probably get a half pound's worth at a Chinese delicatessen. I don't regret trying it, but I doubt I'll ever get it again.

Asides from the roasted pork, all the dishes are worth its value even with the higher-than-normal price (expect about $15/person when dim summing here), and I expect to return again to sample more of their offerings.

And next time, I'll be sure to take heed to the rule of S. Irene Virbila -- if she reviewed any place with a two star or higher rating, avoid it for at least a month! (When I finished my meal around noon, there were at least 50 people swarming around the place.)

Elite Restaurant
700 S. Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 282-9998


teenage glutster said...

It really is the best place for Dim Sum around here. It's a shame it had to get "exploited" by Virbila though. I was working on my post on it(went to it way before she did) and was about to publish it but ended up keping it as a draft since she happened to review it.

teenage glutster said...

...thanks for actually leaving me a comment, really does mean a lot to me, specially right now.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Too bad you didn't like the macau roasted pork - it is expensive though. But it's cooked beautifully. Like i said before, Elite is good but would never take away from the traditional point-and-eat cart experience.

annie said...

you are making me hungry again!

H. C. said...

TG, can't wait to see what you have to say about the place :)

EDBM, I agree -- there are times when I feel like the fancy stuff, and times when I miss the surly cart service. "We don't have that and I don't know who does, just wait around, bub!" ;)

Annie, well then, I'm glad I did't take pictures :) but do go when you have a chance (i.e. when the SIV devotees die down a little)


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