988 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
The Empress Pavilion has been drawing locals and tourists alike to Los Angeles’ otherwise unexciting Chinatown. The hot ticket here is Dim Sum which, when separated into two words, translates into “touching your heart”. When translated as one word it means “dessert”. Although there are dessert items served, most dim sum deals with small savory snacks served alongside tea.
You can get dim sum all over Southern California, but trying to find good dim sum in and around West Los Angeles is pretty tough. The only spots that I have found are overpriced and have a limited selection of items. That is why I am willing to make the trek to the Empress Pavilion. They do not overcharge and their selection is astounding.
During the weekends it can take up to an hour to get seated here, but once you sit, you eat. Just flag down one of the steamed cart pushers and check out what dishes they have.
Most of the carts have different items and there are various types of carts. There are mobile frying pans (above image), porridge dispensers, dessert/fried item carts, and even boba tea pushers. Remember, this is still a Chinese Restaurant and service isn’t really their strong suit. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself to get the dishes that you want.
The thick noodle or “chung fun” with fillings of Shrimp, Beef, or Chicken is common during dim sum. Above is the Beef Noodle which tasted like a Chinese meatball wrapped in a thick wonton skin. The dark sauce is sweet soy sauce which infuses itself in the noodle.
Shu Mai (above right) is another item on almost every dim sum menu. It is a plump and juicy shrimp and pork mixture stuffed in a thin yellow wrapper. An item which separates the men from the boys at Dim Sum is the Chicken’s Feet (above left) . If you eat Dim Sum with a Chinese group or family they will go for the feet 9 out of 10 times. The steamed feet are very well prepared in a spicy black bean sauce. I actually think of the feet as the unfortunate vehicle which is responsible for the delivery of this awesome sauce.
The frying pan cart had a tempting array of items such as turnip cakes, gyozas, and shrimp on bell peppers. We went with the gyozas (above) which were stacked to capacity on the back burner of the pan. These gyozas were huge and they contained shrimp, pork and cabbage. Unfortunately, they were pretty dried out from their extended time on the griddle and the wonton skin had a stale chewy texture.
Steamed buns can be found at Dim Sum Restaurants, Chinese Markets and Bakeries and they can contain both sweet and savory fillings. An item which I have never before seen at Dim Sum was Steamed Buns stuffed with Chinese Sausages (above). The oil and sweetness of the sausage moistened the fluffy bun and created a nice 2 bite snack.
An item which can come in various forms is the deep fried shrimp dumpling. Today they were being served stuffed in a spiraled skin (above). It beat my expectations because the skin was still crispy and the inside was still hot. It is often times risky ordering the fried foods during Dim Sum because they will still be offered to patrons even when they have been sitting around for a long time. My tip is to order the fried items which are seen in larger numbers on the cart. Figure that those items haven’t been on the cart that long since they come out of the kitchen in large batches.
Going to Dim Sum can be a gamble because the items being served can vary tremendously, but that is also the best part about Dim Sum. The dishes are cheap enough so that you can try foods that you are not sure about. The Empress Pavilion definitely will give you the chance to try something new and most of the time you will be rewarded. 5 out of the 6 items which I tried on this occasion were great and the whole 2 person meal was less than $20. The leftovers reheat well to make a nice snack too.
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