Restaurant: Chef Tony Dim Sum
Location: 1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007. (626) 623-6668
Date: February 2, 2023
Cuisine: Chinese Dim Sum
Rating: Most dishes quite good
Continuing our group survey of LA’s best dim sum is Chef Tony, the original Arcadia location. I once went to the Pasadena branch, now shuttered, but I haven’t been here.
You can see into the kitchen and the steaming chamber.
Where the magic happens.
The dim sum menu.
Cucumber Salad with Garlic and Vinegar. A very solid version of this classic. Cucumbers were nice and crisp and “fresh” tasting. It wasn’t smashed cucumbers, more cut, and there wasn’t much garlic. It did have a decent sauce though and was taken up a notch by the addition of our high end “Jing” chili oil.
Wood Ear Salad with Mature Vinegar. This might have been the best marinated wood ear I’ve had. Perfect chewy texture and a great sweet/sour sauce.
They had very solid sauces here at Chef Tony’s including strong mustard, black vinegar with ginger, and a very nice chili paste with a strong vinegar tang.
Preserved Chicken Feet with Chili. Yuck. And I don’t see any chili.
Steamed Chicken Feet with Brown Sauce. Not much better. Everyone thought these were bland.
Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce. Very soft and juicy with lots of meat. This might have been the best pork niblets we’ve had!
Har Gow. Very good thin skinned with nice whole shrimp inside. Great texture and not over-steamed. I think I liked these better than the “fancy” black version.
Squid Ink Shrimp Dumpling with Gold Leaf. Basically har gow. The Squid Ink shell didn’t taste like much. Not bad at all since these are great har gow, but nothing too special.
Shrimp and Pork Dimpling with Black Truffle. Siu Mai. Really nice ones at that with a more al dente wrapper. I’m not sure the truffle adds here, but it wasn’t offensive like it sometimes is.
XLB. Probably the best dim sum place XLB I’ve had. Nice and juicy and served with good black vinegar and ginger.
Scallop and Shrimp Dumpling with Fish Roe. Somehow not that exciting and not quite as balanced as the har gow — although certainly tasty.
Shrimp Wonton with House Spicy Sauce. These were great. Very delicate with lots of great shrimp plus the sauce, which was more sweet than actually spicy, was fantastic.
Rice Noodle Roll (Chow Fun) with Minced Beef & Chinese Parsley. I haven’t had a beef Chow Fun in a while. This had great texture as it was steamed perfectly. The meat was very soft, pleasant tasting, and extremely mild. Overall nice, but it would be useful to try some of the other flavors. It also wasn’t sauced with the usual seasoned sweet soy, which I do like with Chow Fun.
Sticky Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf. This is a classic and we liked how they were actually smaller. It was perfectly stick and steamed and had a realative lot of filling. While it wasn’t quite as awesome as the 1968 version it was a very good example of this dish, possibly the second best I’ve had recently.
It’s not all rice which is great.
Deep Fried Shrimp Spring Roll. The exterior was solid, but not awesomely flakey. The interior was more real shrimp and was excellent.
I think these were crispy fried shrimps.
Deep Fried Pork Dumpling. This was a very solid example of the Glutinous version of the pork dumpling. It had a nice chew and a decent amount of filling. It fell just slightly short of perfection as it wasn’t really crispy on the outside.
Savory Deep Fried Chinese Donut stuffed with Mixed Shrimp, Squid, and Fish Paste. This was a polarizing dish. Jeffrey didn’t like the mayo (which was probably Kewpie) but I LOVED it. In fact I ate almost all of them even though I shouldn’t have. It had a great exterior crunch, a really nice umami shrimp cake interior, and that nice bit of acidic fatty zing from the “flavored” mayo.
Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp Paste. Just okay, although the sauce was great (possibly the same as was on the spicy wontons).
Steamed BBQ Pork Bun (Char Siu Bao). Certainly a very solid version. Smaller than usual, which wasn’t bad, with a good ratio of sweet juicy BBQ pork filling. The bun was nicely steamed. This isn’t my favorite classic, but this was well executed.
French Baked BBQ Pork Bun. Same filling as the steamed, and also a bit smaller than some, but with a nice crispy sweet exterior. Not the absolute best but a solid 8/10 version and better than the steamed (not realtively, but just because I like the baked better).
Ginger, Chicken, Shrimp and Pork Bun. Interesting shape and the inside had a very pronounced shredded ginger chicken thing going on which was quite lovely and unique. Maybe it was the hit of ginger pungency. Very good.
Pan Fried Shrimp and Pork Pandan Bun. The pandan leaf lends this bao its distinct pretty green color. It was nicely pan fried too and the dough was quite pleasant. The interior was fine too but overall I didn’t love it as much as I remembered from the last time I had it (at the Pasadena location).
This chicken was displayed this way first.
Roast Crispy Chicken with Black Truffle. I’m not sure about the black truffle part, but we ordered this because of the irresistable “Vlad the impaler’s chicken” vibe the menu gave at — and the impaled chicken didn’t dissapoint. The dish too was actually great. Really nice juicy chicken with a crispy skin. Just a very nice roast chicken.
Poached Sliced Beef in Hot Chili Oil. This is a classic Sichuan dish and a fairly solid version at that. Quite a bit of numbing Sichuan peppercorns and tender beef — plus way too many bean sprouts but that’s a thing with this dish. I’ve had versions with more depth to the broth but this was quite solid and had the proper more water/oil texture rather than the goopy corn sauce vibe.
Sateed String Bean with Minced Pork. Very solid version with crispy beans and lots of umami almost XO-like pork.
Deep Fried Durian Pastry. After so many great dishes it was surprising to bite into this one — it was awful. The outside was a bit greasy and the durian inside overcooked and heavy with a bannana-like texture. Ick. Nothing like the incredible crispy puff with light durian cream at Monterey Palace.
Egg Custard Tart w/ Milk. I’m not sure what the “milk” deal is but these pale soft tarts had almost no flavor and certainly not much egg flavor. Barely seemed like a custard at all. Big fail and maybe the worst egg tart I’ve had. Again the divine one at Monterey Park comes to mind.
Coconut Bunny Pudding. So cute and served very very cold. These had that agar agar jelly texture, much like a chilled hard-boiled egg white. The taste was mildly sweet and mildly coconuty. It was actually pleasant but not much to it.
Overall, Chef Tony’s was one of the best dim sum place we’ve been to. Hard to remember exactly how it compared to Pasadena (3-4 years ago) but while the menu was almost the same I think this is quite a bit better. Almost all the savory dim sum was great, particualy the steamed dishes. The desserts were weirdly awful. The wood ear, spareribs, har gow, XLB, shrimp wonton, and sticky rice were first or second in class. Given how good the chicken, beef, and stringbeans were I suspect the rest of the menu would be pretty good too.