Restaurant: Iron Teapot Dum Sum & Bar
Location: 10306 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034. (310) 736-1803
Date: August 18, 2021
Cuisine: Dim Sum
Rating: Good food, terrible service system
I was surprised to hear that a “real” dim sum restaurant had opened in Culver City. It’s certainly a neighborhood I know well having had an office there for years and owned and operated a restaurant (just blocks from this location). The concept is basically a menu like the “daytime” menu from a regular Cantonese dim sum place, without the evening banquet menu.
The interior space is tiny, right on busy Venice Blvd near the many good Indian and Mexican places.
They have a large outside patio which was great on this warm August night. They also have one of those whacky “staff free” ordering systems where you order on your phone, no physical menus, just a QR code, and the food comes to the table. This turned out to be quite the issue (more on this at the bottom).
Chili oil, ginger, mustard.
They give you containers where you can mix your own blends which is nice.
Fresh chopped persian cucumbers tossed in a sesame oil with sweetened and salted garlic.
涼拌海蜇. Cold jellyfish marinated in a sesame oil, vinegar and Chinese spices.
哈高 蝦 – Crystal Shrimp Dumpling.
Crystal steamed dumpling made with shrimp and chives.
大烧卖燒賣 Sui Mai. Plump cylindrical steamed dumplings made of juicy pork and ground shrimp topped with fish roe/Masago.
排骨. Steamed pork spare ribs in a garlic and black bean sauce.
咖哩雞餃. Curry Chicken Crystal dumpling. We’re dim sum on the westside, we have a license to be a bit different. It’s nice to see some variants from the usual dim sum like this.
鮑魚糯米鸡 . Abalone, Chicken, and sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf glutinous rice steamed and steamed. Abalone is a sea snail that tastes like heaven.
Braised Chicken Feet, in a sweet garlic soy, sesame oil and onion sauce. This version is not as saucy and gloopy, allowing you to enjoy succulent bird feet tendons & skin the right way.
Honeycomb beef/cow stomach braised and steamed with five spices, garlic, and sweet soy so that it tastes like.. um… um.. heavenly goodness.
叉烧BBQ Pork – BBQ tender pork with a sweet Chinese BBQ sauce.
咸水角. Fried Soft sweet Mochi stuffed with ground pork and chicken. Classic favorite that is crunchy on the outside with soft mochi filling.
Classic steamed Turnip Cake with ham prepared with a light fry (different from the traditional pan fry).
Light & crispy fried soft tofu with salt, pepper, and five spice. 椒鹽炸豆腐.
Cuttlefish & Pork Soup Dumpling. Juicy pork dumpling mixed with the unique flavor cuttlefish. Blue Xiao Long Bao.
韩元–辣椒油. Ground shrimp and pork filled wontons in a spicy peppercorn, malat chili oil.
腊肠包. Classic steamed bun wrapped over classic Chinese sausage. Dim sum “snausages”.
Classic Dim Sum dessert made with an egg custard baked in a flaky puff pastry (Not the less tasty pie crust style). This is the better style.
黑流沙包 Premium dessert made with black squid ink and filled with a sweetened salted egg yolk that is specially prepared to ooze out like Lava. Made only by highly skilled Dim Sum chefs. Remember not to pop this in your mouth. Open it over your plate and enjoy the oozing heavenly goodness of the sweet salted egg yolk.
馬拉糕. Ma Lai Go is a dim sum classic steamed sponge cake that’s extremely soft, springy and sweet.
The dim sum itself was actually quite good. Maybe not on a piece by piece basis quite as good as a great SGV dim sum place, but quite solid. Almost as good and better by far than someplace like Bao or Dim Sum House. And there was a nice variety of dishes. More even than many regular dim sum places, but missing some of the more homestyle Chinese items like congee or Cheung Fun (which is a total dim sum staple).
The main problem lay with the weird phone based ordering system. Now granted, we were there only a couple weeks (maybe a month or two) after they opened, so hopefully they have fixed some of the bugs — but it was awful. We ordered. Stuff arrived in a completely random order with huge gaps between dishes. At first, they were stuck in some kind of infinite loop where they brought us “3 sets of crystal shrimp” then “3 sets of har gow” then they did waves of those again (even though we had only ordered each once). Then they did a third wave of same. They didn’t charge us for all the repeats, but it took like 90 minutes (and nothing else different came out) so people pigged out again and again on the same dishes and were too full to eat the rest. Instead of the 35 minutes the above would take at a normal Cantonese place (too fast) the above took like 3 hours (too slowly paced). Pacing was WAY off with big gaps and very little control. It was just a bit comical. We also had too many people for this kind of restaurant (8-10). 4-6 would be better.
But the manager was very nice and tried to reign in the chaos a bit (not totally successfully) and they comped a bunch of stuff.
The restaurant has no parking, but (sketchy) street parking is plentiful. I also worry that they won’t survive as the food is very Chinese and Culver City is a TERRIBLE neighborhood for authentic flavors. Sorry, but having owned a restaurant there it was pretty clear that the locals are nice, curious and all that, but very “Mayberry”.
In any case, I have to go again and see how it has progressed.