Dear Mr. Gold:
Sometimes I just don't feel like making the trek to SGV for dim sum or dumplings.... Any recommendations on the Westside that can satisfy that craving?
--Denise Freed, via Facebook
Dear Ms. Freed:
You're asking me, I think, to reassure you that dim sum at Palace and the like is equivalent to dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley, and it just isn't. In the best-case scenario, it is like listening to Beethoven on a scratchy transistor radio -- you can kind of make out the tune, but the music doesn't make it through the speakers. In some of the lesser places, you may as well be microwaving frozen dumplings from the 99 Ranch Market.
Dim sum seems simple, but there is a vast difference between the good and the less good, and when a competent Hong Kong-style restaurant big enough to support an elaborate dim sum operation does manage to open on the Westside, it tends to slide into mediocrity within a few months. There are several theories about this, some theorizing that Westside restaurants find it difficult to build up the kind of banquet business necessary to support an ambitious kitchen, others about the culture clash between customers accustomed to having food served their way and chefs who reluctantly accommodate them, but the result is the same: mediocre cooking. If you are hoping to branch out from Chin Chin and the like, you're going to have to hop on the 10 to San Gabriel, Rosemead or Monterey Park.