Many a Sunday morning we enjoyed a dim sum brunch at the old VIP Seafood Restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard and Barrington Avenue. One nice feature was that we got dim sum right away from the rolling carts while we waited for a few special dishes.
The former name, VIP, has morphed into the Palace, and although the place looks very much the same, the management no longer provides good service or the same quality of dim sum. The dim sum is almost inedible. It is so sticky that you can’t get it out of the container in one piece, so it ends up with the insides on your plate and the wrapping a big mess somewhere between the container and the plate.
Nor did the dim sum carts come quickly while we waited for the order to be taken and served. Partly it’s because the place is so busy, but, for whatever other reasons, the carts just don’t arrive at our table like before.
And speaking of waiting to place the order, the service is so poor that the last two times I was there I had to walk up to the front counter and ask the manager to get a waiter to our table, and to bring water and tea. I forgot to ask for the little sauce dishes so I had to make a second trip to ask the manager to remind the waiter, wherever he was, about the mustard and chili sauce.
Reviews on the Internet are even more negative about the service than this one!
So why is it so busy? I imagine it’s because the VIP was so good, and people — including us — keep coming back. But also this is the only place I know on the Westside that serves dim sum from carts. There was a small selection of dim sum served at Xino, but that restaurant closed not too long ago. (Dear readers, if you know another dim sum restaurant on the Westside with rolling carts, please e-mail me.)
But we do keep coming back because when the dishes do arrive, some are really wonderful. The whole fish is fresh and well seasoned in a number of ways, depending on your selection. There are a lot of very tasty shrimp, beef and chicken dishes all in the traditional Cantonese style. The roast duck is not as good as the Peking duck at Hop Woo further east, but the fresh seafood can’t be beat.
Sometimes waiters walk around with especially popular dishes to distribute to those so enticed. They can be fried zucchini, steamed Chinese broccoli or shrimp in lobster sauce.
For dessert, which we rarely eat in other restaurants, we always have the sesame balls, filled with red kidney bean curd. They are deliciously sweet and chewy.
We still go back, time after time. But we no longer leave a tip. They’re going to have to earn it.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The Palace Seafood & Dim Sum Restaurant
11701 Wilshire Blvd.