Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mission 261

Mission 261 [261 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 588-1666] joins New Concept and Sea Harbor as L.A. purveyors of ultra high quality dim sum. These restaurants are widely acknowledged to set a new high water mark for the genre. Menu ordering results in extreme freshness, and even old favourites are usually executed far better than traditional places. Don't be afraid of the extreme bling factor at Mission 261. The prominent shelf of cognacs and Westernized decor are not reflected in a ridiculous bill - it's more expensive than usual but worth the price.

Oddly, the traditional benchmarks were inverted relative to Sea Harbor, ha gau (shrimp dumplings) are better but siu mai (pork dumplings) are worse. Cha siu bau (pork buns) were just OK but I was very impressed by the lo pak ko (radish cake) - radish-y but not too heavy, perfectly fried - and silky ha chueng fun (flat rice noodle rolls with fresh shrimp).

In terms of crazy innovations, some were more successful than others. Deep-fried "bees" made of shrimp with nori stripes were OK, as were codfish and shrimp "fish". The house special I really liked was the spinach and scallop dumpling made with a green wrapper - fat and delicious. Also excellent was a lotus seed and rice flour cake with gingko nuts inside - a marvellous lo pak ko alternative for those with a sweet tooth.

I personally preferred Sea Harbor to Mission 261 but these judgements will depend on what one orders and on personal taste (have only tried a few items at New Concept, but they were spectacular). We should rejoice that there are restaurants pushing the envelope both in terms of quality and in their new creations.


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