Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant

Top Ten Chinese Restaurants: No. 1, May 2011

There is no shortage of grand seafood houses in the vicinity of Rosemead’s Sea Harbour. After all, the San Gabriel Valley offers some of the country’s most sensational Chinese food. What sets Sea Harbour above respectable halls like Lunasia Chinese Cuisine and Mission 261 certainly isn’t the atmosphere. Located in an anonymous stucco building near an on-ramp to the 10 freeway, the L.A. branch of this chain has a corporate veneer you have to get past (the laminated full-color menu could have come from IHOP). But you forget about all that when the waiters march out with your dim sum order (no steam carts here). Chiu chow dumplings arrive as plump as happy monks, their white robes packed with a brunoise of root vegetables whose crispness plays off the steamed peanuts. The congee, or rice porridge, that’s traditionally served in the morning has none of the ladle-clinging gloppiness you’ve seen elsewhere; it’s a silky broth strewn with chives and shrimp. In the evenings there’s as much Bordeaux as tea on the tables, a declaration of ambition and a nod to the formal manner with which this type of restaurant flirts. The shrimp, netted from the tanks along one wall, are draped in ginger and green onions; culinary restraint underscores the pearly transparency of the steamed flesh. There’s nothing extraneous involved when the focus is this intense: Whole pigeon needs only anise-flavored salt. Wok seared with garlic and chilies, the Hong Kong-style Dungeness crab will have you debating whether to lick your fingers or dunk them into the proffered cleansing bowls.