Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dim Sum in Alameda

Alameda: home of St. George's Spirits, ferries, and really good dim sum.

I have tried a few dim sum places in the East Bay and until today never found one that I loved. Legendary Palace in Oakland Chinatown has the right atmosphere but the food is too oily and parking is hard to find. Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant sits on the Emeryville Marina and is as picturesque as it can get. The food is great as well, but the prices are about twice as much as ordinary dim sum, averaging about $25 a person. The Old Place Seafood Teahouse near Lake Merritt in Oakland looks just as it sounds. The space is drab, even for a Chinese restaurant, with fading paint, hideous carpeting, and debris blown in from the wind on the floor. The food is decent enough, but the morgue-like atmosphere, even on a Saturday, kills the experience. Today, I went to East Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Alameda and knew I found a spot I could recommend to anyone without reservations.

If you measure how good a Chinese restaurant is by the wait or the number of elderly Chinese people there, East Ocean will not disappoint. It took a half-hour to get a table, and we saw plenty of grandmas and grandpas. Once seated, we immediately got our first cart. Shrimp rice noodles, crispy shrimp balls, shu mai, har gow - all the standards are delicious. I never order the banana leaf sticky rice because it can be hit or miss, but East Ocean was on such a roll that I tried it and was not disappointed. Moist and flavorful, the sticky rice may just be my favorite item there.

Service is also rather prompt for a Chinese restaurant. The carts kept coming and when we did not see what we wanted, we just asked and they brought it to the table. Everyone, including the cart ladies, speaks English well enough that you can order safely and will not be surprised with what you get. At the same time, the food is delicious and authentic enough that I can bring my parents.

The price is also on par with what you expect for dim sum. We ordered a few of the pricier specialty dishes, but the meal was still a great deal with 15 plates for $50 (including tax and tip), or $17 a person.

East Ocean is definitely worth the wait, so do not be scared of the crowd gathered outside.

East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1713 Webster St
(between Haight Ave & Lincoln Ave)
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 865-3381

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