Thursday, March 5, 2020

Chef Tony Staggers Into Town

Don't get me wrong.  The dim sum at Chef Tony's is quite good, innovative and visually appealing.  But when Richmond BC's best dim sum comes to the Los Angeles area, admittedly third tier behind both Vancouver and San Francisco, a nearly transcendental experience is expected.   They still may reach that point since they're still in soft opening, but Chef Tony is not currently ready for prime time, particularly in light of the hefty bill.  The first clue was walking into a restaurant at 11:10am to find only one other table of 2 occupied.  At the same stage, Longo Seafood's much larger premises were full by 11am and Palatte Tea House in San Francisco was likewise full.   Because I was a solo diner I could only try five items on this visit.

The crispy baked bbq pork bun was excellent, perhaps even the best I've eaten.  One issue, though is that there were sugar crystals sprinkled on top of the bun, making this the sweetest pork bun I've ever eaten.  Like I said it tastes great but I'm not sure if this is what I want in this dish.  The custom made bowl does add a nice touch.

Visually I was extremely impressed by the gold leaf shrimp dumpling which reminded me of the gold leaf dim sum I ate in Hong Kong.   But it tasted like any other good shrimp dumpling and was a bit pricey at $11.80 for an order of four (I paid $9 for these three.)

The pandan pork and shrimp buns looked very interesting.  Tastewise the only notable thing was that the bun was sweeter than the typical steamed bun.

The one really great thing about Chef Tony is that some dim sum items can be ordered by the single piece, so you don't have to worry about getting stuck with $8 or $9 for a full order of something you don't like.  This is the gold foil lava bun, which was excellent (though this is a hard dish to mess up).

Lastly, the signature coconut bunny.  Can't say it was better than anybody else' s coconut bunny.

At this point I think the question is whether Chef Tony is any better than its sister restaurant Sea Harbour or not.  (They're using Sea Harbour packed hand wipes right now.)  The dim sum certainly is prettier than Sea Harbour, but a deeper dive would be needed to see if it's equal to, better than, or not as good.  And then the question is whether it's worth the price premium, as the pictured items added up to over $37 including tax and tip.