1636 West Redondo Beach Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90247 | Map
Let me first say that although the Sea Empress serves a full menu, I only go here on Sunday mornings for Dim Sum. Itís a quick little drive from my house versus a long schlep to Monterey Park or other better-known neighborhoods for Dim Sum.
For those who may not know, Dim Sum is basically Chinese tapas. Small plates of food meant to be shared among the people at your table and traditionally eaten for brunch in the Chinese community. Typically, you will find a wide variety of items: dumplings stuffed with shrimp, pork or vegetables, veggies with a variety of sauces, porridge, bowls of steamed clams, noodle concoctions that only the Chinese could conceive of and various dishes prepared with parts of the animal that would make my mother faint. I usually focus on the dumplings; tasty bite-sized delights usually steamed (some are fried, some even baked) in small containers, then piled high on carts and pushed around the dining area. As a cart passes your table, you select the Dim Sum youíd like. As the containers pile up on your table, youíre treated to a variety of flavors, textures and ingredients. This experience is even more fun with a large group of friends as you get to sample a larger variety of food.
While other similar restaurants serve many different types of Dim Sum, The Sea Empress focuses mainly on seafood. If you have dinner there, your main course is probably swimming in one of the large tanks just inside the restaurant, when you arrive.
The room is big (typical for Dim Sum restaurants) and usually packed to maximum occupancy. Once you are seated, youíll be given a pot of tea, soy sauce and a small dish of hot mustard and chili sauce. After determining the perfect balance of soy to chili sauce, itís time to pay attention and check your patience levels. With a mainly Asian crowd, the women pushing the carts around donít bother learning much English, so a large amount of pointing and grunting is required to clarify what youíre looking at. But aside from a few strange and unappealing items, the majority of Dim Sum is a visual and culinary delight, containing shrimp, scallop, crab, pork, veggies or some combination of those ingredients.
Note; Pace yourself. Itís easy to pile up from the first cart that passes, but donít. Youíll end up being stuffed five minutes after you sit down. Take your time and ask (or at least try to ask) each cart attendant who passes what they have to offer.
There are also desert items available. A wonderful taro root and coconut jello/pudding thing that is really tasty. Little sweet red bean-stuffed doughnut balls sprinkled with sesame seeds and bite-sized custard cups that have a light flakey crust. Good stuff!
Having Dim Sum is a noisy, fun and delightfully delicious way to have brunch. And at the Sea Empress, the cost is very reasonable considering the quality of the food you get. A definite keeper, this restaurant should be on your radar.