Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hop Li Seafood Restaurant: Dim Sum and Dinner! (CLOSED)

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EDIT January 3, 2015: Hop Li has been replaced by China Red, a higher end dim sum and seafood restaurant with an emphasis on high quality ingredients and regional specialties-- review to come.

I've written about Full House already in Arcadia. But what about it's competitor, Hop Li? It used to be full of people. The food was pretty good, and we pretty much frequently went there. Then, crowds diminished to almost an empty parking lot. And we left them alone for a while.

Now, it's back again, with something GREAT.

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It's their fourth anniversary! And to celebrate, they are offering a dim sum special of 1.38 a plate, which is a very, very good deal. The only other place that has prices like this is at Yum Cha Cafe, which is all the way over in San Gabriel. However, the deals don't last all week- during weekends and holidays, the price costs more than Full House- almost 2.50.


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Just entering the door, you can notice some changes. The colors are now a bit brighter. And on this sunny day, the whole inside of the restaurant feels sunny and bright. In other words, happy.

Interior

Even the dining area has changed. Gone are the dark wood moldings and intricate drapery. Now are chandeliers, a bright wallpaper, and white moldings.

So far, positives galore right? But what about the food?

Well, for the most part, dim sum is excellent. There is however a good idea if you want to get the freshest food. Get the seats closest to the kitchen door! Even better, get the table right at the fish-tanks (which the bottom "new" photo was taken from). Although there is a flow of incoming and outcoming traffic from the kitchen, you are bound to get the freshest items. And that now, will make you a happy clam.

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We started out with some preserved duck egg and meat porridge, which was excellent. Being 1PM, the servers were very nice as the restaurant wasn't too full. Would you like extra green onion and crispy fried wonton skins? Sure! Definitely a good dish, and it was chockful of the preserved duck egg and the meat, which both were very tender.

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This coconut and black rice/taro cake was good too! It was not overly sweet and wasn't gummy or anything like that. Almost seemed like a solid version of the black rice and taro sweet soup that we had at Phoenix, but a bit sweeter. Very good. Only letdown would be that after a while, the coconut started tasting artificial after a few hours to one of us.

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And of course, like what every good dim sum place should have, this place also has a fair share of meats which some people would stray away from. Care for some tripe, blood, or stomach?

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And before you get too scared from that photo of the meats, lets move onward to some yummy siu-mai. They are filled to the max with lots of meat, a piece of shrimp, and a topping of some fish egg like most restaurants do these days.

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Hop Li's version of tofu with fishcake isn't bad either. It's simply fried tofu with fishcake. A bit lighter flavor than I expected (especially with the brown sauce which typically is very flavorful), but an okay dish.

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Cold chicken feet here are very good. It's not just all bones, and they also pour some tangy vinegar on top. Mmm...

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This dish now, surprised me. Their fried cruller was actually crispy and HOT on the outside, and chewy in the inside. Typically, it is all cold at most dim sum restaurants. Their rice noodle sheets were very good- very chewy and also very thin. Dipping sauces included hoisin and sesame- pretty interesting to see sesame. We usually only get hoisin sauce with this dish at most dim sum restaurants.

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This dish comprises of mixed mushrooms including some shitake and king trumpet/oyster mushrooms, and rice noodle sheets with some soy sauce. Very good as expected- there was plenty of soy sauce, and the mushrooms were flavorful.

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But why get the mixed mushroom rice noodle sheets when you can get this? In total, there are 12 pieces of these cilantro and green onion rice noodle sheets when cut in half. Unlike the other rice noodle sheet dishes, you have to order this one via the server, and they freshly make it for you! But, it's the same cost!

You could clearly taste each ingredient used for this dish. The rice noodle sheets in dish obviously are very fresh, and are very chewy. Cilantro and green onion add some nice herby flavor to the dish. Only complaint? A bit too little of the soy sauce. Obviously, when the amount of the cheong fun is doubled in a dish, the soy sauce should be doubled too. In this case, it is not.

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A big advantage of getting the table closest to the kitchen door is getting the freshest items automatically. In this case, this table is very helpful. These were the HOTTEST egg tarts we have ever eaten. You could basically burn your tounge by touching them rich away! Even the paper smelled. When can that happen?

As for the egg tarts, they had a flaky but a bit dry crust, and the custard was sweet and lightly eggy like most dim sum egg tarts are. But, you can not replicate the freshness of these egg tarts! No, baking them again at home to warm up to eat doesn't count.

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And just when you think those egg tarts are the most awesome things ever in the whole entire world, take a look at this. What's inside?

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A velvety, ultra smooth, silky, creamy, gingery, slightly sweet, and milk-y ginger milk custard. This was just awesome. The consistency could be said to be even creamier than creme brulee or flan. It really is that good. Now, if there was some more ginger juice in this dessert, it would be BOMB.

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Another visit obviously allows you to try more things. And so, we did!

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These pineapple buns were good as usual. Soft bread, crispy topping, and sweet custard interior.

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Now, here is something interesting. Some people call this a "Chinese rice crispy" or "Chinese rice puffs". You decide! Anyway, there's lots of the rice puffs and they are combined together with a sweet syrup. Sometimes, these are very fresh- sometimes they are not. So, it's more of a hit and miss. Typically though it is good.

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Another version of porridge at Hop Li is this dried vegetable with pork bone porridge, which has some good vegetable and meat flavors in the dish. It's a good option if you don't like eating preserved duck eggs!

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Lastly here are some "San Jian Bao", or pan fried buns. These are actually crispy on the outside, unlike some dim sum restaurants.

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And its interior has plenty of meat and vegetables which go along great with the bread and crispy edges.

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Just because this a Hop Li post and promised as said in the title, here is our dinner experience at Hop Li about a half year ago. Never got around posting this on Tripadvisor, so here it is here.

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Their menu for dinner is obviously very large. There's even a special dessert section in the menu, which not every restaurant has. But what are these "Mike Buns"? I'm assuming they mean Milk buns, but Mike might be the name of the owner. Typically though these have a taro or dry milk filling in them.

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We started off with some of their slow cooked soups, and this one was very flavorful, even if it looks very clear. However, like most restaurants, the soup was not cooked in the pot it was served in. Instead, it was cooked in a huge pot and then served in a smaller pot.

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A platter of head on shrimp came next, and they came along with a spicy soy sauce that had fresh chili peppers in them. The soy sauce was good, but the shrimp were frozen! I don't mind frozen for some dishes, but the frozen shrimp used for this dish affected everything- and it didn't taste as good compared to a freshly cooked shrimp.

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For our dinner visit, we also got a plate of "french style" beef cubes, which were cooked along with some fragrant basil and green onions. These were slightly sweet and spicy, and the beef cubes were very tender, similar to what most restaurants do with their beef cubes (add baking soda that is). The lettuce which the beef cubes were served on got a lot of the flavors from the beef as well and also got "cooked" by the beef, so they were good to pair along with some steamed rice.

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In addition, we also ordered a vegetable dish which also came with a topping of mushrooms (probably canned?) and plenty of dried beancurd sheets. The beancurd sheets were very good and soaked up the mushroom flavors from the sauce it was served in, and the mushrooms were very tender. The veggies were crisp like what most restaurants do nowadays.

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Lastly, we had this red snapper, which we waited for a very long time for. We were immediately disappointed when we saw the dish; the fish looked oversteamed, and it just looked like a sad fish. Like usual, the green onions and the soy sauce were good, but the fish was way too soft- almost mushy tasting. What a waste!

So...as usual for these seafood restaurants, DON'T get seafood here! Get any other dish other than seafood, and you'll be satisfied. Don't worry about the language barrier here either; the servers here speak pretty good english here compared to some restaurants in the area.

Hop Li Seafood Restaurant

855 South Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel (626) 445-3188
Fax (310) 445-3318


Hop Li Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

12 comments:

foodbin said...

all the dim sum looks good-l particularly like the porridge-so translucent (no rice residue) and those lovely polo pao (pineapple buns.

noobcook said...

dim sum looks authentic and tasty and I agree it's such a great deal too!

Passionate Eater said...

When I read that the yo-tiao (fried cruller, savory donut) was crunchy and hot inside those noodle sheets, I rejoiced! I would definitely go there (and even if I didn't get the seafood) just for those!!

EatTravelEat said...

foodbin,

They were all very good; I was very happy especially during our visits for dim sum there as everything was good- probably because we got to sit in the good seat :). Most dim sum restaurants we have been to weren't this good!

noobcook,

I agree! Such a great deal; I hope they don't increase the price :). But if they do they should keep it the same price for everything like what Full House does.

Passionate Eater,

I was very amazed too when I ate the you-tiao and the rice noodle sheets. Both were so fresh and warm! We were very lucky as we got the seat right next to the kitchen (as they would have to pass by us first before going anywhere else)...once when we saw any waiter, we flagged them down to see what they had. :)

joanh said...

wow! looks good. and the special price for dim sum is REALLY good!

EatTravelEat said...

joanh,

I was definitely impressed too :). The special pricing is really cheap especially that everything is fresh and hot!

Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas said...

Awesome photo sequence.... I'm salivating! (As usual).

By the way, I wrote about EatTravelEat! and linked to your site today (Thursday, 30 April).

Have a fabulous weekend!

EatTravelEat said...

Jules,

Thanks and thank you for the award! As for your question on your blog, I (the person who writes everything on the blog)am not female but some of my dining companions and people I talk about and give opinions on the food (featured as "friends") are female so it fits :).

shavedicesundays said...

I think you posted Hop Li's full menu! Very good extensive post. Wish I could make it there on the weekday for the deal.

EatTravelEat said...

shavedicesundays,

If I posted the entire menu, that would have been about at least 300 photos! That would be fun as a future project :).

Miki said...

Bad service and taste if you are food lover!! Full house is similar price and better so much than it!! i dont know about dinner menu but din sum....uhhhh....more considering on it!! i am soooooo dispoint!!

EatTravelEat said...

Miki,
I do like Full House better actually :). Full House totally wins for dinner and is better than Hop Li slightly for lunch. I guess I was really lucky on my visit to Hop Li as the food was completely fresh out of the kitchen. Yum.