Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dim Sum at Full House Seafood Restaurant

Exterior

Months ago, I posted a review on Hop Li's dim sum, which was a bit too, well, overly positive. We were lucky at that time- we had good seats, and the food appeared to be fantastically photogenic. Now... it isn't that beautiful, but the food is still pretty good. But a competitor has now responded to Hop Li.

That is, Full House. It is not because I have not visited Full House. In fact, my dining companions and I go to Full House more often than any other place; it is our choice to go to for dim sum. I usually do not get to visit dim sum places during the school year (with the exception of minimum days, and rarely on the weekends), so if there is a dim sum place to try, it will definitely taste awesome to me. Hop Li was the "awesome" for the few months, but now I have gotten to try out Full House again. And they have done much to give back some competition to the dim sum scene in Arcadia.

Dim Sum Pricing @ Full House
The BIG response.

After a month where Hop Li had their 1.38 USD specials for the weekday, Full House responded, lowering their already low price (well, what used to be) of 1.98 to 1.58 USD. Still 20 cents more than Hop Li. However, on the holidays and weekends, Full House now is cheaper than Hop Li with the rate of 1.98 per plate.

We go to Full House now often. So often in fact that one of our friends was amazed that we go there at least once a week. Hop Li...not so much. About once in two weeks. But why?

Two reasons. First is the service. The Full House employees recognize us and are enthusiastic to serve us, unlike Hop Li where there only seems to be one very friendly employee. None of the higher level staff are angry at Full House (or they at least hide their anger), unlike Hop Li where the manager went (in front of our face) saying," AI YAH! This is so annoying! Why do you have to make me do it (not the busboys)?" (In Cantonese- this was because we asked him to add some water to our tea pot as no one was coming to add water even though we signaled them for about 5 minutes). Dim sum carts come frequently at Full House, not sporadically at Hop Li now. All makes sense to pay the 20 more cents per plate during the weekdays. The restaurant scene is much more friendly and lively. We support the better.

Food is the next reason. And there are plenty of dishes to try out. Quite a wide variety. Full House has the advantage of their BBQ department, which allows them to serve items like suckling pig, char-siu, peking duck, and other plates.

Full-House-Steamed-Items

What we like to start out every dim sum visit is with some items from the steamed cart. Besides, they always come near us right when we sit down. Since there are multiple items, I will list and explain:

Top 4, clockwise from the top left:

1. Fishballs: Three large fishballs on a bed of peas which is a bit mushy. The fishballs are very soft and tender and have cilantro and some dried shrimp in them. We don't order this too often; after all there are so many other items in the menu.

2. Steamed Spareribs: Basically a plate of steamed spareribs which also have some fermented black beans with them. This is pretty oily so we don't like it that much. Plus, we make this dish at home often...so ordering it outside doesn't impress us!

3. Steamed Char Siu Buns: One of our favorites. The bread is very soft and fluffy (unlike my mantou, which I have still been altering so that it can become like this), and the filling has plenty of char siu. Not too sweet and not too much extra juice in the filling, so it is great! Plus the char-siu is fresh and not dry.

4. Braised and Fried Bean Curd Rolls: Again, this is another oily dish but the flavors and textures are pretty nice. This one had a bit of meat filling and some vegetables including bamboo shoots and wood ear. The bean curd skins were slightly crisp on the sides and tender. For the photo, we did ask them to cut them in half, but usually they will ask you first if you want them cut. Cutting is your choice.

And lastly, the large picture of the bottom of the top photo is the siu mai, which we order every time (well, almost every time). Stuffed with a large shrimp and chunks of pork, along with a topping of roe (not in this photo but they do put some on usually), this is a flavor sensation bursting with flavors. Dip with some of their chili sauce and mustard if you want, but I do not feel the need. They are large enough to be eaten in two large bites. Yum.

Full-House-Buns

Their buns are also a great deal too and are great for eating in the restaurant as well as for lunches. Again, going clockwise from the top left:

1. Pan Fried Buns: Slightly crisp on the outside and inside is a meat, shrimp, and veggie filling. Outside is the soft and fluffy bread which I am still trying to replicate.

2. Snow Mountain Buns (Taro Buns): These have a sweet bread on the outside and have a sugar top to them. Inside is some taro paste which is very smooth and slightly sweet- not too milky or sugary.

3. Hot Dog Buns: We do not order this often but Full House does offer a nice rendition. The hot dogs are firm and slightly juicy, while the bread is sweet, soft, and delicious.

4. Baked Cha-Siu Buns: Another favorite of ours. The char-siu filling is a bit saltier compared to the the steamed variety to compensate with the sweet bread which is used also in the hot dog buns, which is thick, fluffy, and soft.

Full-House-Plate-Cart-items

Full House also offers plenty of dishes which are handed out either by hand or on their carts which serve cold items. Again, from the top left hand corner:

1. Turnip Cake: These usually come to our table after they are freshly pan fried. Inside are chunks of turnip (which they do not skimp on) and the batter which has plenty of dried shrimp. Nicely seasoned. We like it but usually can not finish it.

2. Soy Sauce Chow Mein: A great deal for the price. Thin yellow noodles are stir fried along with bean sprouts, green onions, onions, soy sauce, and yellow chives. Then, a sprinkling of sesame seeds is added to complete the dish. Full House's rendition is basically the same as the HK style cafes; if not better. It is however slightly oily, but for the price, it is a good deal.

3. Seaweed: Don't let them fool you. This seaweed is expensive at 10+ dollars a pound at the 99 Ranch supermarket, and they can not give that much; otherwise they would lose money. So, inside this layer of seaweed is actually some pickled vegetables which are still very tasty. There is plenty of seaweed, but the looks fool you- the amount is about a handful's worth, which is still a great deal for the money. The seaweed is nicely seasoned and not too wet.

4. Vegetable ("Gong Choy"): This was firm and crisp, and it seems like it has been marinated in something for sometime. Inside is a bed of stewed peanuts which were tender and fun to eat with chopsticks :).

Full-House-Rice-Noodle-Roll

Probably what is one of the best items here is the rice noodle rolls or cheong fun. Full Houses' rice noodle rolls have very thin and chewy layers which shows their expertise, and rarely are they ever thick or oversteamed. They beat Hop Li in this category. Again, from the top left hand corner:

1. Cilantro and Green Onion Rice Noodle Rolls: You have to special order this but it still costs the same price. Like Hop Li, they give you six rolls which is double compared to the usual meat filled rice noodle rolls. Cilantro and green onion are randomly applied to the rice noodle rolls and then are rolled. These don't look very pretty, but they are tasty and simple! By the way, Hop Li doesn't make this dish look that pretty anymore too.

2. Beef Rice Noodle Rolls: Now with our favorite cilantro and green onion rice noodle rolls, we do not like this as much. The filling has some water chestnuts and cilantro along with the ground beef- similar to their beef meatballs dish. However the filling has a bit too much cornstarch and doesn't seem to be too fresh. The rice noodle roll portion is good and thin, but the filling is not. We like the scallop or fish pieces rice noodle rolls better.

3. XO Rice Noodle Rolls: This doesn't come too often but when it is available, order it! It is slightly spicy dish which has bean sprouts, cut plain rice noodle rolls, and XO sauce which are then stir fried together. The flavor soaks into the rice noodle rolls which ends up for a savory and tasty sensation in the mouth.

Full-House-Desserts

And of course there are plenty of desserts to choose from too. Above are what we order most frequently:

1. Egg Tarts: These are sweet and eggy, and have a crisp and slightly powdery puff pastry crust.

2. Sweet Tofu Soup: This varies on how good it tastes, but sometimes it can be really smooth and silky, but at other times a bit rougher in texture and not as smooth. The photo is of a not so smooth and silky sweet tofu soup. Served alongside is some ginger syrup which is not very gingery but is very sweet to my taste buds.

3. Water Chestnut Cake: Whenever we come to Full House we wait for this to come or order it. This dish is one of the best renditions of what Full House has and is no comparison to other dim sum places. The gelatin is sweet and smooth, and the water chestnuts are large and crispy. Plus, the outside is crispy and due to the sweetness, the crust gets even sweeter. Tasty!

4. Ma-Lai Gow (Sweet Cake): This is also another of those dishes that doesn't come out too often. Look for a person carrying a large steamer which will probably have this sweet cake. The Ma-Lai cake is not too sweet and is very fluffy. Not too dry or dense unlike some places.

We are not finished yet.

Preserved Duck Egg and Pork Porridge

Full House's Preserved Duck Egg and Pork Porridge is a great deal for the price and is pretty tasty. The rice is not fully disintegrated and there are some pieces, but mostly it is all mushed up. Plenty of chunks of preserved duck egg and pork are in the porridge, and on top the dim sum ladies add some fried wonton skins and some green onions which adds a nice textural contrast and flavor to the porridge.

Gai Lan

Full House also has gai lan which is cooked to order. This however is not part of the special deals, and instead costs 6 dollars a plate. Not as good of a deal, but restaurants do like to overcharge for vegetables. This gai lan was fresh and tender, and not bitter unlike some places. It had a nice snap but still was cooked fully. On the side was some savory oyster sauce.

Beef Stew with Rice Noodle Rolls (special order)

Another special order dish is a Beef Stew Rice Noodle Roll Pot which costs 7.25. We used to order this a lot but after we found the cilantro and green onion rice noodle rolls we do not order it as much. Supposedly, they are supposed to put the beef stew into the pot, but since we feel it makes the rice noodle rolls lose their crisp (they pan fry them before putting them into this sizzling pot), we tell them not to put them together. Instead, when we want to eat the rice noodle rolls we dip them in the cornstarch laden but flavorful beef stew and then eat it immediately. The beef stew is not very tender (May Mei is best in this category), but the flavor and texture combination otherwise is pretty nice. There are also onions in the bottom of the sizzling pot where the rice noodle rolls are located to minimize the risk of burning the rice noodle rolls.

So, all in all, a great wide selection of dim sum items. Good food, great service. What more do you need?

Full House Seafood Restaurant
1220 South Golden West Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 446-8222

Full House Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Who else ate here?
Wandering Chopsticks visited along with her little sister and friends who visit Full House quite often.

P.S. The dinner service has actually gotten better now! Review to follow in a while :).

P.S. Feb 2010 Dinner service fails tremendously during holidays, but is good during any other day.

8 comments:

KirkK said...

Geez, you really can't beat those prices.

Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas said...

Everything looks so delicious!! I remember visiting a dim sum place in Monterey Park - it was yummy to me, but I will definitely have to try out your recommendation. The photos have my salivating!

EatTravelEat said...

KirkK,
Yeah, have to agree with that! I really do not know why the made their prices so low though. All the other cities nearby charge much more! Even my friends from another city were shocked at the low prices.

Jules,
I am happy that you like the food! Hope you will be able to visit soon :). And I hope to be able to visit Las Vegas soon.

foodbin said...

great Dim Sum-
1.special fishballs
2.well cooked porridge
3.loves those crunchy seaweed
3.fat gai lan
and i think the rice noodle are a bit thick.

burumun said...

That is quite cheap. At that price, it's definitely worth a visit to check it out.

EatTravelEat said...

foodbin,
Did you read my mind?!?! That is pretty much what I have feelings of these days with them, especially with the rice noodles. They actually ARE pretty thick these days. Do not know why. But the picture I took of the green onion and cilantro ones had very thin and chewy layers. The others, not so much (especially the beef one which I took a picture of around 2 weeks ago).

burumun,
Thanks for commenting! Yeah, these prices seem to attract lots of customers. Even on the weekdays they are full even at 1PM. Very unusual to see that in Arcadia!

oddlyme said...

Found this from Wandering Chopsticks website and then loved your comments.

We went this am and I have to say - the folks were so nice! And the prices were cheap enough that we tried a few things we'd never had before. One was "eh", one was a smash hit and one - no. Just - no.

So we ordered more, happily ate and drank and then got to-go boxes and our bill. The guy with our credit card comes back, see's we've boxed our stuff up - and left the one plate of food. It was so sweet to see - he was upset! Didn't we like it, was something wrong, could he get us something else?

That made my day.

So, is it the fanciest dim sum in the world? No. It is tasty, cheap and are the folks nice? Yes!

SO two thumbs up, thanks for rec-ing it.

EatTravelEat said...

oddlyme,

This is great to hear! Glad you had a fun experience. There's definitely some very unique dishes here you don't find in most restaurants.