View Original Notice ? Dim sum dumplings go à la carte in Cerritos at Lunasia Dim Sum House
When it first opened in Alhambra in 2009, what’s now Lunasia Dim Sum House was Lunasia Chinese Cuisine — a notably upscale Hong Kong style seafood house, with a big wine list, and lots of folks drinking expensive bottles of Bordeaux from that big list.
And then, the folks from Lunasia opened a sibling restaurant, just east of Old Pasadena, that served nothing but dim sum morning, noon and night — unusual, for dim sum is traditionally not served at night. And it did well. It did really well. It did so well that Lunasia Chinese Cuisine flipped its concept, and became an all dim sum, all the time restaurant as well.
You might think that being in the largely Chinese enclave of Alhambra would run into problems with traditionalists. And it well may have. But not enough to keep Lunasia from opening a sprawling room in a Cerritos culinary mall, with plastic COVID shields between the tables, and a 30-minute wait for a table on a Sunday — and this in a restaurant where most eat their whole meal in 30 minutes or less. And that’s without rushing. Dim sum comes out of the kitchen very fast, and is consumed even faster.
This is not a cuisine over which many linger. Though at Lunasia, they certainly could. This is not a rolling cart type of dim sum house.
Rather, in the Nouvelle Chinoiserie style, the ordering is done à la carte. The argument is that with each order coming directly from the kitchen, the quality of the dim sum is finer, with more care taken over every dish. It’s what you’ll find at popular dim sum houses like the sundry branches of Din Tai Fung.
And I guess I do have to agree — the quality of the dumplings at Lunasia is pretty amazing. But still, I do miss the carts. I miss the feeling of being inside a video game, trying to get one of the Ms. Pac-Man carts to head in my direction. It can take a certain degree of aggression — which raw hunger does tend to bring out.
That said, at Lunasia in Cerritos, though things may not be actually quiet and leisurely, proper time — even reverence — can be given to each dish, knowing that you won’t have to chase the next dish around the restaurant.
The first task here, once you’ve gotten seated (which, as I said, can take a while) is to figure out which tea you want. As befits a more elevated dim sum experience, this is as it should be.
In rolling cart houses, tea is tea is tea. Here, it’s a choice between five premium teas, with exotic names like Anxi Tie Guan Yin, Fujian Shoumei (white tea) and Yunnan Pu’er (dark tea). There’s chrysanthemum and green tea too. It’s served very hot.
You do your ordering from a long checklist, helped along by a sizable photo menu with tasty full-color photos of the dishes — they look good enough on the menu to be scratch and sniff. Most dishes range in price from $5 to $10 — perhaps more expensive than at rolling cart houses, but still not especially expensive, when you consider how big each order is.
There’s a penchant to over-order, and well there should be. Unless you’re a group of 10, who’ll eat everything, you’re going to take a box home — most everyone does. And dim sum tastes great the next day! Of course it does!
That the dim sum here is exceptional is pretty much obvious from the first bite. Especially if what you bite into are any of the several shrimp-filled dumplings. For rather than being packed with some manner of generic shrimp-like substance, these dumplings — plump critters one and all — are filled with whole, tender, amazingly flavorful shrimp. You bite into the jumbo shrimp har gow (it’s called “jumbo” on the menu), the emerald green spinach and shrimp dumplings, the Shanghai shrimp wontons, the crispy shrimp rice noodle roll, and you get shrimp — lots of it.
But then, much the same can be said of any of the 23 steamed dishes, most of them dumplings, and the 14 baked and fried dishes. And certainly, a fine meal can be cobbled together from nothing more than things steamed, baked and fried. But there’s a lot more to choose from here — wonderful panfried string beans, extraordinary sautéed eggplant (so good, I stopped at a 99 Ranch to buy Asian eggplant on my way home), lots of noodle dishes and fried rice dishes, even Hong Kong style roast duck, and Macao style roast pork belly.
And there are lots of desserts — almost every table seemed to get the hot almond milk topped with a puff pastry. I lean toward the mango pudding — but then, I always lean toward pudding. And ice cream. Though I haven’t yet found an ice cream place as wondrous in Cerritos as the legendary Fosselman’s near the Lunasia in Alhambra. Fosselman’s is too far from South Street. But a man can dream.
Lunasia Dim Sum House
- Rating: 3 stars
- Address: Fountain Plaza,11510 South St., Cerritos
- Information: 562-265-9588; www.lunasiadimsum.com
- Cuisine: Upscale dim sum house, with à la carte dumplings rather than rolling carts.
- When: Lunch and dinner, every day, breakfast Saturday and Sunday
- Prices: About $18 per person
- Details: Beer and wine; no reservations
- Suggested dishes: 23 Steamed Dim Sum ($5.88-$15.88), 14 Baked & Fried Dim Sum ($3.88-$9.88), 8 Rice Noodles ($5.88-$48), along with a full Chinese menu!
- Credit cards: MC, V
- What the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth a trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, even exceptional. Worth a trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A good place to go for a meal. Worth a trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry, and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic going.) 0 (Honestly, not worth writing about.)