photo credit: Jakob Layman
Opening a dim sum spot in LA is an interesting challenge. Because sooner or later, people are going to start comparing it to their favorite Cantonese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. Which is totally fair - the SGV is less than an hour’s drive from most parts of LA, and it’s home to some of the best Chinese food you can find anywhere. So after Capital Seafood (which also has locations in Arcadia and Irvine) opened in Beverly Hills in late 2018, it was fair to ask how it compares to those San Gabriel standouts.
From the outside, the answer is, “Not at all.” Because you definitely know you’re in Beverly Hills. There’s a not-small chance that you’ll have to dodge a 17-year-old driving a Maserati in the parking garage beneath the restaurant, and there’s a massive fountain out front that makes it feel a bit like you’re walking into a meeting at CAA. But inside, you’d have no idea you’re one wrong turn away from the Beverly Center - because you just can’t find Cantonese food this good anywhere near the Westside.
The dim sum classics are all worth ordering. The shrimp har gow are stuffed with huge hunks of shrimp, the turnip cake is perfectly crispy but still moist and flavorful, and the steamed BBQ pork buns are wrapped in a nice foamy rice flour, and have plenty of sweet and salty pork inside. You’ll also find some stuff you don’t see as often (but should still investigate), like the buttery, flaky pork pastry, and rice noodles with XO sauce. And you should absolutely order multiples of the salt and pepper calamari and the shrimp rice noodles - firm noodles stuffed with a whole shrimp, then topped with tangy vinegar.
The seafood tastes so fresh that you suspect it was alive minutes before cooking - which is entirely possible, since they’ve got live tanks in the kitchen - but when it comes to dinner entrees, we actually prefer the meat dishes. The lobster tends to be under-seasoned for the amount of sauce there is, and the vermicelli with seafood is a bit too mushy for our taste. Meanwhile, the roast duck is consistently fantastic - crispy, flavorful, and impossible not to pick up and eat off the bone - and the char siu (BBQ pork loin) is also great, so we usually get both of them on a two-item platter.
But can Capital Seafood substitute for SGV dim sum? Yes and no. On one hand, much of the food doesn’t quite have the same punch - you really have to load up on the accompanying vinegars and sauces to complement the dumplings. On the other, this is the best dim sum you can get anywhere within a 15-mile radius. There are tons of options, and no matter what you order, you’ll walk away happy, full, and with a whole lot of leftovers.
Comparisons aside, Capital Seafood is good enough to stand on its own. The place is fancy without feeling stuffy, and the service is super-quick. Considering its location, this is some of the best food for the price in the neighborhood. And they always have tables available. In LA, where trying to get a big group of friends to commit to a meal ahead of time is as hard as making a left turn across Highland, you can book a table that seats as many as 16 with little problem, even at the last minute.
So while Capital Seafood wouldn’t crack the upper tier of Cantonese food in the SGV, it’s still the best dim sum you can get without the possibility of spending multiple hours on the 10. Just watch out for teens driving Maseratis.
Shrimp Har Gow
All the dumplings here are lessons in balance - they’re delicate but hearty, and tender yet still chewy. The har gow is among our favorites, as it’s fully loaded with huge hunks of shrimp. Use plenty of the accompanying chili oil to bring out the shrimp flavor.
Salt And Pepper Calamari
Like that time you mistakenly ordered your ice cream before the rest of your group and just got a kiddie size, then watched everyone else order triple scoops, you’re going to regret it if you don’t order multiples of this dish.
Rice Noodles With XO Sauce
One of the biggest surprises here - these little rice logs are tossed in sweet, tangy seafood sauce. Order them. Actually, order two of them.
Shrimp Rice Noodles
Firm rice noodles wrapped around shrimp like they came from a workshop full of elves furiously trying to get presents out in the third week of December? Count us in.
If you’re only going to order one main here, make it the duck. It’s rubbed with Chinese five spice, the skin is perfectly crispy every time, and the meat is always moist but never underdone.
Cantonese BBQ Pork
Just behind the duck, for us, is the char siu. This BBQ pork is sweet, salty, and a great alternative to eating a bunch of dumplings.
Steamed BBQ Pork Bun
We always order these sweet, huge dumplings stuffed with pork at the end of the meal, and pretend they count as dessert.