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Object of Desire: Dim sum for dinner

LunasiaOf all the questions I am asked, the one that has perhaps popped up the most often is: "Where do you go for dim sum at night?" I have never had a proper answer to this.

You can get dumplings at night, of course –- Din Tai Fung and 101 Noodle Express do decent dinnertime business –- but the food they serve is from northern China, properly not dim sum at all. There are any number of chain and proto-chain Chinese-lite restaurants pumping out Dim Sum and Then Sum and its like. And apart from the occasional plate of stale pork buns a Chinatown bakery might have left over from lunch, that's about it.

Dim sum is properly breakfast food, and a Monterey Park waiter asked about har gow at dinnertime will flinch the way a waiter at Musso's might if you asked him about pancakes. Dim sum and dinner food are usually prepared by completely different staffs -– at a newish San Gabriel Shanghai-style restaurant, a friend noticed that the morning dim sum crew was speaking Cantonese.

So I am happy finally to have an answer to this question: Lunasia, not just a dim sum restaurant but possibly a top-5 dim sum restaurant, is now serving dim sum for dinner, which means you can get top-notch rice-noodle doughnut rolls, fist-size shiu mai, sticky-rice wraps, milk buns, baked barbecued pork bao, live-fish congee and dozens of other dim sum -- as well as dim-sum-size portions of duck, roast chicken, and Lunasia's famous Macao-style roast pork belly, which may be the best version in the San Gabriel Valley -- until 8:30 p.m. You won't see carts. Lunasia was one of the first places in town to go over to all-menu dim sum several years ago. But when spicy chicken feet and plates of rolled rice noodles stir-fried in chile oil are involved, it may not matter. Think of it as Hong Kong's answer to chicken 'n' waffles.

500 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 308-3222.

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-- Betty Hallock 

Photo: Dim sum at Lunasia (including the Thousand Layer cake). Credit: Laurie Ochoa.

 
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