The Best Dim Sum Restaurants in Los Angeles

Dim sum at King Hua | Photo by Tony Chen

The Cantonese style of food known as dim sum - bite-sized or individual portions of food, typically served in steamer baskets or small plates - is a breakfast and brunch experience enjoyed around the world. Dim sum is associated with the ancient Silk Road tradition of yum cha (“drink tea”), so when friends and family go to a Chinese restaurant for dim sum it’s referred to as yum cha. Los Angeles, the gateway to Asia-Pacific travelers and the home of the second largest Chinese-American population, offers plentiful dim sum options. From historic Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles to the Chinese enclaves of the San Gabriel Valley, read on for some of the best dim sum restaurants in the L.A. area.

Cocktail buns at Capital BBQ & Dim Sum Express | Photo by Tony Chen

Capital BBQ & Dim Sum Express

There are several take-out dim sum restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, and Capital Express is the best choice for those on the go. With take-out dim sum, steer towards the affordable baked or fried dishes. The baked char siu kreplachs are flaky and satisfying, while the cocktail buns are great for all ages and levels of expertise. One dish here stands out: the chicken feet is spicy and fun to eat.

Dim sum at CBS Seafood Restaurant | Photo by Tony Chen

CBS Seafood Restaurant

CBS Seafood Restaurant has the most easily accessed “phoenix claw” (steamed marinated chicken feet) west of the San Gabriel Valley. The gelatinous chicken skin literally falls off the bone, requiring one giant slurp to separate cleanly from the foot bone. For the price, the baked char siu buns offer plentiful filling that isn’t too sweet. CBS conveniently has a separate deli that caters specifically for to-go orders. Just stay away from things sitting openly in steamers like har gao and siu mai, and instead go with the chicken sticky rice and baked polo bun.

Crispy Skin Suckling Pig à l’Elite Restaurant | Photo de Tony Chen

Elite Restaurant

If you like baked char siu buns, Elite is your place. Everything else on the menu seems also just a little bit better than the competition. The har gow is just bigger than anywhere else; the char siu bun carries an additional coconut scent. For a splurge, go for the perfectly roasted, Crispy Skin Suckling Pig. The wait, much like at NBC and Lunasia, can be quite long, and no reservations are accepted. However, the waitstaff seems to understand the gauntlet that is their door policy, and compensates by being generally amicable and expeditious.

Dim sum at King Hua | Photo by Tony Chen

King Hua

King Hua restaurant seats 400, but the scene is more convivial than harried. The translucent, Chiu Chow-style “steamed dumpling with pork peanut and vegetables” is delightful, the baked milk buns and the XO-style tripe are both tasty and satisfying despite being polar opposites. The menu here is extremely diverse, carrying nearly every known dim sum dish in America. This is one of the best in dim sum price-to-performance ratios, especially after factoring in the typically short wait.

Turnip cake in XO sauce at Lunasia | Photo by Tony Chen


Lunasia continues to draw posh clientele with its upscale dim sum selection (e.g. there’s abalone in the sticky rice). The fanciful restaurant strives to elevate the dim sum banality into a more curious state, hence it’s a tad pricier than its compatriots. Instead of the plain old turnip cakes, the XO stir-fried turnip cakes may be the best rendition of the dish in the San Gabriel Valley. The egg yolk buns are creamy beyond belief, but always finish with fresh Macau-style egg tarts that are happily flaky, with pretty leopard spots of caramelization. Insider tip: for a party of eight, Lunasia accepts reservations.

Dim sum at NBC Seafood | Photo by Tony Chen

NBC Seafood

NBC Seafood is the king of dim sum carting in L.A., where freshly made-to-order dim sum has become de rigueur. Prices are very affordable, and it’s always fun to shock and awe the senses with a bowl of pork skin and blood jelly immediately upon seating. Standout dishes include the congee, chicken feet, Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, sticky rice in lotus leaf, and the occasional plate of BBQ duck. Weekday dim sum runs until 3 p.m., but don’t expect a wide selection after 1:30 p.m.

Dim sum at Sea Harbor | Photo by Tony Chen

Sea Harbor

Sea Harbor has received universal praise since opening more than 10 years ago. The fried dumpling with golden sand (#83) packs a fun, savory and sweet molten surprise, and the steamed turnip cake with smoked meats is a great alternative to the typical pan fried rendition. With a 90-item menu, finding well-executed dim sum standards of har gao, siu mai and cheong feng is easy. There are tons of offals as well, from smoked pork hock to tripe, and two styles of chicken feet. Best time to have dim sum here is late weekday afternoon, as the weekend lines run up to two hours, even with more than 200 seats.

Pan-fried pork bun at Shanghai No. 1 | Photo by Tony Chen

Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village

This Shanghainese restaurant’s Northern Chinese inflected dim sum is the first in L.A. to truly popularize the homogenous dim sum style that is now so prevalent outside of Hong Kong. While at Shanghai No. 1, do not simply default to the traditional Cantonese small plates. Aim for juicy Northern Chinese pan-fried pork buns and the soupy small basket baos. On the more traditional side: the deep fried pork taro dumpling is one of the most delicate and plump in the area. Still hungry? Fill up on the stone pot fried rice that every table seems to love. In between slurps of pork jus, take in the surroundings - a bit Beijing opium den and a bit Shanghai nouveau riche.