This is the part that sucks about food writing. It’s not like reviewing a Movie or a Record, or a TV show. Those products are, however good or bad they are, stay pretty much locked-in as-is.
That’s not true for restaurants, however.
A restaurant can get a new Chef, remake their menu, they can remodel. Any one of those things can make you reevaluate and rethink your whole experience.
Lunasia has done something like that.
It really started with the L.A. Times profile of David Chan, and the 6000-plus Chinese Restaurants he’s gone to. He also provided a list of his top ten Chinese Restaurants in California.
Turns out, this side has been to a few of them…
…and one of them was Lunasia.
Now, let’s get this out of the way. I never hated Lunasia. It was always perfectly…serviceable…when it came to Dim Sum and fine Chinese Dining. I’d gone once or twice before the time me and my Father during one of his vacations discovered that Mission 261 had been closed for a time for renovations. I had to use my Amazon Kindle to find a replacement, and Lunasia was it.
I hadn’t been during the last couple of years because, Mission 261 and Elite were (for me) more than filling the gap. But that’s changed now. Lunasia is a changed restaurant, classier, more elegant than when I first visited, and the Dim Sum has radically, radically improved over time. I used to think that Lunasia hadn’t quite overtaken those two places, that the gap had substantially narrowed. Now, Lunasia stands on par (for me) with Mission and Elite.
It used to be that I had two restaurants on rotation for Dim Sum. Now I have three.
For one thing, there are the TVs. I never know how to react to the addition of copious Televisions to a dining establishment. But Chosun Galbee has done it, and now so has Lunasia. It is a sign of desperation, a way of keeping you in the restaurant ordering food, or a way of keeping your comfortable, without a worry in the world, while staying in the restaurant ordering food.
A little of both, I suppose.
The place seems to have undergone a bit of a makeover since my last visit. The appointments are still wonderful. It looked good then, it looks great now. But there are two other changes.
One is the menu. The Dim Sum menu has expanded…dramatically. Heck, if you go to the Lunasia Site, and look at their menu, be forewarned, it is not accurate. If anything, their own website under represents what they have going on.
Two? It’s the crowd. Let’s face it, Lunasia never lacked for business, but I used to be able to walk in and 10:30am for an Early Dim Sum, and glide right in. Not so anymore.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Now, I see Lunasia serves the same Macau Roasted Pork that Elite does. I think Elite does it a touch bit better, but the very fact that Lunasia is now doing this should tell you the kind of sea change that’s happened here. Also, their Sausage Dumpling is something I haven’t seen at Mission or Elite. It’s a lovely bit of sweet, chewy, porky goodness. Also, this seems to be the only restaurant of the three that does both the Deep Fried Taro Cake and the Pan Fried Taro Cake.
Also, and this is a newer touch that I don’t remember, serving Hot Tea in good commitment’ fashioned Cast Iron Tea Kettles. Nice touch. But these Tea Kettles don’t come cheap, which should indicate the level of commitment being shown here.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Despite my waxing on and on and on about other restaurants in this space, if I had a date, if I had someone I wanted to impress, Lunasia would be my choice. The atmosphere there is just that nice. Even after the addition of the TVs, it’s still that nice.
PARKING: Easy as can be. Lunasia is in a structure with its own free lot. That being said, if you come late enough, it will fill up, and you’ll be parking on the street (South 5th Street comes to mind). This has only happened to me once, after discovering, the hard way that Mission 261 had closed (it has since reopened).
Lunasia Chinese Cuisine
500 West Main Street, Suite A
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 308-3222
Dim Sum: Monday-Friday 10:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 9:00am – 3:00pm
Dinner: Monday-Sunday 5:00pm – 10:00pm