Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dim Sum from Sam Woo - Irvine

I risk sounding like an old fuddy-duddy when I say that nothing is cheap anymore. Thrifty ice cream is well over a dollar these days. I remember when it was 15-cents a cone! Yes, 15-cents! And last week Philippe's in LA raised the price for a cup of coffee a whopping 500%. It went up from 9-cents to 45-cents. But the important thing is there was an onion on my belt...which was the style of the time...

This is why I'm amazed that Sam Woo's take out has seemingly stayed the same price. Has it always been $5.50? It seems like it's always been. That's about what I remember paying when I was a college student and needed something to feed me over the span of two days, which it still does. If the price has risen over the last two decades, it must have been just to cover the cost of Styrofoam.

Since I've got a slight increase in salary over my college days, I opt for the take out dim sum over the combo meals. I did so last weekend. I ordered a whole stash of items, exactly 20 dollars-worth, then gorged on it at home, in front of the TV while watching an excellent kung fu movie called Ip Man on Netflix.

The har gow was thin-skinned and shrimp inside still wriggly; the egg custard cup called dan taat was still so fresh and warm it collapsed upon itself when I tried to pick it up. The juicy pork dumplings, however, is no match to Din Tai Fung's (it never was nor will be). But dim sum like this, it must be said, is perfect for TV viewing, especially when you can't take your eyes off the screen since the film is subtitled.

I might do the same again next weekend. I've got another twenty bucks and apparently Ip Man has a sequel.

15333 Culver Dr. Ste 720
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 262-0688

The Playground - Santa Ana


At 8:46 AM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

At $5.50 per dish, there is a reason why that price hasn't moved: Sam Woo's dim sum has always been overpriced. Now there there's a Capital Seafood, the fake Sam Woo (over by the new 99), and China Garden, if Sam Woo raised prices any further, they wouldn't get any business.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Actually $5.50 is the price of their 3-item combo meals. The dim sum is significantly cheaper, ranging from $1.95 for the BBQ pork buns and other cheapies, to about $3.95 for the more premium items. It's pretty par for the course, in my opinion. Capital Seafood is slightly more expensive, if I recall correctly.

True, China Garden's great...but I've already written about them!

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

That's kinda what I mean, dim sum is pretty competitive, even for the dim sum wasteland that is Irvine. As soon as you are even semi-okay with driving, there are countless dim sum places in Garden Grove/Westminster that the economics of dim sum is severely depressed.

So for a place like sam woo that's not really on the top tier of dim sum places anymore, they gotta compete on price.

That said, Irvine has come a long way since the mid 90s with the plethora of chinese/asian restaurants.

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes IP Man is good and not to mention IP Man II. Oh yeah forgot about the food. Sam Woo is as close to Chinese food I can get when during lunch.


At 11:27 AM, Blogger Madison said...

Dim sum and Ip Man is like the most perfect weekend combo I can think of. :D Ip Man the sequel is equally entertaining. Have fun!

I'm spoiled by really cheap Chinatown and SGV dim sum but here in Irvine Sam Woo will have to do.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Agreed. Now the question remains: what Garden Grove/Westminster dim sum house would you recommend?


Looking forward to Ip Man 2! I bet I know what happens in that movie: he kicks ass!


It's during discussions like this that I'm sorry I don't live in SGV. But if I did, I think I'd be a lot fatter. ;-)

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

The sheer number of good restaurants in SGV is a bit overwhelming.

@elmo - Seafood Paradise No. 2 (http://www.yelp.com/biz/seafood-paradise-no-2-westminster) is the one I've been going to for years. But I would have to say that my favourite dim sum place in Southern California is New Capital Seafood (http://www.yelp.com/biz/new-capital-seafood-restaurant-san-gabriel). Sadly, one of my favourite desserts there (the dove nest "soup" with some baked puff pastry) is no longer offered.

On another note, do you have some sort of queue in terms of what restaurants you review? Cuz I've noticed that there are quite a number of restaurants in Irvine that you've not reviewed. (Not that you're an Irvine reviewer or anything like that.)

At 4:41 PM, Blogger caninecologne said...

haha, loved the Grandpa Simpson reference!

"....and that's the way it was and we liked it!"

dana carvey as the grumpy old man on snl

At 11:15 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


LOVE New Capital. I go to the one in Rowland Heights. Truly the benchmark of dim sum. I go back to it even after flirting with Sea Harbour and Ocean Star for a while.

I don't have much of a game plan on what I review on MM. It's pretty much random. I'm not even sure what I'll write about next week. I do, however, know what I'll be reviewing for OC Weekly...but that's a secret!


Ah, so glad someone got my obscure Abe Simpson reference! I was beginning to think no one would catch it!

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

@elmo - if you go back to Koko's Cafe and do a real review for Monster Munching, (http://blogs.ocweekly.com/stickaforkinit/2011/11/taste_test_kokos_cafe_in_irvin.php) get the beef tongue dish. Other than being a bit on the salty side, it was very well done.

And have you been over to the new Marukai's oh so small food court yet?

At 4:03 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I have! Only ate the ramen at Santouka though. I am quite curious about the takoyaki joint, however.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Greg Hao said...

The japanese food place in there's not bad. The takoyaki place seemed real popular when I went in there the other night.

Sadly, the marukai doesn't seem to have any discounted food at night (like the costa mesa one). Or at least not the night I went.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

5.50 for the three combo seems to be quite consistent nowadays. Before it used to be like 5.00 in my area, but now it's getting closer to 5.50 or 6.00.

Dim sum looks pretty decent actually! I never knew that Sam Woo offered dim sum.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I noticed that of this Mitsuwa too. Truth be told, I'm still partial to the CM Mitsuwa because of the discounts; but it's nice to know there's another one in the area.


It might actually not be the case up in San Gabriel, where I'm pretty sure the Sam Woo I've been to didn't offer dim sum. But I believe the reason this one in Irvine does is because when it opened decades ago, it was just about the only real Chinese restaurant in Irvine. And thank goodness they did and still do, even though I still prefer China Garden for dim sum.


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