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Snackin' On Dim Sum

January 24, 1988| Compiled by Kathie Jenkins

Confucius says, "He who hasn't tried dim sum hasn't lived." If you feel like you've never lived, here are some recently reviewed restaurants where you can try dim sum ("little snacks").

ABC SEAFOOD RESTAURANT (708 New High St., Los Angeles, (213) 680-2887). ABC Seafood is about as close to Hong Kong as you can get. The dim sum draws crowds of Chinese to this downtown restaurant. The action starts at 8 a.m. and continues until about 2:30 in the afternoon as waitresses roll carts laden with food around the restaurant. When you see something you want, point. The char shiu bao-- soft steamed dumplings filled with barbecued pork--are excellent here, as are the baked pork-filled buns with golden brown, sticky tops. Also try the long, slim, sesame-sprinkled glazed rolls. The dough is light and lovely, and the rolls contain a bit of sweet egg yolk paste. More exotic are fat bundles of chicken and Chinese sausage encased in glutinous rice and wrapped in leaves. End your meal with a dumpling made of white sticky rice dough filled with coconut, chopped peanuts and sesame seeds. Dim sum served for breakfast and lunch only. MasterCard and Visa. Beer and wine. Parking lot in back. Dim sum for two, $8-$15.

JOSS (9255 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 276-1886). Joss combines fine Chinese cuisine, European wines and the casual elegance of California. Unlike most other Chinese restaurants, Joss is light, airy, almost starkly modern. It also has a menu that reads like the table of contents in a Chinese cookbook--it shoots for greatness with every dish. Dim sum, certainly the most sophisticated and delicate in the city, is served daily at lunchtime. Joss' dim sum chef was plucked from a popular Hong Kong restaurant and he has a very light touch. It also helps that they are made to order, for dim sum don't keep. All major credit cards accepted. Beer and wine. Parking lot next door. Dim sum for two, $20-$40.

MANDARETTE (8386 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 655-6115). The Mandarette is an informal Chinese cafe based on small dishes that owner Philip Chiang enjoyed in Hong Kong. It is Chinese family food, simpler than most restaurant food, tending to humbler ingredients but with its own rewards. The special grace of Mandarette is the freshness of each dish and the speed with which it is served. Dim sum arrives in splendid condition. The bao (steamed buns) are still steaming and almost too hot to eat. Also delightful are the chiao-tzu , which arrive full of the juice that is their special delight. The waiters are well-trained and eager to please. Dim sum served at lunch and dinner daily. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Beer and wine. Parking lot in back. Dim sum for two, $20-$35.

MIRIWA (747 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 687-3088). If you're tired of the usual bacon-and-eggs breakfast, why not try Miriwa, one of the hottest brunch places in town? On a busy Sunday, they serve more than 1,200 people. Smack in the middle of Chinatown, Miriwa's entrance is dominated by a giant Chinese wall sculpture that looks as if it belongs on a De Laurentiis movie set and by an ersatz waterfall, which is shut off promptly at 3 in the afternoon, when the kitchen closes. Women clad in pale-red aprons constantly roll by with their metal pushcarts aggressively dispensing from bamboo steamers more than 30 kinds of dumplings and savories, baked buns with barbecued pork, shrimp wrapped in rice noodles, beef balls, stuffed green peppers, to name a few. Instead of the usual jasmine tea, why not order up a more exotic variety such as bo lei , deep red and heartily musky, or gok fa , a pale-yellow spicy herbal? Dim sum at lunchtime daily. All major credit cards accepted. Parking lot next door. Dim sum for two, $8-$15.

3-6-9 (1227 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (818) 281-9261). This Shanghainese cafe features dim sum and cold dishes of remarkable quality. The cafe is plain, clean as a whistle and remarkably reasonable. At lunch, when the variety of fresh buns and dumplings is greatest, you can sample their best wares. Virtually anything wrapped in pastry is a wonder. Charming waitresses encourage you toward the unusual, like braised tofu with black mushrooms. Dumplings are a triumph. Don't miss the soup-filled steamed dumplings, vegetable bao and the sublime golden chives vol-au-vent . Dim sum at lunch and dinner daily. Cash only. No liquor. Parking in lot. Dim sum for two, $8-$15.

YUM CHA DIM SUM CAFE AND MARKET (3435 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 450-7000). This cleverly designed restaurant includes cut-out "moon viewing" windows, hip black metal chairs, a small market and lots of red accessories. Tuck yourself into a high corner banquette or sit at the spiffy black counter and watch the amber chickens grill. No MSG and no artificial colors are used here. Moist pot stickers are giddy with fresh ginger, shu mai dumplings burst with shiitake mushrooms and fresh chives. For dessert, try the giant coconut macaroons--they're superb and the almond cookies are better than most. Fortune cookies dipped in chocolate are surely meant for the yuppie crowd. Dim sum at lunch and dinner daily. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Beer and wine. Parking lot. Dinner for two, food only, $10-$35.

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