Gluttony Is My Favorite Sin is a series by our resident foodie, Hannah RJA Song, but I felt compelled to contribute one article given that it had been a while since I had eaten at a nostalgic Chinatown spot with my parents this past Sunday. Growing up, we used to visit my late grandmother every other weekend at her home near USC (where she attended). We would pick her up and take her out to lunch. This lunch decision was always something I looked forward to. I always thought of my dad as the Los Angeles wizard; he had moved to the States when he was around 11 or 12 years of age and had grown up at the same house (and would also attend USC himself years later). His knowledge of Los Angeles County always seemed so vast; he knew where everything was and would surprise our family with a new, magical restaurant establishment in another pocket of L.A. that I had never seen before (we resided in Riverside and then Orange County during my high school years). Over the years, my dad's lunch selections would become staples in my mind. But from his many go-to spots, Ocean Seafood would always hold a special place for me. Each of us had one if not a few of our birthday parties here. The koi fish pond would always welcome us walking in. The chandelier and staircase leading to the second floor were next and then we would check in with the upstairs hostess to be seated. You’d have to maneuver your way around the bustling dim sum carts and tables placed oh-so-closely together. But it was all part of the dim sum eating experience.
Our regular items we always used to eat were the very same ones we chose for our table at lunch this past Sunday: Shrimp Shiu Mai, Baked BBQ Pork Buns, Shrimp Rice Noodles, House Special Har Gor, Roasted Duck (in this case, we got pork), and my number-one go to at all times in a Chinese restaurant – House Special Chow Mein (crispy). (Noodles for life, son.) For dessert, my mom and dad always get this sticky rice entree, and I’m not sure what the English name is for it, but we call it “puto” in Tagalog. (Not the profanity translation equivalent.)
Eating at Ocean Seafood is always a heightening of senses. It’s loud, there are waiters running back and forth from the kitchen constantly, and the dim sum carts rotate in a never-ending circle asking if you want your 20th dim sum entree for your already-packed table. After my grandma passed in 2008, we rarely ate at Ocean Seafood Restaurant. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it was painful to go to the same restaurant where we had taken her numerous times. We still miss her dearly. And yet while there are a plethora of restaurants offering dim sum, this place in particular would still be the one I would recommend to friends who were in Chinatown looking for a quick bite to eat. It wasn’t just the food that kept us going back, it was the memories attached to the upstairs dining hall that would forever be engrained in my mind. Food, while utterly euphoric when tasty, is better enjoyed with good company. I can still remember my grandmother sitting directly across from me at the table, and even though she’s not here anymore, I’ll always owe it to Ocean Seafood for the many meals and happy moments shared over decades of dim sum with her.
Ocean Seafood Restaurant is located at 750 North Hill Street in Los Angeles.
Photography by Diane Abapo
Follow Diane on Instagram at @dianeabapo