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Home / Life! / Dining / Chef Tony Dim Sum reopens in Pasadena

Chef Tony Dim Sum reopens in Pasadena

by Brianna Chu
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Even the best laid plans go awry. That’s exactly what happened when Chef Tony He decided to open his eponymous dim sum restaurant in Old Town Pasadena last March 14, 2020, right before the pandemic intervened. In the interim, Chef Tony Dim Sum Arcadia opened in what used to be Din Tai Fung’s original U.S. location. 

Happily, Chef Tony’s Pasadena location has now reopened its doors—to the delight of all dim sum lovers!                  

Chef Tony Dim Sum in Old Town’s Bear Building boasts an opulent interior, featuring a burnt orange façade and a colorful inlay ceiling. Three grand crystal chandeliers dominate the center of the elegant main dining space.

The main dining space at Chef Tony Dim Sum. | Photo by Brianna Chu / Hey SoCal

You won’t find strictly traditional fare here; Chef Tony Dim Sum is the chef’s own modern take on Hong Kong style dim sum. The a la carte menu features made to order dishes, several of which incorporate luxurious ingredients like black truffle and gold leaf.

Classic pork and shrimp shiu mai, French baked BBQ pork buns, and a light cucumber salad at Chef Tony Dim Sum, Pasadena
Our starting trio: cucumber salad, shrimp and pork shiu mai with black truffle, and the French baked BBQ pork buns. | Photo by Brianna Chu / Hey SoCal

The light, refreshing cucumber salad cleansed our palate and prepared us for our meal. The constituent cucumber, red onion, and red pepper was dressed mostly in soy sauce, sesame oil, and cilantro. 

In a decadent upgrade, the juicy shrimp and pork shiu mai were topped with just the right amount of black truffle, mild enough not to overwhelm the flavors of the juicy and flavorful meats.

The French baked barbecue pork buns are a great example of the non-traditional updates Chef Tony makes to the dim sum favorite. The French style bun is incredibly sweet and crumbly on the outside and top; soft, flaky buttery pastry encased the familiar and classic barbecue pork filling. It’s a unique and surprising mix—a true sweet and savory combination. Depending on your level of sweet tooth, this could potentially be a miss for you if you’re not as keen on sweetness.

We’re running out of space on the table! Sweet and sour pork, BBQ pork belly, and sauteed string beans. | Photo by Brianna Chu / Hey SoCal

The sauteed string beans with pork were savory but not too salty. The caramelized onion was a sweet bridge between the tender beans and the savory ground pork. 

Okay, I’ll admit: I didn’t mean to order the sweet and sour pork—I mischecked the boxes; I had intended to try the BBQ pork belly—but I don’t regret also trying the sweet and sour pork, too. Unusually, the pork wasn’t very sour at all, and was only gently sweet. Overall, the sauce was not incredibly overpowering; the star of the dish was the tender pork and its lightly crunchy and slightly chewy coating.

However, the BBQ pork belly didn’t disappoint either: the incredibly fatty, tender, and juicy meat was served in a cute little boat drenched in a fantastic barbecue sauce. 

Seafood delights: Deep fried crispy king prawns and fried crispy noodles with assorted seafood. | Photo by Brianna Chu / Hey SoCal

The deep fried crispy king prawns were a sheer joy to eat: with a dusting of slightly spicy garnish, these prawns were beautifully and delightfully crispy and crunchy on the exterior—it’s definitely a messy food!—and deeply juicy and perfectly cooked shrimp on the interior. 

The assorted seafood crunchy noodles was a great contrast to the pork dishes, lightening the palate with the bright, crunchy chinese broccoli, perfectly cooked bay scallops, tender white fish, and juicy shrimp. 

Pan fried lamb chop with basil at Chef Tony Dim Sum, Pasadena
Gorgeous plating, gorgeous flavors: the pan fried lamb chop with basil. | Photo by Brianna Chu / Hey SoCal

The pan fried lamb chop with basil was a stunning standout to me in its flavor. The sauce and the Thai basil were utterly delicious; however, the meat was a little on the tough side. Despite the toughness of the meat, I would still order it again just for the incredible flavors in this dish.

Chef Tony signature coconut jelly bunnies and sesame rice balls for dessert.
Don’t forget dessert! Sesame rice red bean balls and coconut jelly bunnies. | Photo by Brianna Chu / Hey SoCal

For dessert, I couldn’t resist ordering the sesame rice red bean balls; they’re one of my favorite desserts, and these ones completely lived up to my hopes and expectations. The crispy sesame coating imparted its fantastic nuttiness on each bite, while the chewy and bouncy mochi gave way to creamy red bean filling. I’m extremely biased, but I would get this every time.

We couldn’t really leave without ordering and trying the delightful, bunny-shaped coconut jelly. Besides being utterly adorable, the jelly was light and delightful, not too sweet, and a refreshing note to end our meal on. 

Like many dim sum places, Chef Tony is geared towards bigger groups; I would recommend going in with at least a party of four to really be able to try a good spread of dishes. My only warning would be that there aren’t the most vegan/vegetarian options, so I would keep that in mind regarding your group’s dietary needs or preferences. 

Overall, suffice it to say that we enjoyed our meal immensely and plan to come back to sample the other enticing dishes on the menu! Plan your own visit:

Chef Tony Dim Sum Pasadena

Bear Building
2 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 803-0028
Open 11am-9pm Wednesday-Monday

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