Friday Night Dim Sum

July 6, 2006 | By | COMMENTS

Now that I’ve been bitten by the Chinatown bug, I make an effort to go there as much as possible. So on Friday night, when making plans with Diana, I said: “Let’s go to Chinatown!” and she agreed. We called a few more peeps from our posse and planned to meet on the corner of Canal and Broadway. In the meantime, I began my ritualistic pre-dinner research: I went on Chowhound and searched “Chinatown” and somehow, through the maze of threads, wound up on a long discussion about dim sum. I knew very little about dim sum except that many people love dim sum and that I’d had a bad dim sum experience last year when shooting our Chinatown video which you can watch in the videos section. But because there were four of us, I figured dim sum would be a great option—so I wrote down the clear Chowhound favorite, Jing Fong, memorized the address and led our group there when I greeted them downtown. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:

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A man stood out there and beckoned us inside. “Very good dinner,” he said and we nodded and entered and rode a giant escalator upstairs. “I’ve walked by this place before with a friend,” said James Felder, “and he said this is his favorite dim sum place. I’ve always meant to try it.”

When we reached the top, we had a sudden realization. The realization is revealed after the jump, to build suspense:

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The place was empty!

No one eats dim sum on Friday night!

Dim sum, James suddenly revealed, is a Saturday and Sunday morning ritual. This gigantic ballroom of a restaurant had about 100 tables, four of which were occupied.

No matter, we decided to press on anyway and let the host seat us. At the table we studied the dim sum menu and agreed on sharing a fried platter of shrimp buns and fried dumplings. Kirk wasn’t that hungry anyway because he ate before he met us.

Here’s everyone picking at the platter:

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And here’s the platter up close:

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Even though we’d clearly missed the boat going to a dim sum restaurant on a Friday night, the food was truly excellent. Everything you see above was tweaked with extra, intriguing spices that elevated them above their humdrum fast food cousins. The textures and balance of flavors were exemplary.

There were vegetable dumplings, that were a tad bit gummy:

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Again, though, the flavors were wonderful. I noticed, in particular, the use of star anise which imbued everything with a pleasant licorice flavor. This was seriously good Chinese food.

Here, in our final dish, was rice baked in leaves:

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I don’t remember what kind of leaves they were (banana leaves?) but the rice was clearly special. It was moist and dense and dotted with flavor bursts that reminded me of a similar dish I had at a Vietnamese restaurant in Atlanta. Definitely worth getting.

All in all, as a great wise man once said, our mistake was another man’s gain–our gain–for one’s gain is always worth gaining. Wait, did a wise man say that or that homeless man on West 4th Street? Either way, I have no regrets about our Friday Night Dim Sum. It was tasty and fun.

Categories: Chinatown, Manhattan, New York, Restaurant Reviews

  • Ali

    Hi Adam,

    I’ve been reading the blog for some time now, but have yet to post a note to let you know.

    I thought that i’d chip in with my thoughts on the leaf in which your rice was steamed. If it gave a lovely fragrant aroma, then it may have been a Pandanus leaf (or Pandan for short – it’s very popular in South East Asia)

  • Jonathan

    The leaves are usually lotus leaves, and I think the dish is steamed actually.

    At least that’s how it’s done in Singapore DimSum restaurants

  • http://lavanderblues.blogspot.com lin

    Hey, the leaf in your last dish is a Lotus leaf. That dish is a chinese Glutinous Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf. There were probably pork and yam bits mixed amongst the rice. Pandan leaf as posted by Ali is long and thin, usually used to flavour and colour milk or dessert soups or ingredients for traditional south east asian “kuehs” or cakes. It imparts a lovely green colour to the stuff its boiled with, and a wonderful fragrance too. Next time you order dim sum, do try a “Har Gow” (prawn dumpling) or a “Siew Mai” (pork dumpling) if you haven’t already done so. These are very traditional dim sum foods. =) Hope I was helpful. Enjoy reading your blog btw!

  • amy

    I get dim sum at that restaurant at least twice a month with my friends. If you thought what you ate was great, wait til you try it steaming hot and fresh on the weekends. That’s really the only way to experience it. I’ll give you a call next time I head there with my friends so you can try even more dishes. The others are correct, they are lotus leaves.

  • ricky

    Those are Lotus leaves with the sticky rice.

    I find it off to go to Dim Sum at night, its more of a breakfast/brunch thing. I also find it odd to go to Jing fung. Yuk. Try it again in the afternoon. Its a swarming pool of rudeness and chaos!

  • http://minxeats.blogspot.com Kathy

    I’ve been to Jing Fong for dim sum on a Saturday morning and was extremely disappointed. The selection seemed mostly dumplings, and I’m used to more meat and vegetable dishes as well…at least that’s how dim sum goes in the D.C. area.

    I’ve been to Nice Restaurant more than a few times though, and liked that ok. But I do recommend going early on a weekend to get the full impact.

  • http://www.lisabug.net lisa

    Adam,

    In my many years of eating dim sum with my family as well as with other people, I have learned that going out for dim sum is really not that worth while when you don’t know what you’re doing, because you won’t get the full experience. If you want to take a random trip out to CA, you should come visit me in LA and I’ll take you out to eat it, or better yet, we’ll visit my family in the Bay Area and have dim sum there. I once wrote a paper for a food class on the dim sum brunches I have with my family.

    But, assuming you can’t or don’t want to visit a total stranger just for dim sum, this is my advice: go to your favorite online bookseller and order this beautiful book, Ellen Leong Blonder’s Dim Sum. It’s a cookbook for making your own dim sum, but it’s also a useful intro to what dim sum is, how to eat it in restaurants, and what some of the dishes are. Get it and be educated!

  • teddyb

    Adam,

    You really need to do this on a Sat. or Sun. lunchtime, with someone that can speak Mandarin or know a lot about Chinese food. I went here in Atlanta to a famous dim sum in the evening with one other person, we dined alone on cold tasteless food. A few weeks later we returned to the same place Sun. noon with Chinese friend and it blew my mind.

  • martine

    hey adam,

    i agree with everyone else that dimsum is really better on a weekend morning. if you want my 2 cents, i used to go to jing fong all the time, but discovered golden bridge, and now i go THERE all the time instead. you should give it a try. it kind of backs up into jing fong, enterence on the bowery. try the salt and pepper fried squid, sauteed choi sum, taro dumplings (kind of purply) … i feel like the people are friendlier than at jing fong too. don’t confuse golden bridge with golden unicorn on e. broadway. no where near as good!

    happy hunting!

  • amy

    Hi Amateur Gourmet, I was the one who shamelessly approached you on saturday at Jing Fong and introduced myself. Looks like you had a great time there with your friends. If you’re still game with trying the chicken feet next time and don’t mind some company, let me know and we can go. There’s also the pork blood which I enjoy but my friends don’t:(