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:
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:
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:
And here’s the platter up close:
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:
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:
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.