How to Avoid Disapointment in Dim Sum...
Yesterday we went to a Dim Sum Palace and had a GREAT Cart Dim Sum experience. You can read about it on the L.A. Board:
However, walking out, SO felt rather dispointed because as we left we saw a bunch of items we didn't get to try because the Kitchen was just brining them out...
I tried to explain to him that is just the nature of Dim Sum... there is a WILD variety (Especially at the place we went to), there will always be something you don't get a chance to try... you should instead focus on your favorites...
He theorized that perhaps if we had gotten there LATER (and waited in a LONG line! :P) we would have had a better chance at trying more things...
So with all the combined Dim Sum experience on CH, what is your solution to avoiding Dim Sum dispointment? Going later? Asking for favorite items? Going to smaller places with less variety?
As everyone says, pace yourself. Know a few dishes that you will be holding out for. Our favorite place has a menu with pictures, so we make a bit of a plan of what we are going to be looking for, and then allow for some spontaneity. A few items, if they don't appear, we ask (by pointing at the picture, if necessary). Eat slowly so that you will be there a long time... and go back often.
Dommy: I love dimsum! I like to go to places that have cart service but often times if you ask the staff, they will bring you the items that you want even if they aren't out on the carts. I do speak Chinese but I speak a less common dialect-- Toisan (read: "peasant") that many of the servers don't understand. Go back often and soon you will get to sample all those things you missed last time. Enjoy and maybe one of these days we can chow together!
Yes the language barrier can be difficult in many places. It's hard enough to understand the explanation of what's in front of you, let alone ask about other items that aren't out yet.
Probably my most interesting dim sum experience started as a solo lunch and ended with me sharing many dishes with an 82-year old chinese man. He was also dining solo next to me and suggested we share a few things so we could each try more. Great conversation and the staff brought a few special items that I didn't see brought to anyone else.
So, if you can't be a local or speak the language, try to connect with someone!
Take a native Chinese speaking foodie with you who knows what to ask for and can quiz the staff for the good stuff. That's you're only chance. I find the places in Cleveland all use little old ladies who don't speak a word of English as cart pushers. Don't get me wrong that's part of the charm of the place as well as a sign of authenticity to me. We English speakers don't have a chance, but hey your in a Chinese place so bring someone who speaks the language.
My experience is that I see the greatest variety on Sundays (this is a universal rule, from what I'm told) and during peak times. If you go early or late (or worse, on weekdays) and there won't be as much variety. But, feel free to ask for stuff that you don't see on carts! Lots of times they have a particular thing you might be craving and it just hasn't come by your table.
Don't know if this is a break from the usual or what, but the last time we went to 888 in Rosemead on a Saturday we were swarmed by carts immediately and offered multitudes of things we'd never seen on any previous visit. Was it a new chef in the kitchen? New staff? Who knows? The only lesson we derived from that is: go for dim sum every chance you get!
I'm not sure there is a really good solution for this. Go early and you avoid crowds, go later and you get better variety seems to be the rules. Take your time I suppose is the best bet. You might satisfy SO or others desiring still more variety by ordering a nice whole fish or something off the main menu. Go there with that in mind and you'll have something to chat over and look forward to on the trip to SGV.
I don't think I'm imagining that with Chinese New Year coming up, we can expect some places to offer a few extra-special items. Can't wait for mid-Feb...
If you're going on a weekend, going later won't help solve your heartache. There will always be that one dish that floats by on your way out the door that you're almost temmpted to sit back down and order. On weekdays, there are fewer people so going later might mean higher turnaround on food.
I try not to look around: stare at the front door and don't look around until I'm outside!
Two approaches. First: Pace yourself. Stuff tends to come out in waves from the kitchens, so what you see at, say, 11 AM is going to be very different from what you see at noon. Go to the same place often enough and you'll get an idea for their pattern. Then you know not to overload on the early offerings in much the same way a good batter knows not to swing at every fastball. Instead, wait for that fat hanging curve or off-speed pitch, and have faith that it'll come, sooner or later.
Second: Understand that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. There's no way you're going to be able to eat everything that looks tasty in one sitting, so don't catch yourself thinking that the stuff that comes out when you're leaving looks better than what you had. Just remind yourself to wait for that off-speed pitch next time.
My personal approach is to go early to get a good table (I like to be right at the door from the kitchen), then linger for as long as necessary, possibly even an hour or two (yeah, sometimes it takes a while for that curve ball to hang).
I find it works best to figure out what amount of favorite items you wish to sample and what amount of new items you want to try. It's impossible to sample everything in one sitting because most dim sum places have at least 30-50 items to choose from, and I find that in most dim sum meals, you can only order up to 4 items per person without stuffing yourself silly.
Whenever I visit a dim sum place, I try to pick personal favorites for half the choices, and then pick new dishes for the other half of choices.
Once you become a regular at dim sum, you can start to recognize which items will be on which carts. If you wanted to try everything on the menu, it would take at least 5 to 7 meals to do so.
I prefer to go during peak times, 11:30AM-12:30PM, so that most items are fresh, and there is a quick food rotation where carts are constantly being replenished. Nothing worse than going too early or too late, where some items may be in the carts for more than 15 minutes, when hot items cool off. Go too late, and they won't be making every dish, only the popular ones. That's why some places only serve half the dim sum menu on weekdays, when crowds are smaller.
I also prefer the wider variety. Born and raised in a Chinese family, I've eaten dim sum all my life, so I easily recognize what the standard items are, and I like to try some of the newer dishes I've never seen before, especially at the newer order-off-the-menu dim sum places.
Generally, if you want the basic dim sum and avoid crowds, go there before 10 or so. If you want the specialty items, you generally need to get there later. Every restaurant has its own policies. There are three ways to figure out when the specialty items come out: 1) Ask the staff; 2) Eat there often; 3) Ask someone who eats there often.
I usually rely on steps 2 and 3. If I don't see an item that I want to eat, my friends or I will ask a waiter if they are serving the item at that time. If you don't speak Chinese, that may be a bit of an obstacle, unfortunately.
I go to the places that you order off the menu. I have no patience to try to eat and look out futilely for my favorite items at the same time. Ever since I found the order off the menu places, I found dim sum to be more of a relaxing experience rather than battle for <insert your favorite item>.
Honestly I've seen people get off their tables and personally hunt down the food from the cart ladies.
You should go right when the restaurant opens. The people pushing the carts will swarm to your table and you get the freshest stuff. After a while, you see the same things over and over and the new stuff often goes by you first. You should just up front ask them if there's anything else and what they think is good.
One place in NY that was known to be rather expensive for dim sum recently started to have a dim sum early bird special during the week where small, medium and large plates were all $1.50.
We normally ask for specific items if we don't see them Normally they are delivered within minutes, hot and ready to eat. I think your explination is correct, new things see to come out all the time. We've tried going early and late, both work but you still won't get everything. BTW, Yank Sing here in SF normally serves around 86 different items so it's doubtful you would see them all let alone be able to try all of them.
I share his sentiments. I always leave a little heartbroken over the things I didn't get to try and wishing I had the appetite of a linebacker.
It doesn't matter if you get there early or late, there are still too many things to try! I guess the only solution is to go more often and have different stuff each time. I am currently trying out this approach but since I have so many favorites it is taking much longer than I would like!