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Twin Cities Dim Sum - what's good these days?

AnneInMpls Mar 13, 2007 10:39 PM

Friends have asked my advice for a dim sum place for this weekend. I said Mandarin Kitchen if we feel like waiting, Jun Bo if we don't. Or Mai Village if we want a calm environment.

But I'm out of touch with the current dim sum scene (I haven't been out for dim sum since the early Bui days). Are there other good dim sum places in town? For example, is Yummy still doing dim sum? How about Yangtze? I read that Peking Garden is out of the running, alas.

So where should we go? We want good dim sum, but it's a large group, so convenience is also an issue.

Thanks,
Anne

  1. The Dairy Queen Mar 14, 2007 01:53 AM

    I really do not recommend Mai Village's dim sum; it's average at best. If you want a calm environment, you're better off going to Jun Bo at an off-peak time than going to Mai Village.

    ~TDQ

    1. m
      MayrMN Mar 14, 2007 07:00 AM

      I wanted to like Jun Bo. I was disappointed.

      The day befor Chinese New Year started, my family went to Jun Bo, around 4pm. My husband and his brother didn't want dim sum, but my sister in law and I did. So, we told our server to come around with the cart when the entrees arrived. Maybe that was our downfall, b/c we couldn't get ANY attention from the cart people or our server.

      I guess I should have just picked out everything we wanted from the picture menu, but b/c I like to see whats on the cart and be spontaneous, I lost out.

      My husband and I went to Bui a few years ago, and while I wasn't impressed with the quality (I've been to Hong Kong too many times, and I'm jaded) they were swift with the cart and the fresh hot fried plates made their way around the room often and made you feel like take it now or lose out.

      Our tab at Jun Bo could have easily been double if they had made an effort. I'm just telling you this to make sure to lay out your expectations to your server, in hopes they relay it to the cart people.

      btw-it really wasn't that busy that day, so I could not see what the prob was. I think I'll try Mandarin kitchen, b/c even with the frenzy, I'd rather be offered food than to strain my neck to get attention.

      3 Replies
      1. re: MayrMN
        d
        Danny Mar 14, 2007 07:45 AM

        Ordering off the picture menu is the way to go in off hours - stuff on the cart has been sitting there for a while, and the selection is very limited. But, there's about 60 items available during the week off of the Dim Sum menu. If you ask for something from that menu and they don't have it on a cart, they'll cook it to order. It takes between 5 and 10 minutes for the stuff to arrive, but it is much fresher and thus tastes a lot better. (They do run out of some items, so don't expect 100% success with that menu, but you'll have a *FAR* wider selection than the basic stuff on the carts)

        We were there on a Friday night and had a great conversation with a waitress about the best things to order. (She had commented that we were ordering some of the best stuff, so we asked her for more suggestions.) We ended up back there the next morning (a family member was in town visiting, and wanted Dim Sum - who were we to argue?). The waitress remembered us and ran around grabbing us dishes that she thought were the best, but weren't available the night before.

        Without the picture menu, we wouldn't have known about half of the stuff. Some of them only make rare appearances on the carts, or can be hard to find among everything else.

        (For example, the steamed golden sand bun is very similar to the steam egg custard bun - but a lot better. Between the rush and the language barrier, it was hard to get one from the steam cart. It was there, but the cart pusher kept trying to give us the wrong one. Once we got a menu with the picture, and pointed to the one we wanted, we were able to get it right away.)

        1. re: MayrMN
          AliceS Mar 14, 2007 06:57 PM

          I am really surprised that so many people don't like Jun Bo. We have been consistently thrilled by it. Honestly, I think the only way to get dim sum is during traditional dim sum hours: 10-3 on a weekend. Other times fewer people go and therefore the turnover is not as good, resulting in less fresh food. Try it during those hours. Seriously, I have never had better dim sum, and I grew up going to NYC Chinatown.

          1. re: AliceS
            The Dairy Queen Mar 15, 2007 04:04 AM

            Jun Bo isn't exceptional--but it's fine if you order right. The dishes they bring out of the kitchen on the little trays (not the carts) and personally offer to you are usually good bets. Jun Bo is a decent choice for dim sum if you don't want to wait a long time for your table or fly to San Francisco, Vancouver or New York for your meal; in any of those other cities, the dim sum at Jun Bo would be considered only average. I'm afraid I have to disagree that there isn't better dim sum in NYC.

            I had read in the Strib that Jun Bo had brought its chefs in from San Francisco and Vancouver and (I think) Hong Kong, but I was never able to find out from which restaurants.

            ~TDQ

        2. mnitchals Mar 14, 2007 07:24 AM

          I think Evergreen and Yangtze both have dim sum too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mnitchals
            katebauer Mar 14, 2007 02:01 PM

            I've never been to Evergreen on the weekend but I've never seen anything about dim sum, also it's such a small restaurant I would think dim sum would be chaotic.

            We have been to Yangtze for dim sum and it's quite good.

            1. re: mnitchals
              p
              pgokey Apr 11, 2007 06:25 PM

              Evergreen, while excellent, does not do dim sum.

              Jun Bo's dim sum left me very disappointed. They had lots and lots of stuff I had never seen before, which isn't bad (and in fact should be good). They might have some dishes they do very well, but I suspect you have to know a lot about dim sum and know which dishes to get and which ones to pass on. I sadly lacked such saavy and took whatever they offered to me that look appealing, and was left with stuff I didn't like. I really didn't have any way in advance of knowing whether I'd like the stuff. I'm willing to try new things, but way too many of the new things I tried just wasn't good, and I am far from picky. Either their dishes aren't great, or I happened to have really bad luck and just happened to get some dim sum items that just for whatever reason didn't suit my tastes.

              If I want Dim Sum, I'll go to Mandarin Kitchen. I've always loved the dim sum there. Whether I was eating stuff I was famiiar with or stuff that was new, I always liked it.

            2. s
              starburst Mar 14, 2007 07:38 AM

              I have yet to been, but Lucky Dragon on the west bank of the U of M campus has dim sum.

              I think my favorite is always Mandarin Kitchen, if i have a big group, i try to go by 10:30 on Saturdays. If that doesn't work and we have to eat later, we'll go to Jun Bo. I think you can make also reservations on Jun Bo too. The dim sum at Jun Bo is pretty good, however, i've had experiences where some of the items were cold when brought out (even though it had been on the steam cart) . As long as you got the hot, fresh items, you should have a good experience.

              1 Reply
              1. re: starburst
                q
                Quince May 30, 2007 03:36 PM

                I haven't been to Lucky Dragon for dim sum, but I have been to their lunch buffet. It's not a place I would recommend unless you are really broke and very hungry...I can't imagine that their dim sum (or sushi for that matter) would be very impressive.

              2. Abacus Mar 14, 2007 02:36 PM

                Jun Bo, in MHO, is over-rated. I so wanted to love it, wanted it to be good and kept trying, thinking perhaps I was just having an off-day. Now, I am thinking it's just not good. Overly greasy, cold not warm food, waiting too long for a cart to come by.......flat soda,.......oh, I wanted to love this place -

                My favorite Dim Sum place was in Little Canada and has now, sadly, has closed the doors. sigh.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Abacus
                  d
                  Danny Mar 14, 2007 03:15 PM

                  When have you gone?

                  We only get things from the cart on the weekends, and pretty early. Otherwise, we order off the menu. We've never found anything to be greasy or cold that way.

                  I have encountered stuff that seemed like it had been sitting for a while when getting it off the cart when business is slow. But when the place was packed (or we ordered off the menu) that was never the case.

                  1. re: Danny
                    s
                    starburst Mar 15, 2007 05:49 AM

                    Amazinlgy enough, I've gone on a Sunday at 12:30 pm, and 3 of the dishes we happened to get were cold, one tasted like it came out of the fridge.

                    1. re: starburst
                      d
                      Danny Mar 15, 2007 06:47 AM

                      I'm going to guess that they were specialties carried around on the big trays. When those are fresh, the entire tray has orders of a single dish. As time goes on, they consolidate whats left of each dish onto a tray. (You might have 3 or 4 dishes being offered off of a single tray) When you see a tray with a bunch of choices, those are usually "leftovers" and not as hot as a trayful of a single item.

                      (I'm not trying to be a Jun Bo apologist here, just trying to help people avoid some of the pitfalls of the place. I know they can shine, but I also can see how people can walk away with a bad experience.)

                      1. re: Danny
                        The Dairy Queen Mar 15, 2007 07:19 AM

                        Oh! I've had good look with those trays at Jun Bo--when they come right out of the kitchen, they are nice and hot! But, yes, make sure it's a single dish one and not one that has been consolidated after having been walked around.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          d
                          Danny Mar 15, 2007 08:14 AM

                          I agree, most of the best stuff comes out on those trays... Our waitress told us we needed to try the deep fried shrimp and garlic dumplings. When the tray of them came out, she ran over and grabbed an order for us (before the tray even made its way to our table!) They were piping hot and spectacular.

                          But, I imagine that if they were left to sit for a while (and I'm sure a few orders were) they wouldn't be nearly as good. Deep fried and room temperature is almost always a recipe for disaster.

                          1. re: Danny
                            The Dairy Queen Mar 15, 2007 08:42 AM

                            Also, Danny's strategy of asking the servers what they think is good is a good one at Jun Bo. The key is getting a good server and, somehow, communicating (and them believing) that you really want to try the authentic stuff. Sometimes I do that by asking for something like chicken feet right away so they know that I'm "adventurous" and when I ask "what's good" I don't mean cream-cheese stuffed won tons.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              m
                              MayrMN Mar 15, 2007 08:48 AM

                              I do think that the fact our server got a 14 person table just after we were seated was the root of our problem at Jun Bo.

                              I think I'll try the other places in town before I go back though.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                d
                                Danny Mar 15, 2007 09:22 AM

                                That definately helped us, as did the Dim Sum Picture menu (there is a second Dim Sum menu that lists only the basics - the one with the pictures lists almost 80 items, that's the one you want)

                                We started asking for things on the menu that we'd never tried before but seemed unique and/or yummy. When our server said that we wanted "all the good stuff" (as she called it) we started asking questions and she was full of suggestions of other things we might like, and told us what to ask for on the weekends.

                                On a weekend morning, I took one of the picture menus (it was never offered) and used that to request some things we hadn't ever seen, and to bridge the language barrier. That worked really well.

                                1. re: Danny
                                  m
                                  MayrMN Mar 15, 2007 01:18 PM

                                  ok-now I'm even more frustrated to know that there was another, larger, menu at JunBo. I told our server we wanted Dim Sum, why didn't she offer it?

                                  Sorry to vent, but for those going for the first time, better to know what to expect and what to demand.

                                  1. re: MayrMN
                                    AnneInMpls Mar 15, 2007 01:30 PM

                                    Not that I'm defending the servers at Jun Bo, because they really should make it clear that they have several menus, but they have a lot of "just feed me chicken almond ding" patrons. The last time I was there (weekday lunch), the table next to me almost berated the server for just mentioning that there was dim sum - they really were not interested in hearing about any weird food. Perhaps this server was still reeling from a similar encounter.

                                    Anne

                                    1. re: MayrMN
                                      d
                                      Danny Mar 15, 2007 02:33 PM

                                      If it makes you feel any better, the menu with the pictures is relatively new. It was added within the last couple of months.

                                      When you walk into the giant room on the right, there's a table with a bunch of menus. There's the regular "American Chinese" menu, an "Authentic Chinese" menu (that one has a dot in the O) a brief Dim Sum/Combination Plate menu, and the large, doublesided Dim Sum menu with pictures (plus a wine list). If your server doesn't give you all of them, ask!

                                      Another odd twist is that the Dim Sum menu with the picture has notations indicating which items are only available on the weekends - but if you go there on the weekend, they don't hand out that Dim Sum menu. (It is still sitting on the table for you to grab)

                                      Another tip, while we're listing "Stuff you should know about Jun Bo, but they don't usually tell you" - they have about 4 varieties of tea. If you just ask for Tea, you'll get the regular black tea, but there are others. Our favorite is the Chrysanthemum tea (also known as Yellow Tea)

                    2. m
                      misterpatrick Mar 14, 2007 03:20 PM

                      Yummy is still good. We go there about once a month with a big group. I'm going with another big group to Jun Bo this Sunday. Hopefully it will be good as I've never been.

                      1. MN Hick Chowhound Mar 15, 2007 11:45 AM

                        Mandarin Kitchen is still the best bet for me. I try to arrive around 11 on Saturdays and never have to wait more than 10 monutes or so.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MN Hick Chowhound
                          AnneInMpls Mar 15, 2007 11:51 AM

                          How about on Sundays? Is there an ideal time to arrive with a group of 10-12 people?

                          Anne

                          1. re: AnneInMpls
                            s
                            starburst Mar 15, 2007 11:54 AM

                            Sundays is normally really busy at Mandarin Kitchen. The earlier the better on Sunday. A good idea would be to have 1 or a few people arrive earlier to put your name on the list, and that way the rest hopefully won't have to wait.

                        2. AnneInMpls Apr 4, 2007 09:52 PM

                          Here's my follow-up report:

                          We all went to Jun Bo and liked it very much. It's very good - although not best-of-Hong-Kong great - and very convenient for a large group. Though it was pretty crowded mid-day on Sunday (we had a reservation and still waited for 10 or 15 minutes). Several of the dishes were fabulous - I remember the fried spicy squid, the tofu in honey syrup, and the pinapple-topped buns - and everything else was good.

                          And they were very accomodating to our large group - people kept drifting in, and we had to expand to the next table. The staff was great at finding more chairs/tables/place settings/water/tea cups/etc.

                          I'll definitely go back to Jun Bo for dim sum during prime time!

                          Anne

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: AnneInMpls
                            The Dairy Queen Apr 5, 2007 02:17 AM

                            Sounds like fun--thank you for reporting back. The pineapple buns were one of the favorites at the Jun Bo chowdown, inspiring, in particular, this ode from KTFoley:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/32848...

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              k
                              KTFoley Apr 5, 2007 06:25 AM

                              Why thanks, TDQ.

                              Since there may be others who have made this discovery, I'll stipulate right now: when those pineapple buns are cold, they are gummy and woeful.

                              1. re: KTFoley
                                m
                                minka May 30, 2007 01:41 PM

                                We used to frequent Yangtze since we lived 5 mins away. Then we discovered Mandarin Kitchen and starting trekking there even though it's 10 miles away. Just a couple of months ago, a friend who knows both places wanted to have dim sum without the fuss and went back to Yangtze because of convenience. She told us that they had hired a new chef and that the dim sum was better than ever … a match of MK. We went to try, and although it was much improved, it was still a bit less fresh and interesting than MK.

                                A couple of weeks ago we wanted to introduce friends to MK, and when we arrived there, the place was completely gutted … closed down for renovations. So we went back to Yangtze. WOW … what a difference the two months made. The new chef is finally making a difference. The carts come super fresh, piping hot in fact. The portions are a bit smaller and easier to handle. The wrappers are really light. The fillings are super crisp, clean and not quite as processed … you can see the chunks of plump shrimp (too many places overcook the seafood) and scallops, nice woodear mushrooms in the shark fin dumplings, and great Taiwanese style steamed dumplings (similar to Evergreen's). In our opinion, it has now surpassed all other dim sum places we’ve been to. And it’s only 5-mins away from home … don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing though as we’ll be tempted to go every week!

                                Now’s the time to give Yangtze another try. AND it's not that crowded ... 5-min wait at noon on a Sunday ... for the time being!

                          2. s
                            StPauliGirl Aug 30, 2007 08:11 AM

                            I am resurrecting this thread to get a last minute weigh-in on the dim sum question. I have never had dim sum before and I want to go next Sunday for my birthday. Jun Bo, Mandarin Kitchen, Yummy, or somewhere else?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: StPauliGirl
                              ibew292 Sep 1, 2007 08:15 AM

                              If I never had Dim Sum before I would go to Jun Bo. Great selection and always good, sometimes great.

                              1. re: ibew292
                                d
                                Danny Sep 4, 2007 01:48 PM

                                Jun Bo is our favorite, but you have to remember the keys to great Dim Sum at Jun Bo. If you don't, you have a good chance of being dissapointed.
                                1. GO EARLY! They have a huge place, and often make large batches of stuff. The later in the day you go, the more likely you'll run into something that is room temperature.
                                2. TAKE YOUR TIME! They produce a lot of great "specials" that circulate on trays carried by waiters. The longer you linger, the more of those you'll have a chance to try.
                                3. Grab a Dim Sum Menu! On your right when you walk in, you'll see a pile of menus on the table. Grab the Dim Sum menu with the pictures. If there's something on there that you like or want to try, ask for it. They'll come up with an order for you (often cooked to order) (They also don't always show you everything, if it wasn't for that menu, we'd never have known about one of our favorites - the Golden Sand Bun)
                                4. Try the chrysanthemum tea.

                                1. re: Danny
                                  m
                                  maureen73 Sep 4, 2007 04:58 PM

                                  We went to Jun Bo on Saturday at about 12:30 and had a great experience. We sat down and had 4 carts come to our table right away. I agree with Danny to take your time. We got so overwhelmed with the barrage of carts that we ordered way too much food but everything was good. The waiters with trays kept coming around with stuff that looked great but by then we had filled up. The shrimp and garlic dumplings and the shrimp eggrolls in tofu skin were our favorites but everything was good. We will go back again - I am already craving it - but take our time this time so we can try more yummy specialties!

                                  1. re: Danny
                                    r
                                    reannd Sep 4, 2007 05:50 PM

                                    how much do you expect to pay at jun bo? my friends & i used to go to mandarin kitchen & no matter what we ordered it was always like $15 at the end of the meal..

                                    we live ~1 mile from there and always talk about going, but the yellow paint kind of puts us in a 'mood' when we drive by so we always change our mind.

                                    1. re: reannd
                                      m
                                      maureen73 Sep 4, 2007 06:05 PM

                                      We paid about $60 for two of us - a little pricier but we ordered A LOT of food because it all looked good. We could have gotten out of there cheaper.

                                      The yellow paint is a little sketchy and the inside is a little unique as well - think big banquet hall sporting bingo and karaoke (they don't but it feels like they could!) But if you just embrace it and enjoy the food then it is well worth it.

                              2. Abacus Sep 1, 2007 03:19 PM

                                Last weekend we tried YUMMY's on Nicollet Ave - Eat Street. Pretty decent. We arrived at 10:30AM and were the first there which made us nervous but ten minutes later we were surrounded by folks. The carts came quickly, the food hot and steaming and best part, it was not especially greasy which is usually an issue I have with Chinese food. My favorite was the sesame ball which was hot, not greasy, plump and delicious!Anyway, eager to hear if anyone else had a good experience there......we did but it was just a one trip.

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