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Apr 5, 2007 07:52 AM

Dim Sum or not to Dim Sum - that is the question?

Dim sum is a mystery to me. I understand the concept. I have just never experienced it. I have read about many places in the city to have this experience i.e. Jing Fung, Ming Dynasty, etc. but my real question is, is it an experience worth having? And were you to opt for this adventure, where would you recommend going?

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  1. I'm not able to recommend any spots in Manhattan for dim sum, but I can tell you it's an experience worth having. I love dim sum. If you like dumplings, rice noodles, shrimp, pork, etc. it's worth it. Go hungry and leave stuffed, that's usually the rule!

    1. Start off at Chinatown Brasserie, then get more authentic from there if you do decide you like dim sum. Baby steps.

      7 Replies
      1. re: LFeinberg

        Do you happen to know anything about Ming Dynasty. It sounds to be in a "mall" in Chinatown. I thought perhaps going there would round out getting the whole Chinatown experience

        1. re: LFeinberg

          There was nothing particularly inauthentic about the dim sum at CB when I ate there last. What did you find inauthentic about your experience?

          1. re: KTinNYC

            Well - ok KT - you are apparently - the "go to" person for experiencing NY as a native. Any recommendations on "adventures" that should not be missed in teh city that only you natives know about?

            1. re: texann

              There are certainly more knowledgeable posters than me but having read your other post I would suggest you get dim sum in Chinatown as opposed to Chinatown Brasserie (which, funny enough, is not located in Chinatown). You mentioned being on a budget and CB is at least 2 to 3 times more expensive than the dim dim sum houses in Chinatown proper. There is no consensus on the best but here are a few threads to get you started.


              The most important thing to keep in mind is that NYC is a big city made up of a lot of small neighborhoods and with this prospective NYC is very manageable. I see that you are staying in the Village. If you are in the West Village you will be staying in one of the most charming neighborhoods in all of Manhattan. Make sure you have a map. This neighborhood is not on the grid pattern and even natives get turned around on the streets.

              For a nice low cost lunch head over to Tea and Sympathy. This is an English restaurant that you probably won't find back home. It's tiny and the ventilation is poor (you will come out smelling like food) but it is charming and will bring out your inner anglophile,

              I also see you asked about hand pulled noodles. Of the 3 on Eldridge street I've only been to Super Taste. It was very good but keep in mind this is a bare-bones operation and everyone is Chinese. Not much English is spoken but I think there is an English menu.

              As you are from Texas I guess you won't want BBQ, Southwestern or Mexican? How about Vietnamese? Any other cuisine you want to try?

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Good call. We have been to Blue Smoke for BBQ and the others, well, as you can imagine, we eat regularly. We will try Italian for sure. There are so many unique places in the Village that we hope to just sample various places. And yes, we will be in West Village this trip. I have read so much about Babbo and other upscale restaurants but I guess I just do not possess a sophisticated pallat, as "tongue" and "bone marrow" just don't interest me! My daughter would love to be in a local restaurant and see a celebrity or two casually dining but you certainly can't plan that one. So, we are just going to hit the streets, with some good advice from you nice people and see what happens.

                1. re: texann

                  You can just order the pasta at Babbo but if you are looking for celebs and Italian food you could try Da Silvano on 6th ave.

          2. re: LFeinberg

            i couldn't disagree more...even the dimsum at CB is getting mixed (at best) reviews here these days...personally, when i went during their opening week, it was the worst dimsum i've ever eaten -- it might have improved but reviews here are not any case, the prices are comically high, and the fact that it's not in Chinatown only makes the whole joke more's like going to Epcot Center or a P.F.Chang's but with a dose of attitude thrown in for good measure...

            i'd recommend going to one of the big Chinatown places...i like 88 Palace, but somewhere like Jing Fong is more central, less grungy and might be a good first try...

          3. While we're on this topic (again), are there any places in the city that are as good as some of San Francisco's best dim sum? I haven't found them yet, and would love to as I get pretty regular cravings for the stuff.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jsgjewels

              Nothing in New York compares to the top dim sum places in the suburbs of Los Angeles or San Francisco. If you're comparing what you can get in the respective Chinatowns, New York is as good or better than Los Angeles and San Francisco.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                As I've mentioned in another thread, outside of Chinatown Brasserie, I would strongly disagree that there's anything in Manhattan (that I've ever tried, anyway) that compares to my meal at CBS Seafood in LA's Chinatown at all. There may be something in Flushing that does, but if so, I haven't had it yet. (Yeah, I know, I've got some homework to do. :-P)

              2. re: jsgjewels

                I know, I love East Ocean Restaurant in Emeryville--the dim sum here is exquisite, and a lot more delicate than the regular old greasy stuff you get in Manhattan Chinatown. I heard that Golden Unicorn (or Qilin Jinge) is good, although I've only been there for banquets so I can't vouch.

                1. re: sianwu

                  I first visited Golden Unicorn for a wedding banquet (very nicely done), and later tried dim sum there. Quality wise, I think it better than Jing Fong (and less greasy), but lacked the selection that that behemoth has. In general, I would say NYC Chinatown dim sum I've found not as good as what I've seen in Vancouver, BC or Seattle. Never tried any in Flushing, LA or SF areas.

              3. The original comment has been removed
                1. Well, there's really nothing as good here as dim sum in some San Francisco places, but I'll bet it's better than what one can get in most of Texas. The best places in Flushing do come close.

                  For the original poster, I would recommend going to Chinatown and doing it right. It isn't all that difficult, all of the places there see plenty of non-Chinese, but it is more authentic and more of an "experience" than the uptown places, and most defintely less expensive than the grossly overpriced (in my view) Chinatown Brasserie. It also isn't really inaccessable to all but the most picky visitors. I mean you just point at what you want, what could be easier?

                  Go to a place that does the cart service (i.e. you don't order off of a menu). It sounds like you've done your research, so you know where some of those places are. Dim sum is brunch/lunch food and the dim sum service is not done for dinner. If you go on a weekend, especially on Sunday, be prepared to put your name on a list and wait a little. If there are less than 6 of you be prepared to be seated at a large table with other customers. It is OK to pretty much just ignore them (as you would do in Hong Kong or NYC, but probably not in Texas). They are not there to chat with you either.

                  You will be served tea first. If you have a special tea request go ahead and make it. Then the carts will begin to come by. Don't be afraid to ask the servers to show you what's in the steamers (they'll mostly be covered). In most places here the cart pushers have very little English, but perhaps thay can give you some general idea of what's in stuff -- although most of my attempts pretty much elicit "shrimp dumpling" or something similar. There are of course a number of standard dim sum items, but I would guess that you've probably looked those up. You will be given a piece of paper when you sit down that will be stamped with each order, with differing price gradations for the different classes of items. This is your bill.

                  Don't be afraid to refuse food, or let whole carts pass by, and eat slowly. It may seem like they're trying to rush you, but you can always say "no," in fact it's expected. And resisit the temptation to pile up a lot of dishes in front of you getting cold. If you don't do these things you could very well find yourself done and out on the street half an hour after sitting down. Don't worry, stuff will come around again, and even if it doesn't there will be something else interesting. Try to pick off the freshest and hottest items if you can.

                  But the main thing is to relax -- finish your pot and get some more tea. You'll see "captains" walking around the room, and they are the folks to talk to about getting more tea, getting any special requests or menu orders, and adding up your check when you're ready to leave. Many places also have side service areas serving special dishes. Just grab your bill with the stamps on it and go over and have a look, point if there's anything you want. Don't forget to order some dessert items at the end of your meal, with some more tea, of course.

                  NYC may not have the best dim sum, and Chinatown doesn't have the best dim sum in NYC, but there is a lot of pretty good and pretty tasty stuff to be had. And the atmosphere in Chinatown, particularly on a weekend, is tough to beat. Very very New York.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Woodside Al

                    Now THAT is a reply! Such detail! Thank you so much. As you can imagine, Fort Worth doesn't have a "Chinatown" !

                    1. re: Woodside Al

                      Ageed on the ambience factor. Dim sum at places like Maxim or Kirin Court in Richardson is quite decent, but nothing like being at Jing Fong or Golden Bridge in Manhattan.

                      1. re: Woodside Al

                        Awesome post, Al!

                        I would add:

                        If you want ice water with your meal, ask for it as soon as you sit down. Dim sum can get loud and noisy and busy so you need to be assertive if you need more water, tea, soy sauce, napkins, etc. Sometimes you gotta ask multiple times.

                        Definitely research the dishes before you go so you known the standard dishes like har gow, shui mai, etc. That way if you like something, you can ask for more of it by name. And then you won't be alarmed by things like turnip cake and chicken feet. Some restaurants will have pictures with names in a menu on the table, as a quick reference.

                        Items come in waves. Sometimes if you want a certain item, it can take a while for it to come out of the kitchen.

                        Things which are popular tend to go fast. If you're in a large room, the cart may run out of it by the time it gets to you.

                        Oriental Garden is my current favorite Dim Sum place, but you'll find a wide variety of opinion on "the best" in Manhattan on these boards.

                        This discussion may also help:

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Excellent information Katheryn. It never occurred to me to educate myself on the foods themselves. I guess I thought I would just point and hope fo the best. Chicken Feet! Man, I don't know...I have seen Anthony bordain gnaw on a few but I didn't think people actualy ate them! naive am I? The discussion you sent will prove most helpful I am sure. I will research Oriental Garden as well. I am just trying to put together an afternoon in Chinatown; a little eating, a little shopping, so that we all leave having had a new experience, a little wiser about another culture with maybe a bargain or two in hand! Thanks again.

                          1. re: texann

                            Don't be alarmed, I think most of the offerings are very accessible, lots of varieties of dumplings and things like that. You needn't deal with chicken feet if it's not appealing to you. I adore the dimsum experience, it's great fun. Enjoy!

                          2. re: kathryn

                            I also feel that Oriental Garden has the best dim sum I've had in Manhattan's Chinatown, and it was pretty good. I'd be happy to go back (I've been there for dim sum only once so far, on Christmas day, when it was way too busy).

                            1. re: Pan

                              I just had dim sum at Oriental Garden yesterday, and was pretty disappointed. I haven't been to Jing Fong, 88, etc., but Dim Sum Go Go tasted fresher and livelier.

                              1. re: AppleSister

                                Sorry to hear that about OG. I've been there for dim sum only once so far but did like it better than the big eating halls. I haven't been to Dim Sum Go Go, though.

                                1. re: AppleSister

                                  i had the same experience, i had 4 or 5 dishes, everything except the pai kuat was very disappointing (either flavorless or too salty). So i ended up getting a cha siu bao at mei lai wah and dumplings at dumpling house, which made up for OG.

                                2. re: Pan

                                  After reading all the kudos for Oriental Garden dim sum, I tried it yesterday. I honestly think they get their dim sum frozen from some outside purveyor and heat it up in their kitchen. Everything was standard dim sum fare, nothing interesting or creative, and everything was just so average tasting. The steamed chicken buns had a freezer burn taste.
                                  Unfortunately, I don't have another place I'd recommend over it. I haven't had good dim sum in Manhattan Chinatown for years. There used to be a place on Mott near Canal called Tai Hong Lau that had kitchen service, not carts, that was above average. And I used to like Sweet N Tart down at the end of Mott, another kitchen service place.

                                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                                    I should have updated my remarks. I ate there again a few weeks ago and was no longer sure they were better than the big eating halls (Jing Fong, Golden Unicorn, Harmony Palace). My impression is that Dim Sum Go Go is in another category altogether, with thinner wrappers, less heavy dishes, and less fat.

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      We think that Dim Sum Go Go is the top in NYC these days. Always fresh and clean - can't say that about any of the cart palaces.