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Dim Sum Garden

11th btw Filbert and Arch. Shanghainese. Go there. Trust me.

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  1. Do they have lions head, xiao long bao, or drunken chicken?

    I had what Dumpling House claimed to be xiao long bao, but it was really more like jiaozi. Didn't get a chance to ask why, but they spoke Cantonese. Anyone know why Dumpling House is closed? I tried to go there a week ago in the middle of the day, was closed. Then I tried again on Friday, the windows were papered up, and the sign said something like "we will reopen soon." Today the windows were still papered.

    1. I went to Dim Sum Garden and had the xiao long bao. They were okay but I think they were the ones you get at the Chinese supermarket frozen. I do not believe they were made fresh there. NO WAY comparable to Joe's in Queens, NY--which are AMAZING.

      1. What to try? I work very close by and Asian clients have told me that they like it, but I wasn't sure what their specialties were. Thanks!!

        5 Replies
        1. re: jessicheese

          Regarding their soup buns, your idea that they are not prepared fresh is ridiculous. I agree they are not as good as Joe's, but what is? The food to be enjoyed is Shanghainese style, which is impossible to find in Philadelphia otherwise. The menu is evolving, they are hampered by not having gas right now

          1. re: brescd01

            How is the idea ridiculous? If you think I mean they are not steamed fresh--then that's not what I meant. I MEANT that they are not prepared in-house. They looked like and tasted like the kind you can buy frozen and steam at home.

            1. re: lawslaw

              Had the xiao long bao (soup buns), always sort of a dangerous eating experience :). I'm no Shanghainese food expert, but the XLB are ok, certainly soupy. Not as good as others I've had...thinking in particular of Shangri-La in Boston area, haven't been to Joe's. However they are definitely prepared in house. I even asked the waitress, and she pointed out the lady who makes them.

              The menu is quite small right now, but one of the specials is "meatballs" which is indeed lion's head. They do not have drunken chicken at this time, but I am looking forward to trying out their 'you ji fan' (I forget how they translated that, something like chicken with soy sauce on rice). It's true, this is the only place in Philly that serves Shanghai food, that I know of.

              1. re: Dib

                I agree with both your characterizations of the soup dumplings, they are not the best I have had (Joe's) but I find them tasty nevertheless, plus they are authentic. I saw the woman preparing the crab flavored ones near the register. the menu is indeed small and the journey to a larger menu, gas, and delivery, are clearly going to be more painful and protracted than the owner represented to me. We went there yesterday. Soup dumplings delicious. Noodles wonderful (these are home-made I think). Wonton soup not very interesting (though wonton were very good). One funny thing is that there is a steady parade of customers, many getting bus connections, who order same-old same-old and I want to scream at them "Get the soup dumplings for pity's sake!"

            2. re: brescd01

              I've seen them hand make them there at Dim Sum Garden. The frozen ones are always identical looking and really thick and doughy. These are very fresh, and they definately are not mass produced. They are fresh hand made. I used to go to Joe's a lot and they were the best, but these are really good. I was at Joe's last month, the dumplings were delicious, but a bit salty and tough. The wrap is not super thick -the way I like them. I also ordered the braized beef brisket with hand drawn/ hand cut noodles was excellent (I ordered them "dry" - not with soup broth, but with a nice stew like sweet/salty/herby sauce).

          2. We've been to Dim Sum Garden twice now and IMHO the xiao long bao (which are indeed made in-house) are at least as good as Joe's chinatown nyc and midtown nyc (never been to the Queens location). The shaou mei, on the specials board, are also delicious. Their scallion pancake is perhaps the best we've had anywhere. The staff is also exceedingly nice.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dagordon

              We ate there a couple of months ago as part of a Slow Food group and the xiao long bao were terrific -- imho better than Joe's in Chinatown NY which I have had. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole meal, which was excellent.

            2. Need to add that I have been to Dim Sum Garden several times in the last couple of weeks, mostly to satisfy my Xiao Long Bao craving but also to chat with chef Da and watch her make and fill the dough for a fine rendition of this addictive treat. Lawslaw's claim that these are frozen supermarket dumplings could not be more off the mark.
              There is one problem looming for Dim Sum Garden: chef Da is inundated with offers to ply her delicious trade in bigger, fancier restaurants and I don't think that she'll be working in the garden much longer. Hopefully, she will have trained the other chefs how to continue the quality of the restaurant's signature dish.

              1. Went in October for the first time. It was excellent. Softens the blow of Lakeside closing a bit. Can't wait to go back.

                1. For those Dim Sum Garden fans, the restaurant will be moving to Race Street next to Joy Tsin Lau and across Ocean Harbor. Dim Sum Garden will finally play wit the big boys now.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Do you know if they have announced a date for the move? And do xiao long bao taste better under neon?

                    1. re: cwdonald

                      It should be any day now, Lee from Hop Sing has been tweeting photos of the interior for the last couple months and the latest one showed tables and chairs set up in the dining room. It's in the building next to Shanghai Bazaar.

                      1. re: cwdonald

                        <Do you know if they have announced a date for the move?>

                        The sign has been put up in the new location, but they are still working the interior. So I don't think it will be super quick, but it also won't be long. My guess is probably between 2 weeks to 2 months depending how fast they want to make the real move.

                        <And do xiao long bao taste better under neon?>

                        No comment, and I wonder if it will lose some of its original charm. Dim Sum Garden is very much a "hole in the wall" restaurant with a very focus Shanghai Dim Sum menu. I won't be surprised that they will double or possibly triple the menu size, which can be a bad thing. Just look at Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House. Before it moved, it had a very short and focus menu, like 10-15 items and all executed nicely. Now, Nan Zhou Noodle House has >40 items, but many items aren't very well executed.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Just so happened I talked to the Dim Sum Garden people. I wasn't even at Dim Sum Garden. I was on my way to eat at Ocean Harbor. I was out on the street and ran into her near the new location. She recognized me and smile, so I just pointed at the new location and asked "When?"

                          In short, she said that she can probably start the move in 1 week (the new place will be ready to move), but she is too busy, so most likely it won't happen until 2 weeks. Here. Oh yes, we chit-chat about the capacity too since the new location is larger and they are hiring more employee. She confirmed and said they are definitely expanding.

                          There: In 2 weeks.

                    2. A good place to go for soup dumplings. So much so I have stopped driving all the way to NYC to satisfy my cravings for it.

                      However, the store wouldn't process our card recently saying their machine had stopped working. My daughter was upset. She now refused to patronize them because she suspects they only do this to their Chinese customers.

                      Yesterday we ended up eating soup dumplings at Sakura. Not bad but not the same. Passed by Dim Sum Garden's new location. Not open yet. I wish they would have a consistent policy toward their customers' payment methods so we can again visit.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: borntolovefood

                        I've come across chinese restaurants that prefer cash, so that they don't have to charge taxes. totally illegal, but i didn't want to cause waves. (a while back i even bought an unlocked cell phone in chinatown, cash purchase, no tax. thank you, statute of limitations!).
                        in any case, point being that i doubt that a restaurant woudl refuse to let people pay w/ credit cards if they are able to take them. they'll have to charge you tax, though, which, of course, they would be legally required to do with cash payment too, it's just that *some* places don't.
                        And the machines do go down sometimes... though in those cases, there shoudl be some sort of sign up when you go in. Not everyone even has enough cash.

                        1. re: Bob Loblaw

                          <I've come across chinese restaurants that prefer cash, so that they don't have to charge taxes>

                          That is not always true. I have been often asked to pay cash along with the sale tax.

                          The sale tax elimination is for the customer -- as a incentive to pay cash. The real reason that the restaurant prefer cash is that they don't pay the credit card companies the transaction fee.

                          If I remember right. Dim Sum Garden has a policy of (> $10 or 15 for credit card).

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            not always true, no. not even usually true. just sometimes true. though never legal... (i mean, it's legal if they're still deducting the tax from the receipts and paying it, but that doesn't seem to be what's going on).

                            1. re: Bob Loblaw

                              Right. If sale tax is not paid, then it is illegal. What I know is that most of these shop keepers do not want to pay the credit card transaction fee, particularly American Express and Discover. As such, they always urgent the customers to pay cash. Some will even remove the "sale tax" portion.

                              The question then becomes exactly what you said. Do they simply charge the cash customer a lower price, and then pay the sale tax? Or do they not report the entire transaction? (illegal).

                              What I do remember is that Dim Sum Garden has a policy of no credit card below $10 (or maybe $15). So if my bill run up less than $15 (most of the time), they simply won't accept my credit cards.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Avoiding credit card fees, and the general hassles of a merchant account, are a major driver for declining credit cards. It's really unfair to assume that all cash businesses are tax cheats. Yes an all cash business makes it easy to fudge the taxes (or pay undocumented employees) but that isn't the driver for most businesses. The proof is that now many formerly cash-only places now take LevelUp or Square, which have uniform, often lower fees, and streamlined policies.

                                1. re: barryg

                                  the red flag for me is when a restaurant charges sales tax to customers who pay by credit card, but not to customers who pay cash.

                                  1. re: barryg

                                    <The proof is that now many formerly cash-only places now take LevelUp or Square,>

                                    I didn't know about these two until you mentioned them. Thanks.

                          2. re: borntolovefood

                            I had soup dumpling from Sakura and from Dim Sum Garden back to back (within 2 days). I think Dim Sum Garden's soup dumplings are slightly better.

                          3. Have they moved yet or are they still in the old location? I have a dumpling craving!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Bigley9

                              I was there last weekend, and the new shop has NOT opened.

                              That being said, I happened to talk to a couple other shop owners (not Dim Sum Garden owner). They told me that I was mistaken. They said that Dim Sum Garden is not moving from one location to another. They told me that they are splitting from one to two. If this information is true, then both locations are good.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                WOW! I was worried about the effect of classier digs - 2 locations might really be a challenge. Fingers crossed whatever the move/expansion is that it goes smoothly!

                                1. re: Bigley9

                                  Swing by Chinatown tonight, and walked by the new Dim Sum Garden location. No. It is not opened yet, but I saw the people inside there planning and stuffs. The inside looks to be 90% finished.

                                    1. re: Bigley9

                                      Quick update.

                                      Dim Sum Garden has opened in its new location now -- today is the first day. The old location is still opened as well. The menu is a bit larger, probably 25-33% larger. I have only ordered the soup dumplings and quality is the same. Very busy today.

                                      1. re: Bigley9

                                        I went there again. This time I ordered some home dishes -- not the fancy kind of restaurant food, but the typical, real, humble Shanghai food at home, and I ordered a dessert. The foods were great. I have not eaten this home style cooking dish for a long time, so it was really great.

                                        Anyway, the new Dim Sum Garden was packed even at 8:00 PM. The owner/manager was nice enough to come by and chat with me. We talked on and off, and I told her that I am scouting the new restaurant and telling people about it. I told her that one of the most popular questions which I get asked online and in person is that: How do the dumplings from the new Dim Sum Garden stack up to the old one?

                                        She was very surprised by the question and asked me "Why would people even think that?", and then she asked me what I told others.

                                        Anyway, I won't bore you with these chit-chats, but two things I like to add.

                                        First, the new Dim Sum Garden seems to attach a very different crowd. It seems like a very hip, young place now. The foods are similar, but the atmosphere is different. It is certainly a cooler place to take your 10+ number so friends there and just hang out. On the other hand, it loses some of the older charm.

                                        Second, she told me that most likely the old place will remain open. Yes, there is always a possibility the old one will close down, but she thinks that will be unlikely.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Thanks for the wonderful discussion Chemicalkinetics. I am curious if you could share what dishes you ate, and whether they are even on the menu or is this something only a native speaker would be able to request.

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            It is definitely on the menu, and this one even have a picture too (not all the items have photos, but this one does)

                                            It is just nothing fancy, so I didn't want to bore anyone, but if you are curious, I think the name is "Edamame, Mustard Green with Tofu (skin)" or something like that. About $7.

                                            The photo would look like this one:



                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            +1 on your observations, CK. When living in SF I would always try to sit at a round table populated by Asian Americans/Asians and order what they ordered that looked good to me as otherwise I would be one of those ordering the same Americanized items each time. Knowing a bit about what you ate and what it is would be enlightening. Thanks.

                                2. The old Dim Sum Garden location on 11th street was closed and the windows papered over when I drove by yesterday

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Bigley9

                                    They had been closed for the last two weeks but the windows had not been papered over. Guess it was too much to keep two restaurants open. Unless they are going to renovate the old space.

                                    1. re: Bigley9

                                      Yeah, that is what I was told by Sally as well. Thanks for verifying that.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        The english hand written sign on the door says they are going to reopen soon. So I guess they are doing renovations.

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          Really? Then, I am wrong. Thanks for the information. However, I was "mislead" a few times by signs like these before. Not by Dim Sum Garden, but by other restaurants. They say they will reopen, and then they do reopen, but different restaurants all together.

                                    2. TL;DR Get the XLB; go to the bathroom somewhere else.

                                      As of last Friday, the old place is still closed, but the new place was open and busy at 10P. While it's a nicer space, bathrooms were very dirty. Service was as good as it ever was. The menu is a lot bigger.

                                      Knowing that we still had dinner to go to, we only ordered: pork XLB, pork and crab XLB, shengjianbao (listed as pan fried pork soup dumplings), pan fried potato beef cakes, shaomai, sanxian dabao (listed as triple steamed buns), spring rolls with shrimp.

                                      The XLB were about the same as at the old location with wrappers still too thick and the fillings slightly too gummy for my taste. The shengjianbao were not as crispy as they should have been, possibly due to the kitchen rushing at the end of the night. The potato beef cakes suffered from the same issue and I barely remember tasting any beef. The shaomai are NOT the ones you would get at Cantonese dim sum; they are filled with soy sauced sticky rice and shiitake mushrooms and were fine. One of us wanted to order the steamed vegetable buns, but was recommended the sanxian dabao instead. Glad we got that! Three large bao had a mild and balanced filling of chives, rice vermicelli, and dried shrimp. Spring rolls were fine.

                                      Would order the pork XLB (pork and crab XLB didn't have discernible crab flavor), shengjianbao (ask for crispier), potato beef cakes (ask for crispier), and sanxian dabao again and to check out the rest of their menu, specifically their cold apps, soups, noodles, and niangao (fried rice cake).

                                      1. Just to update. I am sure that some of you have been to the Dim Sum Garden at the new location on 1020 Race Street



                                        Some of you may have seen the old location (11th Street) reopened as well. The owner and I ran into each other yesterday on the street. I asked her of the old location, and she said that the store in the old location is not associated with her and her family -- completely different ownership. She is a little bit upset that the old location is still using the same name.

                                        By the way, I have only walked by the old location, not eaten there, so I don't know if it is any good or bad. I am just saying that they are not run by a different crew.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Not sure if you saw this chemicalkinetics but clearly things are getting heated,


                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            Thanks Donald.

                                            Yeah, Sally was telling me that she is pretty unhappy, but she also said that she is very busy with the new restaurant (very good business traffic as you may know), so she is not trying to spend too much energy on it. Still, she did say that she will eventually resolve this.


                                            Now, some of our past conversations make perfect sense. She kept telling me that "This is illegal. This is illegal". No wonder. This is because

                                            <A lawyer-friend of Song's wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Gao several weeks ago, demanding that Gao change the name of the 11th Street restaurant and remove the news clippings from the door.>

                                            Thanks for the inform.