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Aug 7, 2008 09:27 AM

Where has the great dim sum gone?

With the changes at New Kowloon/Hong Kong Restaurant in the ID (I'm not going back) and the decline and eventual demise of Sentosa in Kirkland, I'm at a loss for outstanding Hong Kong dim sum in the Seattle area. Where do I go now?

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  1. I share your pain. Despite the really scathing reviews of Sentosa all over the web, I thought it was some of the best Dim Sum in the area and am sorry to see it go. While the service was sometimes slow, it certainly wasn't any worse than the other Dim Sum places I've been to in NY, LA, SF and, especially, Vancouver.

    I guess if we want to stay on the East Side, our next Dim Sum outing will be to Jeem or Noble Court in Bellevue. We first went to Jeem when we had an exchange student from Shanghai, and she said, "It tastes like I'm home."

    1. I like O'Asian in downtown Seattle.

      1. The only dimsum that's not too terrible in Seattle is Jade Garden in the ID. In a pinch, maybe Ming's in Bellevue. Although I'm happy to report to Jeem's has finally got a new chef and the items are pretty decent now (although there are much fewer items to choose from than before). A few items at O'Asian are not too bad - although they bland the flavors of most of their food to placate a more diverse clientele. Everything else is plain terrible. Pretend you didn't see the $4/gallon on your way to the north I-5 entrance and grab your passport for a day-trip to Richmond...

        A new "large-scale" dim sum / seafood restaurant has been advertising in the Chinese newspapers lately. They're slated to open in mid August. They'll be on Sunset Blvd off I-405 (the other direction away from Fry's).

        22 Replies
        1. re: HungWeiLo

          Thank you, Hung, I'll give Ming's a try and watch for the new opening on Sunset...also appreciate the update on Jeem as I didn't know that there had been a change of chefs there....appreciate it!

          Love your screen name!

          1. re: WandaBWild

            Oh - and Top Gun in Bellevue is pretty decent again. Just tried it today.

          2. re: HungWeiLo

            Yippee, I hope it is good as we live nearby and would love to have a good place close to us. Since my hubby has been in the restaurant business for years, we never go near a new restaurant for a few months to let the crowds die down and let the staff work out the kinks (there are ALWAYS kinks) but will definitely post after we have tried although we are not as dim sum savvy as some of you, never had it in Hong Kong or Vancouver.

            1. re: jodymaryk

              Hmm, my post above didn't post under Hung's post. Oh well. Just another thought on the new place opening on Sunset Hwy. I have seen a sign and construction going on there and believe it will be called The Tea Palace.

                1. re: kirkj

                  Yup. That's the place. I'll be playing mud-tackle football about 3 miles from there this weekend, so I may go and give it a try. But it looks like it's a bit more fancy of a place so I'll need to clean up before going in there...

                  Oh never mind. Website says it's opening in the fall. Poo.

                  1. re: kirkj

                    I hope it is as good as it looks. That area in the Highland is kind of "dumpy" and old. Renton is trying to rezone and revitalize that whole area but having problems finding developers to invest. The feeling is that eventually the whole shopping center will be demolished and the area rebuilt. But who knows when. For now, I am just thrilled I will be able to get dim sum in the Highlands when the craving hits on Sunday mornings!

                    1. re: jodymaryk

                      The really intreguing thing is that some Dim Sum items may have a Viet leaning.

                      1. re: kirkj

                        The owners must be Vietnamese-Chinese (most Vietnamese restaurants are owned by ethnic Chinese anyways). It's an area that has a large population of both groups, so they're just playing the numbers.

                        1. re: HungWeiLo

                          Interesting, their dimsum menu is almost verbatim that of Monsoon (another Viet/Chinese place); a former chef perhaps?

                      2. re: jodymaryk

                        We tried it even though it was the first weekend of its opening. Overall, I think its good. We got there about 10:10 and were one of the first. That may be the reason that they had just the standard dim sum fare, or maybe because it was the first weekend. I'm sure they will develop and serve more innovative specials. The Har Gao (smallest I've seen) and the Nor Mai Gai tasted very good. Spareribs w/black beans and the sesame balls were standard. We would not get the Chung Fun (mushroom) or the sticky rice in steamed bun again. Not enough filling in the Chung Fun and the wrapping was a bit hard.
                        Our favorite is still Jade Garden. If we didn't want to go to Seattle, we would chose Tea Palace since Top Gun is so crowded if you don't get there at opening.

                        1. re: kirkj

                          Thanks for the update. It doesn't sound as if it was to bad. Looking forward to trying it. We are going to wait a week or two but I am chomping at the bit to get there. Drove by yesterday morning and seemed like quite a few cars. There is also a new bakery next door to it call "Simply Fresh" although I have not been there either as baked goods in my house are dan-ger-ous!! I am sure I will break down one of these days and pop my head in there.

                          I am kind of a newbie to dim sum so don't know things by their name, except the Hum Bao and sticky rice. What is Har Gao, Nor Mai Gai? We have been to Jade Garden and thought it was alright, except dirty and have hit Top Gun a couple of times and like it there. We did Imperial Palace at the Great Wall but seemed to be too early since as we were leaving more interesting things were coming out on the carts.

                          Thanks again for the update!

                          1. re: jodymaryk

                            picture of har gao click on Steamed items, then the 3rd item
                            jody, have you tried O'Asian or Noble Court yet?

                            1. re: barleywino

                              Thanks for the link! I want to eat there!

                              I have had that before just didn't know it's name.

                              No we haven't eaten at either. I am not sure where O'Asian is and just haven't made it up to Noble Court. I was born and raised in Bellevue so know where it is located. Guess we should try it one of these days although now we live in Renton. Which do you prefer?

                            2. re: jodymaryk

                              Har Gao is shrimp dumpling and Nor Mai Gai is the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. The staff at Tea Palace all seem to have good English skills and they are friendly and helpful. The back of the talley sheet at your table has their basic stuff in three languages (including English).

                              1. re: kirkj

                                Thanks for the descriptions. May have to try it sooner or later. Looking at the pictures on the link that barleywino sent, is making me hungry for dim sum! If it is good, we can walk there and back to wear of some of the calories!

                            3. re: kirkj

                              Tried it this morning. We got there at 11am, and the restaurant was about 70% full - so we got seated right away (the waiting room was full at around noon when we left). They were a bit late starting up, because the whole dining room was grumbling about not getting any food. There were 2 carts running around serving 100 people - one with tripe and the other with desserts. It was an unprecedented 30 minutes after we sat down that we got our order of har gow and shu mai. If the dim sum crowd cannot get these within 5 minutes of sitting down - something with the management is very wrong. After a while, people figured out that the only way to get food was to complain to the head waiter and have him bring food directly from the kitchen rather than wait for the carts to come. I hope this is just startup jitters and not a sign of management trying to maximize profits based on items served during certain times. Otherwise, they'll be closing in 6 months tops.

                              The food. Like someone already mentioned, it's dim sum with Viet flavoring. The purists may balk at this, but I lived in Portland for some time and have no problem with Chinese food doused with Viet seasonings. The har gow had an exceptionally smooth skin, but the shumai felt like a plain meatball. The tripe was very delicious (with the aforementioned Viet seasoning). The egg tarts came cold, so we took those to go. We also special ordered the Chinese donuts with the rice skin wrapped around it - it was soggy and not very good. Overall, I thought the food quality was not too bad, but the chef's skill level is just not quite there. Not bad, but not something that blows everyone else around here out of the water. Better than O'Asian, but about the same as or a little worse than Jade Garden or Imperial Garden.

                              Also, I was disappointed with the decor of the place. From their website, I was expecting something approaching the atmosphere of Kirin in Vancouver. But it was rather pedestrian in reality - not really good enough for a special occasion dinner even if the food was above average. The tables were squarely placed in rows as if you were in a classroom or some efficiency-maximized factory floor. Although, I thought the front lobby looked very comfortable and inviting.

                              1. re: HungWeiLo

                                HungWeiLo, thanks for your review. I caved in and went on Saturday. I ended up starting a new post on the Pacific NW board (now not sure why I did that but seemed the thing to do at the time). As I said on my post, I am not very experienced with dim sum and I had a much better opinion of the restaurant although I do agree, thinking about it now that I had a problem getting into my chair as it was very close to the chair behind me, so I did bump the gentleman and had to apologize. The carts came around very quickly with a lot of options and there were even additional waitresses going around with trays with dishes on them. I am sure Sunday morning would be much busier then Saturday? Maybe they had staffing problems on the day you went? When we left around noon also, there was no line waiting in the entry. I would be curious to hear from you if you ever decide to back for the regular menu vs. dim sum or even if you return for dim sum again. It does look a bit like a cafeteria but compared to Jade Garden, I enjoyed the openness and clean look of the room. We need to try Imperial Garden again. The one time we went, we waited forever for food and there was not a good selection although we did get there soon after opening and when we left more things seemed to be appearing. Do you find 11am is the best time to go to restaurants for dim sum?

                                Again, since you are more experienced then we are, I appreciate all of your insights into the world of dim sum! Thanks!

                                1. re: jodymaryk

                                  The food was plentiful at around 11:45. But by then, we had already fought with the other patrons for the available food and were quite full. So I'm guessing we just hit a bad time. Although you'll have to wait for seats if you come in later, so maybe it's just better to sit at a table early and enjoy tea (which, by the way, tasted really cheap - why do Vietnamese-owned restaurants always skimp on the tea?)

                                  In terms of dim sum, Saturday and Sunday noon are the busy days. Plus, Sunday you get the after-church rush a little after noontime. It's hit-or-miss in terms of the "best time". I went to Imperial Garden several times at around 9:30-10:30, and the stuff was pretty fresh out of the kitchen, but some of their stuff was cold when I went there a couple times around 12:30pm. But that's not always the case, so it's really up to fate. Many places now have paper menus in lieu or in addition to carts, and items ordered off the paper menu (which are the same items) are more likely to be hot and fresh, but then you're losing the nostalgia factor of ordering off the cart.

                                  I live up north a bit, so this place is a little far for me. I'll probably wait for someone to try their dinner menu and hear about it first before making another trek down there. (Which is another way of me saying that if I'm having to drive down to Renton, I might as well grab the passport and head the other way if I don't need to do any geek-shopping at Fry's).

                                  1. re: HungWeiLo

                                    Tried the dimsum again for the second time today. My gut tells me that this is a different chef than from the opening weeks of the restaurant. The style is definitely different. The har gow/shrimp dumpling has now a seashell texture for the skin, for example. On the whole, I think the food was well done.

                                    Unfortunately, they are still experiencing massive problems with their service. I got there at 12:30 and the place was full, which means about at least 100-150 people. I chatted with a dim sum cart lady and asked why management was cheaping out on the carts (there were less than 3 carts running around the numerous aisles in the restaurant). She said that there were plenty of carts, but they only have one steaming machine in the kitchen - and that was the bottleneck in the whole operation. In addition, it looks like they haven't figured out all the production logistics yet. People were screaming for siu mai / pork dumplings, while carts with 20 plates of chicken feet were strolling by table after table and not feeling any love.

                                    So I'm guessing that judging by the crowds there, people are willing to put up with long waits for food, as long as the dim sum is not too shabby. My recommendation is to go there for dim sum only at 11am or 1pm.

                          2. re: kirkj

                            Drove by yesterday and they had a big sign up saying they were now open. I will give it a bit for them to work out the kinks but am looking forward to trying it in a few weeks.

                            1. re: jodymaryk

                              Thanks for the update. Lets hear from the first to try.

                    2. Harbor City, used to be a BBQ house/restaurant, is under new ownership and serves dim sum now. Nothing really stellar, but it's clean and service (a sore point with some of us), is pretty quick. Not sure how their BBQ is, only tried their dim sum. Five plates (chicken feet, turnip cake, shrimp balls, nor mai gai, bean curd roll), jasmine tea for $15.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: smalt

                        Tried Harbor City just recently when the wait at Jade Garden was not tolerable. I thought everything was at least decent, alot of it quite good, especially the shrimp dumplings with cilantro, and the Hong Kong sam pang (?) style congee with mixed seafood, which was bright with fresh ginger. There was a gray glutinous rice ball filled with meat and "lotus root" that looked unappetizing but was actually quite interesting.

                        This place is a good alternative to Jade Garden. My wife pointed out that with the crushing demand Jade Garden often gets a little sloppy with their presentation, etc, and she said she actually preferred Harbor City in that regard. I continue to find Jade Garden, Noble Court and Harbor City very close in quality, with the difference really being dictated by the wanton factors of freshness and variety available on the cart that happens to pass by a given diner on a given day.

                      2. What does everyone think of purple dot on maynard?

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: thevioletpear

                          It's open until 3am. Although it's changed owners so many times I don't know if that's true anymore. It's your average Hong Kong-style fusion hangout joint - good for comfort food, but nothing outstanding.

                          1. re: thevioletpear

                            I've been for dim sum. I thought it was pretty reasonable--we went there after having walked out of Honey Court because our first two dishes had been inedible.

                            Speaking of inedible...I tried Duk Li, the new dim sum place in the ID. I've been meaning to blog about it, but haven't gotten to it. It's checklist, not cart, but for some reason they are still presteaming everything so it loses the advantage of the checklist (that they can steam to order). I left 90% of my food uneaten.

                            1. re: dagoose

                              dagoose: where's duk li, please? i don't recall seeing it or reading about it....

                              1. re: smalt

                                664 S Weller St, Seattle, WA, 98104

                                In the ID

                              2. re: dagoose

                                Didn't like it either--was really hoping to find fresher than the cart; got tireder than the cart.

                                1. re: dagoose

                                  I have to disagree that Duk Li is inedible but it can be inconsistent.

                                  We've been there a few times---the first time was the week they opened. With a family of five, we pretty much ordered everything on the menu and were satisfied especially with the chicken feet which is why we came back. The next time was less great---long cooked things like chicken feet still very good, also the pork with rice and the congee but the steamed dumplings with shrimp were over done and fell apart.

                                  I would go to Duk Luk when in a mood for long cooked things like chicken feet. I'd skip them when in a dumpling mood.