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Aug 10, 2008 09:05 PM

Dim Sum in St. Louis

Where would you recommend for dim sum in St. Louis. I'm staying in Clayton, so some of the places on Olive near the Inner Belt or in that general vicinity would be preferable. A couple of years ago, I was reading enthusiastic posts about Wei Hong -- not so much lately. Is all of the dim sum in the area cart service, which I like, or do some utilize ordering from a menu? Please give me your advice and any don't-miss dishes -- my tastes in dim sum are pretty basic; I like shrimp in rice noodles, fried potstickers, and good shu mai. Finally, the place needs to be open for Sunday brunch.

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  1. We like LuLu's on Olive. Cart service and great variety. Water chestnut cake, ha gow (shrimp dumplings), guen fun (rice noodle rolls), excellent steamed veggies (gai lan), loh bak goh (turnip pudding cake) - fried up right on the cart, good noodles, spare ribs (pai gwut), lots more.

    However, my husband was recently in St Louis on other business and checked out some other favorite spots and reported that several of our faves are now closed. So a St Louisan is going to have to confirm what's still open down there.

    1. Please also experts on dim sum, tell us what exactly it is. I have an idea - I think - but am afraid that I will get weird food presented so nicely on carts that I'll be afraid to say no and then get stuck with a mouthful of yuck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: TwoPointers

        What do you mean, Pointers? Do you mean what exactly is all dim sum? Or what is a particular type of dim sum offering?

      2. Thank you kd for the rec for LuLu's. I did a search and found mostly positive reviews, but a number of observations that their dim sum was pricey.

        I understand TwoPointers' concern about being stuck with unwanted dishes -- sometimes the women on the carts only give one-word descriptions and the container might be on your table before you really know it. But I've rarely encountered a hard sell attitude, and you are free to inquire. And most of the time, the cost of a loser dish is only about $3, though things like roast duck, chicken or duck feet, and some other "special" items can be a LOT more. It is always ok to ask if a dish costs "A" or "B" or "E" on the card or menu.

        Please, the info I really need is whether LuLu's is better than Wei Hong, if there exists an even more special alternative, and where I should go this coming Sunday.

        11 Replies
        1. re: nosh

          <Please, the info I really need is whether LuLu's is better than Wei Hong, if there exists an even more special alternative, and where I should go this coming Sunday.


          I have been to both and I don't think either is 'better" than the other. I think I like lu Lu's better though and feel it is a tad "nicer".


          1. re: nosh

            Another thing about "getting stuck." You really need to abandon your American sense of being polite and nodding and agreeing with everything. When I have had enough shu mai, I actually become quite rude about turning down the next cart of it when it's offered. Even if my mouth is full, I frown, close my eyes, and shake my head "No." I may even raise my hand in the universal "stop" sign. My It-Am husband doesn't seem to appreciate my rudeness, but hey. This is very acceptable to the Chinese staff... trust me. I'm part Chinese. You have to be very unambiguous about what you do and do not want.

            Also, at LuLu, if one of my kids wants an item on a cart that is seemingly "parked" at some end of the resto, I get up and ask about it. I've also asked about items that I want, but haven't seen (you know, cha siu bao, daan taat, the desirable stuff) ... and the staff are all great about finding where it is or telling you when/if it's coming up.

            I'm sorry I can't contrast with Wei Hong. I have done Wei Hong baked goods, which were very good, but never dim sum.

            1. re: k_d

              Well, I kind of need the whole scenario. You sit down, they start bringing carts by, is that correct? You tell them what you want and (hopefully) don't want. You must say very strongly what you don't want says k-d! Do they tell you what things are? Do they say "okay, this is chicken feet and this is a dumpling with "x" in it" or are you expected to know?

              I guess my question is, what is standard dim sum? K-D you say your kids go to LeLu with you -which is good news for an basically picky and shy eater like me - if it sits well with kiddos, it's probably okay! What is typically offered as dim sum (and I know that's probably a pretty broad question). How do they determine the cost? I am just not with the program on dim sum, I'm afraid, but I have heard there are so many goodies, I'm trying to branch out a little and hopefully give it a try.

              On the subject of LeLu itself, I work in Clayton and know that people from here at our office go there to eat and really like it. So Nosh, don't think you could go too wrong there.

              1. re: TwoPointers

                TwoPointers, perhaps this will help: Exilekiss writes some excellent reviews, mostly on the Los Angeles board. This is his blog entry on his visit to Sea Harbour, one of the finest dim sum restaurants in SoCal, complete with numerous photographs. Now many of the items he got are a bit more unusual and fancy than the usual dim sum fare, especially that I assume is available in St. Louis, but this can be a good introduction.


                For more information, you can find a multitude of discussions on the Los Angeles board by just scrolling or searching "dim sum."

                1. re: TwoPointers

                  Let me give you a little hint Two Pointers. If you have to be THAT concerned about it, and THAT concerned about the cost, then you are probably missing the point.


                  1. re: TwoPointers

                    nosh's link to the dim sum post is good. Yes, there are some exotica there that you will not find at LuLu, but it's a good summary. The veggie, for instance, is EXACTLY what you will find. The shu mai are pretty typical, as are the har gow. And also, as to my kids ... they are well accustomed to Chinese food, as they have had it since they were tiny. They have very broad tastes, so just because they like it, is no guarantee. They like nearly everything.

                    The primary things you will recognize and like, mostly likely, will be the dumpling-style offerings. They're often stuffed with a mix of chopped shrimp and pork, seasoned nicely, then steamed or fried or a combo of the two (like pot stickers). There are also bites of meat (spareribs in black bean, chicken feet). The thing is, when they begin bringing the carts by, sure .. just point and ask. If they describe something you aren't sure of, you can either go bravely into a new experience, or decide to pass. No one will be offended if you wave it off and go with the next cart. There will be some waitresses who will be pretty pushy with their wares and will try to get it on your table and mark your ticket for it before you can say yes or no.... that's where your assertiveness comes in.

                    In Hong Kong and other points East, the bill is totted up by the manager coming by and counting your empty plates. At LuLu, the first waitress puts your drink orders on a ticket, and leaves it on the table. Each waiter/tress who leaves you a plate of dim sum then marks it with a tally mark. They add up your bill from that. Each plate of food contains at most four bites or so of food. Each is meant for sharing.

                    1. re: k_d

                      these are all good strategies for Two Pointers. I would only add if the description is vague, squint and look confused and crane your neck looking at the cart, the server at most places I've been to will lift the lid and show you what it is.

                      as kd mentions, having lived on the edge of SF's Chinatown for about 5 years I too have noticed there is a different tolerance for curt responses (not rude, mind you, just more direct) I've also seen in SF and elsewhere people hovering by the kitchen door waiting for their favorite to come out.

                      at a dimsum place the best seats in the house are in the back by the kitchen, if you're too far front the pickin's can get slim if it's busy (after all who doesn't love a good cha siu bao, siu mai or har gow? and how many can a kitchen churn out in the half-hour or so you'll be there) stick with those the first time and you'll be happy and prob. out of there for less than $20 bucks for 2-3 people even in pricier NYC or SF.

                      the prices are generally based on the value of the ingredients, so some roast duck will be a bit more than a plate of steamed stuffed dumplings or pork buns.

                      next time get more adventurous. be warned the egg custard tarts aren't as sweet as they look and usu. rather too eggy for me in most places.

                      god you're making me jealous. it's darn hard to find (any) dimsum where I am right now without a hike.

                      if you really want to start off cautious a lot of supermarkets have started carrying so-so versions in the freezer section. just bear in mind that the real deal at any place making it fresh is miles better and really no more expensive.

                        1. re: TwoPointers

                          oh yeah TP, one more thing to stress, just because the cart comes by doesn't mean you have to take what's offered.

                          think of it as a rolling buffet.

                          1. re: TwoPointers

                            Some very good info!! I, like 2pointers, have never had Dim Sum, and very curious to try...but it can be intimidating to step into a new experience, a different culture...i remember the first times visiting sushi rest.!! Im dying to try Dim Sum now! As far as FOTD, I think YOU missed the point.

                            1. re: suze44

                              suze: be brave, dim sum is the ultimate savory brunchy food.

                              and sorry to Nosh if I sounded curt below. based on prior posts (this thread and others, I think you've probably enjoyed some top-notch (nosh?) ok that was lame.

                              my stories are even better than Thorazine FWIW.

                  2. Thought I'd report back: Dad and I arrived at Lulu's shortly before noon on Sunday. Place pretty full, but a table was open, and most of the clientele was Asian. The family behind me had a real spread -- small bowls of congee, large plates that looked like they were ordered from the menu, some empty pots of dim sum. I requested hot chili oil and we slowly got started.

                    Ended up having a pretty good meal at a reasonable price -- barely over $20 for the two of us. The cart ladies were smiling and warm and spoke reasonable English. When I asked for fried potstickers an order appeared from the kitchen within about ten minutes. Started with shrimp dumplings and steamed bao with bbq pork inside. Turned down the roast duck and pork. Got the large plate of Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, which was nicely cooked and made us feel virtuous. Finished with some shu mai and scallop dumplings. My biggest criticism was that much of the seafood was overcooked and therefor rubbery. As always, regretted missing on some attractive items, such as the fried wonton-stripped balls with something in the middle and the turnip cakes and other items from the fry cart.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nosh

                      hey nosh it's STL, unless it's top dollar and flown in it's prob. frozen.

                      although Memphis and LR get fresh gulf shellfish trucks... (envy)

                      I'm always annoyed when I have to ask for the chili oil and prefer chili garlic.

                      but that's just me.