Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Oct 3, 2009 08:20 PM

Best dim sum in Boston?

My husband and I will be staying at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf in November. We'd like to go for dim sum. Although we love dumplings, we've actually never been for dim sum anywhere. Can you guide us to a place we'll feel comfortable at that serves great dim sum?
Also, it seems all the places I've heard/read about only serve on the weekends for breakfast/brunch. Is dim sum available at lunchtime or dinner? Just curious.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Dim sum is a lunch/brunch kind of thing. Some restaurants serve it on weekdays. You might enjoy Windsor. It has a paper menu for ordering, so you will get exactly what you want and know exactly what you are getting. Plus, Windsor (Cafe? I can't remember the rest of the name) does dim sum every day. Most people here feel it is very, very good. Search this board and you will find many references to it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      Winsor (no D) is indeed quite good, but it doesn't do cart service, which is the key to the full dim sum experience. (Especially for beginners, cart service is ideal because you don't need to know the names of what you're ordering: just point at the things that look tasty.) China Pearl, which is across the street from Winsor, has its detractors, but I find it's the most consistent of the Chinatown dim sum places, and there are several things (the bao in particular) that I think are the best in town.

      China Pearl Restaurant
      9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

      Winsor Dim Sum Cafe
      10 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

    2. The food is pretty much the same, China Pearl has a slight edge.
      For more effect, check out Emperor's Garden on Washington, it's in a former opera house(later it was a kungfu movie theater, watched too many Bruce Lee there.).

      1. Winsor is very good, but I agree for your first time carts are nice. Hei La Moon also has very good dim sum with carts.

        25 Replies
        1. re: StriperGuy

          Thanks so much everyone! If we go "carts" -- how does one keep track of the bill? Are most restos honest in charging how many pieces you've had?
          What are the dumplings mostly filled with and what are some of your favorites?
          Thanks again so much.

          1. re: shopgirl

            When you choose something from the cart, they give you a chit. You amass your pile (little, big, depending on how much you get!), and when you're done, they will add them up. Usually, there is only one, maybe 2 choices per cart, and they do keep coming around. So, if you found you liked something a lot and want more of it, it will show up again, and you can select it again. I don't get to go very often, but I love dim sum. They're filled with many different things, like shrimp, bean paste, veggies, meat. Have a great meal, and fun!

            1. re: shopgirl

              Most of the fillings are shrimp and/or pork. Some of the more popular items are shu mai, har gow and sticky rice; but prices are reasonable enough that you can justsample whatever look good. China Pearl is my current favorite among the cart places. Be sure to sit on the main (2nd) floor for the full experience.

              A little history, maybe 25 years ago, there was no bill. The waiter would come over and count yout plates, and give you your bill. It's now a simple bill and waiters clear the plates throughout your meal. I've never encounterered anythig but complete honesty in being billed. People used to stick plates in their bags to minimize the bill..:)

              Enjoy! It's a great experience.

              1. re: shopgirl

                Just to clarify a little further. When you enter, you are given a blank receipt. Every time one of the cart ladies give you an item they stamp your receipt with a little red stamp which corresponds the cost of that dish (some things are pricier than others). At the end a waiter tallies the whole thing up.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Yes, and when done, just hold the receipt up in the air and one of the "vested" staff will come by and tally it up by hand. I always feel it's been done honestly though I've never tried to verify.

                2. re: shopgirl

                  if you go to CHina Pearl, some items to keep an eye out for (or ask for) are their BBQ pork pie (small flaky pastry), baked bbq pork bun, pan fried or deep fried shrimp/chive dumpling, maybe a plate of spicy salt shrimp (shell on) or beef rice noodle (ho fun) and for dessert, the tofu hwa (you'll see a cart with a big wooden pot out of which they spoon warm tofu custard with sweet ginger syrup) or egg custard tart. Also check out the steam table for noodles or other items.

                  1. re: barleywino

                    So, how expensive are the dim sum? If we go to China Pearl, what's the latest they serve? I can't see eating dumplings very early in the a.m.

                    1. re: shopgirl

                      Dim sum is a 10:30 am to 2:00pm thing. $15 a person and you should be well fed.

                      1. re: shopgirl

                        Each small plate is about 3 to 4 dollars, some may be a little more. I don't think I've ever asked how much something was, and I've never been surprised by the price. Seafood items tend to cost more as a general rule. Four plates per person would be a lot of food. Don't go right at the end, they are winding down, and the selection won't be as good.

                      2. re: barleywino

                        CHina Pearl (at least the one in Woburn, not sure about the one in CHinatown) also does a variation on shrimp toast which uses fried cruller instead of toast. Winsor has a pan fried (slightly crunchy on the outside) sticky rice which is a bit unusual and worth trying if you go, and their pan fried pork dumplings and scallion pancakes are usually excellent.

                    2. re: StriperGuy

                      I'm thinking of Chinatown dim sum for my birthday, which is Sunday the 18th. We'll be driving in. Where is there a good place to park near Winsor or Hei la Moon? I can't wait to try some of the dim sum I've read about. I've been to Gitlo but I want the cart experience at least once.


                      1. re: JoJo5

                        if you're coming from Metrowest or thereabouts, my favorite cart experience is actually (New) CHina Pearl in Woburn, which has its own parking lot. However, if you are coming into Chinatown, there is a self-park garage on Beach between Washington and Harrison.

                        1. re: barleywino

                          I just read that New China Pearl in Woburn now has no relationship to China Pearl in Chinatown. I haven't been there in a while, has there been a change in quality?

                          New China Pearl
                          288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

                          1. re: Chris VR

                            10 of us went to the Woburn one today and it really was very good. One new thing is they set up a serving table where you can walk up and get noodles, s&p shrimp, clams, etc..

                            1. re: hargau

                              sounds like the one in quincy near kam amn, does anyone know if it is the same ownership? recipes?

                              1. re: qianning

                                The one in Quincy is indeed another branch of China Pearl, though I heard on this board that perhaps the Woburn one has changed ownership (maybe even this thread?). Not sure if that's the case with the Quincy one.

                                1. re: kobuta

                                  i haven't been to the one in woburn is a couple of years, it was closed for a while, and not too good for a period before that, is the folks are refering to here still located in the old wey lu's building? do they serve dimsum during the week, or only on weekedns? if during the week has anyone been on a weekday?

                                  1. re: qianning

                                    yes, it is the old Wey Lu's, and yes, I think they now serve weekday dim sum. Hope to try it this week.

                                    1. re: justbeingpolite

                                      if you do, i'd love to hear a report...

                                      1. re: qianning

                                        I went the week before last. It wasn't very full, so the carts weren't mving too much. Nothing too exciting on the carts, ether, but my expectations weren't that high since it was weekday. The shu mai and har gow were fine. I had to wait a bit for BBQ pork buns but they were freshly made so it was worth it. I don't know the name of it but the long, slippery noodle wrapped around a filling with a squirt of a sauce was my favorite.

                                        Fried shrimp rolls were good, although everything on the fried cart was not freshly fried. I didn't eat the taro cakes because they were both cold and tasted oily. They asked me if I wanted them wrapped and I said no because they were cold. The server brought a perosn who seemed ot be a manager over and she offered to heat it up but that was at the end of the meal, and since they tasted oily and kind of gross already, I didn't think refrying them was going to improve the flavor much. She didn't take them off my check.

                                        New China Pearl
                                        288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

                              2. re: hargau

                                hargirl?, thanks to yourcomments about china pearl(CP) in woburn (4 min. from my house!)we tried CPwoburn today.We were late- 2:15 and they close 3pm -but they were so helpful that when i asked for dishes that were no longer on the carts (Eggplant sdwiches w/ shrimp filling; Baked pork bao ; Taro shrimp fritters) they brought them to me fresh out of the fire. In addition to these we had Sticky rice in banana? lotus? leaf; Shrimp your name; Shrimp and Spinach dumplings;Shrimp and pork balls on mushroom cap;Udon noodles w/ beef and scallions; and Green tea rice flour balls filled with sweet black sesame paste. We were pretty pleased. I was really struck by the LARGE size of the items. The taro shrimp fritters were easily 3x larger than those at the old Shanghai Gate.(the CP version wasn't quite as good quality shrimp as the SG ones, but they were still good.)This larger size was found in almost every dish except the Baked Pork Bao. Though i loved the texture of the udon dish, I found the flavor lacking though My Love was thrilled w/ them. I myself was thrilled with the Green tea Rice dumplings filled with runny sweet black sesame paste. They were very quickly fried and the crunch added a delightful element to this dish (which i had never seen before.) Service was O.K. to helpful; the room was comfortable and quite quiet this late in the service. We look forward to more of this delightful respite ( today from the backbreaking work of planting hundreds of bulbs. )Th you hargau et al.

                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                  Today we went to NCP (NEW china pearl) in woburn again . (They told me that they are different from the Chinatown China Pearl.) It is most definitely better to arrive by 1:30 because that is the time when the crowds and the carts begin to dwindle significantly. The new things we tried today were the :
                                  *Yu choy -a very abundant head of this delicious green, w/ soy oyster sauce.
                                  *Clams in Black Beans w/ long cubanelle peppers- good but not great ;however, seriously lg .portion for $6
                                  *deep fried taro ball filled w/ savory pork- excellent filling but tiny amount of it.
                                  * daikon cake- boring
                                  I am always tempted by non Western desserts; things that have a major savory ingredient , so I was intrigued to see something new- what appeared to be sweet black bean jelly cylinders. Next time I guess.

                                  As to cost, dishes seemed to be in the categories of $2.50. $3.50. $4 and $ 6. Unlike most dim sum eaters, I rarely eat an entire piece [most of the baked and fried items are 75-90% starch wrapper , and i discard most of the starch in favor of the delicious (tiny dab of )protein filling.The steamed/ seared dumplings have their starch/protein ratio reversed.] Anyway, we typically spend $40 for our 2 person dim sum. look forw to going to chinatown next time.
                                  p.s. does anyone know which dim sum are made w/ water chestnut flour?

                                  New China Pearl
                                  288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

                          2. re: JoJo5

                            Hei La Moon is on the first floor of a building with a parking garage and they validate. I can't remember how much it is but it's very reasonable.

                            Hei La Moon
                            88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                            1. re: Chris VR

                              i forget the amounts too but wanted to mention that the validation process is very odd. You pay the full normal price when you enter/park in the garage. then you go eat and give your ticket to the hostess as you leave. You then pay her more money and she stamps the ticket. Finally when you exit the garage you give the validated ticket to the garage dude and you get the original amount back.

                              1. re: hargau

                                I was there yesterday. You pay $11 to get into the garage, then you pay $6 at Hei La Moon for a parking voucher. Then, on your way out of the garage, you get back $11 from the cashier for the voucher. That's on weekends. It's wacky, but it works out to $6 for parking and you don't spend half an hour looking for a spot on the street.

                          1. re: calvnhobs

                            Winsor serves all day long. Maybe you should start there. Yes, you lose the cart experience (overrated, in my experience, in Boston) but you can pick and choose and keep up wtih your bill.

                            On the other hand, no matter how many items we order at China Pearl or Hei La Moon, the eventual tally always comes out to be way less than I imagined it would come to.

                            1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                              I think it's physically impossible to spend more than $12-15 per person at dim sum. Keeping up with the bill isn't really a problem.

                            2. re: calvnhobs

                              I really like Chau Chow City in Chinatown as well, with one caveat: you have to be a LITTLE bit adventurous, because the servers do not speak English (and neither do most of the diners -- if you think that a restaurant's quality is measured by how many people of that ethnicity actually eat there, this is the place for you). You'll be ordering off of visual cues, and whether you hear "shrimp" or "pork" etc. But if you're cool ordering things on sight and trying them, it's just awesome -- they do the more common stuff (i.e. shrimp shumai) really well, and they go as far out as chicken feet, etc. Plus, it's EXTREMELY affordable -- I don't know how much all of the individual items cost because the receipt isn't in English, but when they total it for you, it's almost NEVER more than $10-$15 per person.

                              If you're looking for something more "comfortable" you should also think about Myers+Chang in the South End. They serve a lot of interesting dishes, and they're always totally delicious, though it's not really an "authentic" Dim Sum experience. It's also a little bit pricey, but hey, it all depends on what sort of Dim Sum experience you want.

                            3. Two Questions:

                              1) Has anyone tried the dim sum at Great Taste Restaurant & Bakery yet? I wanted to, but they stop serving dim sum at 4pm. I did ask the waitress about the dim sum and she confirmed that all dim sum there is made on site by their chef; then cooked/steamed upon ordering.

                              2) Is it me or does Windsor always has an bathroom disinfectant smell? I've been twice and both times the disinfectant smell was very prominent as soon as I entered the place. It's not the most pleasant smell, as I associate it with eating INSIDE the bathroom.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: y2000k

                                i tried the har gow at Great Taste but thought it was below average (can't recall the specifics, except that I could not finish them)...I did notice some smell at Winsor but it was early in the morning, I think it must usually dissipate by lunchtime

                                1. re: barleywino

                                  The 2 times I was at Windsor:
                                  ~ 9am on a weekday
                                  ~ 6pm on a weekday

                                2. re: y2000k

                                  Never smelled that and am sensitive to such things. I have been several times, but alays during lunchtime.

                                  Winsor is my favorite place for dim sum, with Gitlo hold a special place as well (though it does not compete directly with the others in my mind). I went to China Pearl the other day with some dim sum newbies, and though they loved it, I thought the quality was noticeably below that of Winsor, both in freshness and in taste. The CP stuff was pretty muddy tasting in that several items tasted the same, no bright snap of shrimp or pork flavor, nor noticeable seasoning highlights. They were also almost all overcooked or cold. And this was at 11:45 on Friday, during a pretty big rush it seemed. If not with the newbies I would definitely have been across the street, and now I'll be on the watch (or sniff) for any off smell. Still, better disinfectant than........

                                  1. re: Zatan

                                    I think anytime you have cart based dimsum on a weekday its likely to be cold or overcooked. Just basic supply/demand. Menu based dimsum is always best on off hours. Yea i know, lots of people may be there during the week but its not the same as all floors open and still 20min wait out the door crowded. For me its a Sunday only thing and only when i can arrive in the 11-12 timeframe. This is regardless of the place but more so in places that are less popular to begin with like CP woburn.

                                  2. re: y2000k

                                    I have tried several dim sum items (various dumplings) at Great Taste and found them to be solid but not outstanding. I prefer to stick with pork dishes/scallion pancakes at Great Taste and go elsewhere for dim sum.