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Dim sum- the drill or bad interpretation?

DH and I recently became fans of dim sum. I think I'm starting to see a pattern in the way the employees serve- tell me if you've noticed this too.

When we first sit down we get more or less swarmed by all the people with all the carts. We try to space our selections out a little, but after about twenty minutes it gets harder and harder to flag down the people with the carts. Is this so you'll fill up fast and get the hell out of the restaurant, or is it in my imagination?

Not looking to get all butt-hurt, we don't plan to spend the day there, is an hour too much for two people to take up valuable space at dim sum? This is at a two-seater table. It's also one of the only shows in town for dim sum.

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  1. It depends on the time of day you go (well that's my experience here in Montreal). It's packed between 11am and 1pm, so lots of carts and selection. It starts to slow down considerably after that so it's a lot harder to get what you want. Don't try to space out your selections too much though, Dim Sum is a war if you see what you want get it while you still can: Survival of the fittest. Some people are walking around looking into the different carts to snatch their favorite dumplings. When the har gow or shumai come along get them while you can cause you won't be seeing them anymore :D.

    1hour seems quite fine for 2ppl.

    1. That has more or less been my experience as someone eating dim sum since childhood all over Los Angeles. Even if the restaurant is relatively empty, we'll get asked once or twice early on, then basically ignored unless we request something. This is usually not a problem since we'll just grab everything we want up front, but I can see how it could be troublesome if you want to take your time and maybe don't know the name of everything you want yet (there are definitely things I point to without knowing the names of).

      In my dim sum places I've been to, if you ask for an item from a waiter, they'll just go in the back and grab it from a cart or wherever they load the carts and bring it to you. This can make it easier to take your time.

      1. This "dim sum menu" might help you know the names of things and then you can order. We usually take plenty with the first rush and then order more if we wish.

        http://chinesefood.about.com/library/...

        1. That's one of the problems with cart service. It's quick, and when I ate in Hong Kong, everyone seemed to be in a rush. (But that seems to be true generally in HK.)
          But you have to think about it from the restaurant owner's point of view. What's he going to do with the left over food? The staff probably gets sick of it, and there's so much that can't be stored. So they try to keep the carts full from 11 to 1, and then begin to shut it down.

          A lot of restaurants in Toronto now no longer use carts. You fill out a slip indicating what you want, and they bring you dishes as they are prepared. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The disadvantages are it's slower, and you need to know what you're ordering; you can't just look at the cart and get something that strikes your fancy. The advantages are your food is generally piping hot when they bring it to you, there's considerably less waste for the restaurant, and - this may just be an impression on my part - but the portions seem to be larger and the price is competitive with the cart spots.

          1 Reply
          1. re: FrankD

            one other big adavantage of the slips, you don't run the risk of them happenting not to serve any of the Dim Sum you like that day (which can happen in places that have a very extensive menu, but don't make eveything on it every time) And if it happens that they arent making what you love that day you'll probably find it out a lot earlier than you would with the carts.

          2. In Manhattan and Flushing, New York, the dim sum joints are so extremely busy and so crowded, I just don't think that they have the *time* to make the effort to get people out by withholding visits from the cart.

            Additionally, the people who push the carts in these places have enough trouble figuring out how to get to every area of the dining room before going back to the kitchen for a refill. I just don't think they're capable of keeping track of time for each table, and adjusting their trips accordingly.

            Indeed, if one has a favorite item one's waiter can bring it, either from a cart across the room or from the kitchen.

            5 Replies
            1. re: shaogo

              At one place in SF, we sit close to where the carts come out of the kitchen :)

              I also agree that, as I've become able to order, I do think the food is hotter. (How couldn't it be?)

              1. re: shaogo

                That's a real good point, Shaogo (she wrote as she suddenly realized that dim sum wasn't always all about her! ;-D ) .

                The people with the carts really do hustle around. The restaurant gets really busy really early on and stays that way, it appears to me. I just wondered since our last three experiences were nearly identical. We do tend to go early and the place starts filling up right after we get there- that probably has more to do with it than any plot to get rid of us!

                1. re: EWSflash

                  Early??? We go between 730 and 800 a.m in SF and are there by 900 in NYC.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Well, our place doesn't open until 10:00 am, so it would be fairly pointless to go much earlier than that. Otherwise, I would.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      I hate that! I see those but gratefully have options. That is, on the occasions when we GET dim sum. Where we live, we don't even have decent Chinese food.