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Jan 18, 2010 07:08 AM

Asian Court - I seem to be "Doom Sum"-ed

I hadn't been to Asian Court for dim sum for quite a while. This is because the last time I went, I went by myself, and rather than seat a single person at a table (which could be more profitably occupied by more people), I was sent to one of the sushi bar stools. This was fine, except for one thing - all but one of the serving cart persons refused to acknowledge me, even why I attempted to flag them down, presumably because I was clearly sitting at the (closed) sushi bar, and must therefore not be having dim sum. After a long time with only a little food from the one renegade cart person, I cut my losses and asked for the bill.

Tee-Hee. So sorry.

Well, after a long time, the anger cooled, and I decided to go back. The place was packed, and mostly with seemingly Asian faces - always a good sign for a dim sum place. I got my number and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After about an hour, I had seen all the parties who had been there before me seated, and most of them even finished and were coming out. But I figured that maybe they were seating all the multi-person parties first. As one person by myself, I am admittedly a potentially less profitable use of a table than even a couple. I was NOT, however, offered the sushi stools. - perhaps they learned from that one.

What honked me off, though, was when the lone other single person, who had come in a good hour after I did, got seated ahead of me. I was about to protest, but at just about that time, they figured it out on their own.

In their system, they give you a little tag with a number on it, then they write the number from the tag and the number of people in your party on a dim sum billing sheet, which they put on a clipboard, and use to dole out tables in order, according to the size of the tables available.

The only problem was that by this time, they had an empty clip board, and I was still standing there. What to do?
"Do you have a number?"
"Yes, YOU gave it to me, a long time ago!"
The number tag was requested and taken, but I was still not taken to a table.

There was some heated discussion in Chinese between the staff members, which seemed by the body language, gesticulation, facial expressions and tone of voices to be along the lines of "I TOLD you he'd been waiting!" and "It's not MY fault!"
There was a bit of a wait, and then I was informed that I had been given a NEW number, and surprise, surprise, THAT number just happened to be ready!

Tee Hee. So sorry.

At this point I was so frustrated, discouraged, and furious that I can't comment much on the dim sum itself, other than one dish of small fried fish fillets which, upon ordering, were dutifully taken back to the kitchen to be microwaved. I thought the whole point of dim sum cart service was "fresh and hot", but I guess I was mistaken. That said, if it was cold by the time I ordered it, I'm glad she heated it up. I suppose it's better than food going to waste, and it actually was pretty nice when I got it back.

Anyway, I refuse to speculate on the cause of the recurring dim sum seating problems I seem to have at this place. By the way, I've had issues other times, as well - I only mention the most recent two.

Maybe they have a problem with me personally, for some unknown reason. I just get my number and stand there silently in the waiting area - I'm not confrontional, rude, or otherwise obnoxious, but on the other hand, neither do I ask "I've been here a long time, is something wrong?", assuming that there is method to their madness, and that I just need to wait my turn.

Maybe they have problems with me as looking like an example of some "type" or "group" of people they have issues with.

Maybe they don't deal well with single persons, rather than couples or groups, for the "best use of the table" reasons mentioned previously.

Or maybe they just have occasional screw-ups, and I have the wildly bad luck of being the party it happens to happen to when it happens.

Dunno. But after it happening yet AGAIN, I decided it ought to be posted for the rest of you to take into consideration as you see fit. I really want to like this place, and Baltimore is seriously lacking in dim sum choices, but my luck has been ridiculous.

One hopes that maybe Hunan Taste will start a dim sum service on weekends and up the competition level.

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  1. You're far too gracious (or too dedicated to getting dim sum). I would never wait that long for a table, particularly by myself. Maybe next time you should bring a cot. <g>

    6 Replies
    1. re: MikeR


      I fell victim to the classic situation where every time one checks one's watch, one thinks "Surely, it will be any second now - this can't possibly go on much longer!" And at least with dim sum, the "If it's this packed, it must be really good" line of reasoning also applies.Dim sum tends to be one of those things where crowds aren't there for "the scene", or the celebrity chef, or anything other than good chow.

      I normally wouldn't wait that long either for a "regular" restaurant of whatever sort, but what can I say, I had a real jones for good dim sum at the time.

      1. re: Warthog

        For another data point, I went Saturday, opted to go late at 1:15 rather than hit the 11:45 line, waited about 15 minutes as a table of two, had an actual table, the drink/special order servers were fairly quick, the cart dim sum was hot, varied and above the quality had there in the past, and there were trays of scallion dumplings and a couple other just-fried items brought around three times by a manager-looking guy and then later a server-level person as runners. The har gow and shu mai, which age badly, were hot and good. I think they suffer from this personpower and issue: Maybe they have little core waitstaff as they are nearly deserted most of the not dim sum time, which is too bad because their regular menu is really nice with a good "pasta-lovers" selection of non-standards, and it seems on the weekend, the staff is pick-up, friends and family, like college kid relatives, not professional servers. The weeknight waitress was their supervisor, in a black pantsuit. The owner woman was running around being gracious, nobody was frantic. The only problem I experienced was the recurring one, it smells like tires at the door from Firestone next door. You can't smell them at the table, but it does create an initial air and it's detectable in the waiting non-area. I think the only choice if you want decent Baltimore-area dim sum without going to Wheaton or the remarkably bad Zhongshow is to go here late and hope they recover from the noon slam, but I will go back soon--it was nicer and better than I expected after the time when dim sum is at peak bloom, 12-1. I've been there alone, seemed similar, you can sit with us anytime, WH. PS, they said they had to-order dim sum weekday lunchtime.

        1. re: chowsearch


          I agree - the dim sum is usually quite good in my experience, and other than the strange "let me go heat that up for you" fish, it was good this time. It's just that I've had non-food-related seating and service issues so high a percentage of the times I've been there that it's a bit unnerving.

          I should also note that in most of the cases, when I've had problems, iot has appeared that all around me things seemed to be operating smoothly, which makes my experiences all the more puzzling. If I was there and every other table was having problems, too, it would almost seem more easily explained - every place has an off day once in a while.

          The other strange thing is that it's never been the same sort of problem twice, as one might expect if it was just a single bad server or a flawed process. For example, I don't know how they managed to lose the dim sum slip with corresponding to my number tag, but they did. You'd think that if they somehow took two slips when seating another party, somebody would have noticed, and if they had taken my slip in place of somebody else's, there'd have still been one left over - just not the one matching my number tag. It's not just that things got screwed up, it's that I can't figure out HOW, based on the process they were using. Even mix-ups should have come to light fairly quickly, but somehow they didn't.

          I don't know why I seem to attract or trigger such weirdness, but it's happened too many times and in too many unique and (for lack of a better word) creative ways to go unreported. I want to like the place, but I also would hate to see the same sort of things happen to others. Perhaps being on guard can help others to be a bit more inquisitive or assertive at the first notice of something odd, and catch the screw-ups before things get really off track.

            1. re: chowsearch

              Why not just go earlier, before the crowds? It opens at 10:30. We got there at 11:15 AM, place was only 3/4 full so we were seated immediately. Best dim sum dishes were Chinese broccoli, roast duck (though I would have liked it a bit more crispy), lovely chewy Chinese ribs, bean curd skin crepe, and a large (for dim sum) yellow wrapped pork and mushroom piece. Steamed pork buns were surprisingly forgettable, as was the fried fish, even though ours came hot. The best dish of all, ordered off the Authentic Chinese Menu, was pork intestines with sour cabbage. Wow! tender texture, unctuous mouthfeel, with the contrasting crisp sour and sweet cabbage strips, and black bean flavoring. This was a winner.

              I'm sorry Warthog for what you went through. Unfair as it is, maybe you need to get a group together if you choose to return

              1. re: crowsonguy

                Interesting. Haven't made it out there yet -- maybe will try this Saturday!

                If you liked the pork intestines with sour cabbage, you should try the "Sauteed pig's intestine w/duck blood in spicy sauce" -- if done well, it's awesome. I'm curious to see what else is on their "authentic chinese" menu... :)