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Dim Sum on Sunday, Feb 6th... impact of Chinese New Year?

d
dot_boston Jan 21, 2011 12:29 PM

Hi All!
I'm a long time reader, first time poster. I'm getting together a group for dim sum and the date that works for most of us is Sunday, February 6th. We are going to a place in Chinatown - don't know exactly which one yet but I have found great options from other threads here.

Here's my question: given it's right after Chinese New Year, is this a bad time to go? Will it be like going out on New Year's Eve? Will there be hordes of folks celebrating CNY - which could be kind of fun but a long wait? Or will most be at home celebrating with their families (including the A team that would normally be in the kitchen)? I don't go for dim sum very often so I want to make sure I'm not setting up myself and the group for a less than ideal experience before we even walk in the door.

Thanks!

  1. t
    three of us Jan 21, 2011 12:33 PM

    Don't know about the 6th but typically the Sunday after CNY is when the martial arts clubs do the lion dance at local businesses for $ and offerings of fruit for good luck. It's usually crazy busy in Chinatown then.

    2 Replies
    1. re: three of us
      d
      dot_boston Jan 22, 2011 06:08 AM

      Thanks for the heads up on the lion dance. I went on line and read that it will be on Feb 13th this year. That would be a fun experience!

      1. re: dot_boston
        s
        Spike Jan 22, 2011 07:33 AM

        fun but mobbbbbbbbbed. Just so you're prepared...

    2. t
      tysonmcneely Jan 21, 2011 12:49 PM

      I went to get Dim Sum two years ago on the Sunday of Chinese New Year. (I think the day before was actual Chinese New Year's IIRC) Anyway, 4 of us went to Hei La Moon, and we didn't have to wait for a table. But, I believe it was around 2pm, so it certainly wasn't at the most popular. The room however was full of people. I don't know what it will be like, and what time you're going, but this was my experience.

      -----
      Hei La Moon
      88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

      1. h
        hargau Jan 21, 2011 01:09 PM

        I like to go around CNY.. CNY starts on the 3rd this year and lasts 15 days. Usually there are some things going on in the streets but if anything i find the food is always better with more turn over. No people=food sitting on carts and getting cold.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hargau
          d
          dot_boston Jan 22, 2011 06:13 AM

          I agree...I like the idea of more people, it will feel fun and festive. I just want to avoid the mediocre food experience that can too often be a part of eating out on a major holiday (Mother's Day, Easter, etc). Sounds like this won't be the case.

        2. f
          FoodDabbler Jan 22, 2011 08:17 AM

          As others have said, CNY is a fun time to do dim sum in Chinatown. It's crowded in Boston, but nowhere near as crowded as in New York where you're literally packed like frogs in a barrel and can move only an inch or so per second. Go early for dim sum (10ish) to avoid long waits.

          5 Replies
          1. re: FoodDabbler
            j
            Jenny Ondioline Jan 22, 2011 10:17 AM

            Yeah, I'm not normally one for crowds (we have a special term for this in my family, commemorating the time my brother kidney-punched someone in a shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving), but Chinatown on or around CNY is a lot of fun, and the big dim sum palaces (China Pearl, for example) can handle the crowds so that the wait won't be *too* eternal.

            1. re: Jenny Ondioline
              d
              dot_boston Jan 22, 2011 01:57 PM

              China Pearl is on my short list of places to go. Do they take reservations? We will be a group of 8-10 gathering at 12:30pm. (I'm sure I can find that info elsewhere but thought I'd ask... Chow folks are always in the know on these things!)

              -----
              China Pearl Restaurant
              288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

              1. re: dot_boston
                j
                Jenny Ondioline Jan 22, 2011 02:01 PM

                They do not take reservations, but my experience (regular visits with a group that often numbers 8-12) is that larger groups actually get seated faster than smaller ones there. Even on CNY, you likely won't have too huge a wait.

                1. re: dot_boston
                  f
                  FoodDabbler Jan 22, 2011 02:03 PM

                  I don't think they take reservations for dim sum. At least, I've never tried, and have never seen people skip the line because they had reservations. Everybody seems to take a number. You'll have a bit of a wait at 12:30, but as Jenny said it should not be eternally long.

                  1. re: dot_boston
                    lipoff Jan 22, 2011 10:10 PM

                    No reservations for Dim Sum, but if you are a truly large group (think 20+, not 8-10 people) it's a good idea to call ahead. What they will do is plan ahead to seat your party at adjoining large tables. Have done this regularly at Hei La Moon and China Pearl.

                    -----
                    Hei La Moon
                    88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                    China Pearl Restaurant
                    288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

              2. KWagle Jan 23, 2011 09:57 PM

                I haven't tried every dim sum option in Boston, but Winsor Dim Sum Cafe has produced consistently great dim sum since it opened a few years ago, and they serve until closing, which means you can go late and avoid the rush.

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

                18 Replies
                1. re: KWagle
                  f
                  FoodDabbler Jan 24, 2011 06:56 AM

                  I'd say part of the CNY experience in Chinatown is *not* avoiding the crowds (within reason). And while I'm a fan of the quality at menu-based dim sum places, on this particular day the festive atmosphere at the cart-based palaces such as China Pearl is to me an essential part of the fun.

                  1. re: FoodDabbler
                    d
                    dot_boston Jan 24, 2011 07:19 AM

                    FD, I agree. Normally I would try to avoid the peak hour/mad rush, but in this case the idea of a crowded room with a celebretory air appeals to me. As does the whole cart experience. When in Rome, right?

                    1. re: dot_boston
                      s
                      Spike Jan 24, 2011 07:32 AM

                      BTW, if you're walking around outside, earplugs wouldn't be a bad idea...especially if you're photographing the lion dances since you can't cover your ears.
                      Firecrackers are loud...not gunshot loud, but loud enough to be annoying...

                      1. re: Spike
                        d
                        dot_boston Jan 24, 2011 07:40 AM

                        Ha! I wouldn't have thought of that. The lion dances are the following weekend but I imagine there could be firecrackers the Sunday we will be there. Thanks for the suggestion.

                        1. re: Spike
                          f
                          FoodDabbler Jan 24, 2011 07:41 AM

                          (1) Lion dance, and (2) Firecracker debris, Chinatown Boston, CNY 2001.

                           
                           
                          1. re: FoodDabbler
                            d
                            dot_boston Jan 24, 2011 07:52 AM

                            Wowza!

                        2. re: dot_boston
                          h
                          hargau Jan 24, 2011 07:45 AM

                          I would recommend Hei la Moon over China Pearl for Cart based. My last few visits to CP were not that great.

                          1. re: hargau
                            d
                            dot_boston Jan 24, 2011 07:54 AM

                            Hi Hargau, good to know. I've been on the fence between CP and Hei la Moon. Anything in particluar you like at HLM, either from the carts or off the menu?

                            1. re: dot_boston
                              barleywino Jan 24, 2011 08:01 AM

                              i like the pan fried fish dumpling at HLM

                              1. re: dot_boston
                                h
                                hargau Jan 24, 2011 08:03 AM

                                Off the menu all we ever get is an order of pan fried noodles and sometimes a order of beef chow foon. With 8-10 people you can pretty much try everything off the carts. We usually have about that many people and get multiples of most items. Only 1 of larger items and items we are not familiar with (very rare)...

                                Some of our favorites include:
                                Shrimp chow fun (not to be confused with chowfoon)
                                Most of the fried items but in particular the triangular shrimp/chive, taro dumplings and the fried shrimp with taro outside.
                                They have the ribs in many styles. The best is if you can get the pork ribs with taro under. If not the rice noodles under.
                                All your standard steamed dumplings.. Hargau, shumai, seafood/chive dumpling, etc..
                                For dessert we like the egg custard tarts and the buns with the crunchy yellow on top and the yellow bean inside. Some look just like them but are empty (bummer!) so ask to make sure they are filled! The mango or coconut jellos are interesting too. I have a very out of date blog at dimsumtimes.blogspot.com with many photos of items at various places including cp and hlm

                                1. re: hargau
                                  f
                                  FoodDabbler Jan 24, 2011 08:08 AM

                                  Do they have soft tofu in sugar syrup, and that tapioca-coconut soup?

                                  1. re: FoodDabbler
                                    h
                                    hargau Jan 24, 2011 08:11 AM

                                    HLM does have the soft tofu in syrup it is in a big wooden tub that is pushed around on a cart. Have never seen the tapioca coconut soup, maybe a menu item although i have only had this at a SE asian restaurant i frequent.

                                    1. re: hargau
                                      f
                                      FoodDabbler Jan 24, 2011 08:20 AM

                                      I've had the tapioca coconut soup at China Pearl. It's the favorite sweet of some kids we've been taking each year to Chinatown for CNY for 11 years -- so we can't do without. (They were 3 when we began and are now 14, and are firm believers in eating exactly the same things every year.)

                                      1. re: FoodDabbler
                                        h
                                        hargau Jan 24, 2011 08:25 AM

                                        Maybe someone else will chime in on that one. Ive never seen it on carts at CP or HLM or any dimsum house in boston for that matter so perhaps its a menu item. We always get our sweet tapioca fix with bubble teas after anyway!

                                        1. re: hargau
                                          f
                                          FoodDabbler Jan 24, 2011 08:41 AM

                                          The coconut tapioca is definitely a cart item at China Pearl, sometimes on the same cart as their wooden tub with the soft tofu in syrup. I haven't seen it elsewhere, not even in New York.

                                          1. re: FoodDabbler
                                            Allstonian Jan 24, 2011 10:10 AM

                                            I've seen coconut tapioca at CP as well, though I haven't had it in a long time.

                                            1. re: Allstonian
                                              h
                                              hargau Jan 24, 2011 10:40 AM

                                              interesting. Well if i can convince my group to go back to CP again, then i will look out for it.

                                          2. re: hargau
                                            f
                                            Fukui San Feb 3, 2011 10:21 AM

                                            I've seen the tapioca soup at Hei La Moon, but only once. I haven't been to China Pearl in a bit, but they always had the tapioca soup.

                                            -----
                                            Hei La Moon
                                            88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                                            China Pearl Restaurant
                                            288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

                        3. c
                          Chefmyron Feb 3, 2011 09:41 AM

                          Oh oh, we're showing up from the west with about 14. Thinking HLM because of the easy parking and lots of room. Only thing they're missing is a walk up hot bar with the clams etc and so far have not found chive dumplings there.
                          Also, I agree with hargau, CP has gone down hill a bit (although a fried soft shell crab last time we went was amazing).
                          Important to get there reasonably early too.
                          Maybe we'll converge

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Chefmyron
                            h
                            hargau Feb 3, 2011 12:36 PM

                            HLM always has the clams on a cart with the fried squid. Which chive dumplings? At hlm we always get a shrimp/chive triangular fried one as well as a panfried disc/puck shaped one with similar filling and thicker wrappers.

                            We may be at HLM then too!

                            1. re: hargau
                              c
                              Chefmyron Feb 3, 2011 01:01 PM

                              The flat round fried ones you call shrimp and chive cakes in your dim sum times. Crispy on top & bottom. Very full of that skunky chive flavor. What is the Cantonese name for these?
                              Have you seen them at HLM?

                              1. re: Chefmyron
                                h
                                hargau Feb 3, 2011 01:04 PM

                                Yes we have seen those at hlm and normally get them. I was there last week, we didnt get them, so not sure if we just skipped them or didnt see them... I dont know the cantonese name.
                                This one (taken at chau chau city years ago)
                                http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/25...

                            2. re: Chefmyron
                              d
                              dot_boston Feb 5, 2011 01:42 PM

                              Ha! Yes, maybe we'll converge. But it sounds like you may be there earlier than we will be. We are meeting at 12:30 - later than I hoped but necessary for some in our group. This is my first dim sum so I'm very excited. (Well, not the first exactly but last time was over 10 years ago in NYC.) My strategy is to identify a table who clearly knows the ropes and watch which carts they take from! :)

                              The good news is that tomorrow looks to be a fairly nice day to wander around Chinatown before or after.

                              1. re: dot_boston
                                h
                                hargau Feb 5, 2011 01:48 PM

                                New strategy for you.. You said you have 8-10 people. My strategy would be to try everything. With that many people you can easily get 1 of everything. In fact many items you will need multiples of cause they only have 3-4 pcs.. However if everyone is new to dimsum you can start with 1 and cut them in half. (you will have to ask for a knife)... Some items are already large enough to share a taste for everyone.

                                As far as looking at which carts people take off of, every cart has items that are great. If you dont like something, no big deal each dish is only like $4 or so.. With that many people it makes no difference. Its hard to spend more than $17-18per person regardless

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