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Feb 26, 2011 12:28 PM

Nom Wah Tea Parlor – Surprisingly Good Dim Sum at One of Chinatown’s Oldest Restaurants

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Nom Wah is one of Chinatown’s oldest restaurants; in fact it may be the oldest restaurant in Chinatown as it opened in 1920 (91 years old!!). This was the first time I’ve eaten here as I’d always heard it was more of a nostalgia type of place and the food was just so so. I’m not much for nostalgia if the food isn’t good, but I recently read this article ( that discusses how the nephew of the owner had taken over the restaurant and revamped it. A friend had also recently told me that the food is now good, so I decided it was time to try it out.

The décor is literally a throwback to a different time. It’s got old school red booths, red and white checkered table clothes, really old school looking counters and pictures on the wall from ages ago. It doesn’t look like a Chinatown place at all, but I liked the décor and it is nice and clean. It also happens to be on Doyers Street, which is one of the cooler looking streets in Chinatown. The service was very good and the owner was a nice guy. They do speak English very well here and it’s probably among the most English friendly places in Chinatown.

One thing that I really liked about the place is that everything is cooked to order as opposed to having carts. Very few good dim sum places in Hong Kong have carts anymore as the dim sum is just so much fresher when you cook to order. They also kept their menu pretty short, which I think is great because the downfall of so many restaurants in Chinatown is that they try to offer everything under the sun, which is something you rarely see in Asia, but for some reason is very prevalent in NY.

Here’s what we got:
- Tea: They’ve got an interesting tea list, we got the chrysanthemum tea and it was standard, but good.
- Parsley and Scallion Rice Roll: This was regular cheung fan (steamed Chinese rice crepe) with chopped parsley and scallions then covered in a lighter sweet soy sauce. The rice crepe was fresh and had good texture. The flavor of the parsley (tastes like cilantro, I think they’re basically the same thing) and scallion with the soy sauce were great. Overall, this was quite good. 7.5/10
- Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao): There are four items on the menu that are circled in red and these are the house specialties. The cha siu bao is one of those specialties. The bun was excellent, very fluffy with a nice slightly sweet flavor, definitely among the best buns in Chinatown. The filling was pretty decent as it wasn’t too sweet and I don’t like the really sweet filling that is common among Chinatown places. However, the bun to filling ratio was way off as there was way too much bun and barely any filling. If they changed that this could be one of the better cha siu bao in the city. 7.25/10
- Shrimp and Snow Pea Dumplings: These were steamed dumplings with chopped shrimp and snow pea leaves. The skins were nice as they weren’t too thick, were freshly steamed and had good texture. The shrimp was very fresh and the snow pea leaves were a nice addition. Overall, these were surprisingly good. 7.5/10
- Stuffed Green Peppers: These were green bell peppers stuffed with a minced shrimp cake and covered in a black bean sauce. The shrimp cake was quite good, nice fresh minced shrimp. The green bell pepper was good, but the slight downfall of the dish was the black bean sauce while not gloppy was quite bland flavor-wise. I also prefer it in the spicy green peppers. Decent, but not amazing. 6.75/10
- Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce: This was a very standard, but well prepared version of this dish. Simple boiled Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, not much more to it than that. The vegetables were cooked well, so they retained their crunch without being over cooked. 7.5/10

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at Nom Wah, it probably has some of the better dim sum in Chinatown right now and the environment is definitely very unique in Chinatown. I’d recommend checking it out.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor
13 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. Thanks Lau! I think they got a mention in the NY Times recently too which mentioned an upgrade. Another reason to visit Chinatown.

    1 Reply
    1. re: scoopG

      yah it was a fun place, glad they upgraded it

    2. Thanks! BTW, how are they on MSG?

      1 Reply
      1. re: rouxdauphine

        i didn't notice it, MSG doesn't do much to me, so i'm not hyper sensitive to it, but i dont think they used alot here

      2. That was the first place I ever had dim sum, probably around 1975. I don't know how I feel about the upgrade, but I'm glad the place has survived.

        5 Replies
        1. re: small h

          well according the article they haven't changed anything decor wise and it is still the same family's ownership, but it seems that the food is what got an upgrade

          how was it back then?

          1. re: Lau

            It was definitely a cart place back then. The clientele was mostly Chinese, but Jewish families like mine ate there as well. The waiters were about a thousand years old and wore black vests. The other Chinese restaurants I'd been to were in NJ and pretty Americanized, so I can't say if what I ate at Nom Wah's then was any good by my standards now (at the time, my favorite Chinese dishes were Shrimp Almond Ding and Wor Shu Op). But I remember various kinds of steamed dumplings, clams in black bean sauce, spare ribs, and sticky rice in lotus leaves.

            1. re: small h

              ah sounds quite a bit different, the waitresses are all women and aren't that old and there are no carts. the clientele though definitely has a significant non-chinese population far more than most ctown restaurants although i guess its likely b/c of the media coverage as well as being very english friendly

              1. re: small h

                I also had dim sum at Nom Wah in 1981 or so with cousins who were regulars. It was the first time I'd ever had dim sum, and I remember being amazed when they tallied the bill by counting the plates. A curry puff was the defining bite, along with the famous almond cookies.

                1. re: Windy

                  you should try it out again, id be curious to how the dim sum stacks up to way back then

          2. Thanks Lau!
            What was interesting on their tea list? Do they offer good aged teas, as some HK establishments?

            1 Reply
            1. re: diprey11

              well actually if you go to my blog and look at the pics, i actually took pics of the tea menu so u can read to see what they offer

              most chinese places in NY tend to offer just hong cha (black tea) and occasionally will have something more like ju hua cha (chrysanthemum), so its just more that they offer alot more in the tea arena, i'd have to try them to see how they are

            2. "...everything is cooked to order as opposed to having carts"

              Wow. They've definitely changed. Have long stopped in here, at all times of day, weekends and weekdays, for the almond cookies, maybe a cup of tea. Loved the old school atmosphere and especially the tea tins lining the high shelves. Time definitely seems to slow down at this place, so, overall, I like it. Our few dim sum experiences, albeit several years ago by now, were, number one, of the cart variety and, number two, of the extremely greasy, almost stomach churning variety. I'm in Chinatown quite a bit, and never, ever see anyone in there either. That's not the sort of thing that bothers me - just makes me wonder how they survive.

              Thanks, as always, for your report.


              3 Replies
              1. re: Polecat

                yah i've heard similar things about the old food at this place and i also never saw anyone in there either....seems like things have changed quite a bit, nothing was greasy at all actually

                btw i asked them if they have almond cookies and they said they are getting the equipment set up and they should have it in a couple weeks

                1. re: Lau

                  The almond cookies and tea became their thing. Whenever I walked in, I'd see the cookies stacked in boxes, several of them. I figured all this time they did a brisk business selling a bunch of those to go, all while no one was looking. But anytime I read comments from other customers, it was almost always about the cookies. It's actually great that they've changed things up again. If the photo on your website pictures, say, 15 or so customers, that would be 15 customers more than I'd usually notice on a Saturday afternoon at 1pm. Looks like I'll be headed back for more than tea and cookies.

                  Nice work.

                  1. re: Polecat

                    actually the place was basically full the whole time i was there except when we first walked in and it was about half full....its very rare to see these types of places continue on let alone improve the quality of their food, so its certainly nice to see