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Curious about Dim sum?

Hello!
I'm visiting NYC for a few days and am interested in Dim Sum. How does it work exactly? What kinds of foods do they offer? I've seen Dim Sum on travel shows but just wanted to hear about the details. Also what would be a good place to try for two people? My boyfriend will literally try anything but I am little more picky ( I used to be a vegetarian for 5 years). I do eat meat and enjoy it now but still like to have veggie options. Thanks for your input! Oh and how does the pricing work for it?

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  1. My recommendation is to go to a dim sum restaurant that has carts wheeled around the restaurant. A good example would be Golden Unicorn on East Broadway. You will get a better feel of dim sum, as compared to Red Egg or Dim Sum GoGo. When they pass by your table , just point to the cart for what you want. Don't take too many at once. maybe 2 dishes , eat them and then point at the next cart. You don't have to know what you are eating, just try it. If you don't like it , give it to your boyfriend to eat. They have all sorts of dumplings, shrimp, pork, vegetable. They have some noodle dishes, Sticky rice in lotus leaf with some sausage, chicken and more, chicken feet, tiny pork ribs, pork buns, egg custard tarts, Just go and point. No reservations and it is casual everywhere.

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    Dim Sum Go Go
    5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

    Golden Unicorn
    18 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

    Red Egg
    202 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

    10 Replies
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      Where are those located? I'm staying in the Upper WestSide. So i will be using subway/walking. Thanks!!

      1. re: alish15

        Particularly because you are picky and used to be a vegetarian, I would recommend Dim Sum Go Go, where you check off your order of dim sum and they make it for you. They have some very good vegetarian and seafood items.

        All of the restaurants discussed in this thread are in Chinatown. There is no decent dim sum on the Upper West Side. You need to take a couple of trains to get to Chinatown (your best bet for most of Chinatown is the 1 to 59 St. and then the D or B to Grand St., but if you chose to go to Red Egg, you would want to instead get off of the 1 at Times Square and change for the Q, N, or R to Canal St.).

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        Dim Sum Go Go
        5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

        Red Egg
        202 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

        1. re: alish15

          Golden Unicorn is in Chinatown. If you want Dim Sum , you should take a ride down to Chinatown

        2. re: foodwhisperer

          I was going to ask "what do chicken feet taste like?", then decided to google it to see what came up. Really interesting article here on chicken feet, plus some background on how dim sum restaurants work for the OP.

          http://drpinna.com/dim-sum-and-chicke...

          I may have to try chicken feet on my next trip for dim sum, just for the adventure of it.

          1. re: RelishPDX

            Dim Sum Go Go serves pretty good chicken feet. The big problem I've had with chicken feet in the US is that cod liver oil is often an ingredient in chicken feed, and somehow, the chicken feet tend to get particularly concentrated amounts of annoying cod liver oil taste. But DSGG's version is one of the best in Manhattan, and possibly the best.

            I usually like their tripe with pepper sauce a good deal. Unlike other Chinese restaurants, which tend to use the plastic-like stomach, they use honeycomb tripe and cook it till tender.

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            Dim Sum Go Go
            5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

            1. re: RelishPDX

              Chicken feet do have a unique feel and flavor. I think it may be an acquired taste, but definitely try some. Golden Unicorn has good chicken feet. And to the OP, I repeat, just go to a big place like Golden Unicorn ( much better than the other big places like Jing Fong), They have carts with food constantly on the move. Just point to what looks interesting. The servers don't usually speak much English. That makes the whole experience more exciting. The dishes are not expensive, just point, taste and hopefully enjoy. If you go to Dim Sum Go Go, I think you will lose the "first time"experience. Also, go in the day time. Dim Sum GO Go serves dim sum in the evening but it isn't good at that time,I've had dim sum there that sat around awhile. We used to refer to dim sum as "tea lunch", Lunch time is best time to go.

              -----
              Dim Sum Go Go
              5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

              Golden Unicorn
              18 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

              Jing Fong
              18 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

              1. re: RelishPDX

                I recall going for dim sum once where we were seated at a large table that already had several diners at it. There was a chinese woman who was an immigrant and her obviously native born son of about 5. The boy spoke just like any other american 5 year old boy. The mother took a little steamer basket of chicken feet off a cart. She popped one into her mouth, sucked off the edible bits and spit the bones out on to her plate. Her son then loudly proclaimed "that's gross mom." I had to laugh.

                1. re: RelishPDX

                  The dim sum chicken feet I had tasted more of the sauce than anything else. I think many people are put off by either the idea of eating chicken feet, or they don't like the texture. I recently began enjoying pickled chicken feet (looks like this http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:AN... ). I find the flavor comes through a bit more and reminds me of pickled pigs feet (tendon/ligament/skin, etc).

                  1. re: porker

                    Chicken feet are really good for your skin too. has tons of collagen.

                2. re: foodwhisperer

                  "You don't have to know what you are eating, just try it."

                  I would strongly advise against this strategy even with the daring companion in tow.

                  When they stop with the carts, ask what it is. It's possible they will bark a vague description that isn't much help, but you will at least know if it's lotus root, or pork as opposed to fried fish balls. You're not always going to be able to tell what things are made out of otherwise, and it's not all as obvious as the chickens feet.

                  For a beginner, focus on the dumpling like items, the buns, and the fried dough wrapped items, all with various fillings. Good dim sum shouldn't be dripping in grease, and the fillings should be recognizable even when minced. If you're really new to the experience, the fried dishes at least, will remind you of something that belongs in the egg roll or won ton family.

                  The Dim Sum a Go Go suggestion is a pretty good idea. You will check off from a menu which if I recall is represented with pictures, and brief descriptions. You can check off additional items if you don't get enough the first time. Start off cautiously. Portions are small, of course. If it doesn't appeal to you, don't force it, but make sure you give a variety of types a chance. You might hate pork buns, but love shu mai (which are filled with shrimp).

                  The carts are how most of us were first introduced to dim sum, and the fun part there is you get to see how it looks before you pick. Veterans will sit and wait for them to come around with something they especially like, or even request it, and wait for the next batch to make its way around the room.

                  -----
                  Dim Sum Go Go
                  5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

                3. Do you eat pork and/or shrimp? If so, you'll be fine at most Chinatown dim sum places. Even if the server doesn't have great English skills, they should be at least able to tell you if a dumpling or bun is "pork," "shrimp," "shrimp and pork," "beef," etc.

                  There is an awesome post in this thread from Woodside Al about "how to do" dim sum, for a newbie.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3886...

                  If you do choose to do cart-based service, find a visual chart of common dim sum items and memorize what they look like, like this one:
                  http://www.dimsumpop.com/blog/entry/t...

                  Or this one:
                  http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkint...

                  I wouldn't worry too much about pricing. I think the most I've ever spent on dim sum in Chinatown is $20 per person, give or take a few dollars.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kathryn

                    Yes I do eat pork and shrimp, usually I'm picky about shrimp because I don't like "fishy tasting" seafood. I live in NH so that can happen sometimes. I'm sure I'm fine in NYC because they get fresher seafood and go though it quickly, I think anyways. Thank you , this whole thread is very helpful!

                    1. re: alish15

                      As kathryn says yes and no. Just ├žause its NYC doesn't necessarily mean fresher. Not only that, some people *want* the shrimp dumplings to have a "fishy" quality. This doesn't necessarily have to mean *not* fresh either. My wife really likes sui mai http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:AN...
                      Sometimes they contain shrimp, sometimes not. She prefers without, but will still try if theres shrimp. If its "fishy" as you say, she won't eat it (I love it either/or).

                      Some of the mechanics:
                      (Usually) the room is serviced by waiters, cart pushers, and busboys. These people are (usually) dressed differently.
                      The waiter (usually men, sometimes women, mostly OK with English) will assist on drinks, sauces, cutlery, etc and the final tally of the bill.
                      The cart pusher (usually women of all ages - I never saw a man push a cart - and usually non-English speaking) does just that - pushes the cart, shows the food, and serves the small plates as requested. When you order a plate, they'll take your bill and make a mark on the corresponding price ($2, $2.50, $2.75, etc etc etc).
                      When you're done, signal a waiter and they will add up the bill tableside.
                      Busboys, self explanatory.
                      There is oftentimes a table set up with other foods in the room. If you want, saunter over and look it over. If you want anything from the table, bring your bill and point to the item you want. The table server will fill a plate, mark your bill, and hand you the plate.
                      Sometimes, the restaurant has other menu items available. If you want any of these dishes a la carte, you order them from the waiter (but you're here for dim sum, right? Not necessarily to order from a menu...).

                      My biggest piece of advice is to relax and enjoy. It can seem daunting and you can worry about how stuff works, but hey, you're here to have fun. Take your time, look around, enjoy.

                      As others mentioned, I'd suggest a cart place, not an order-off-the-menu-place - just because its a different experience and more fun. I'd also suggest ordering what looks good. I understand sugartoof's apprehension here as you may get something you don't like (I tell you BBQed pig intestines look *real* good http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:AN... but its an acquired taste...). But whats the big deal? Paying $5 for dish that you don't like...
                      If you want to be adventurous, you might have to be insistent with the cart-pusher. More often than not, they will not show things like tripe, tendon, feet, intestine, innard stew, etc to westerners. Sometimes even if you ask them, they'll shake their head and say something like "You no like". This is where you have to smile and gently insist.

                      Please report back after your dim sum adventure, let us know what you think!

                  2. And haven't I read elsewhere on these boards the recommendation that the best dim sum is to be had during daylight hours? -meaning, I assume, that the freshest stuff is prepared earlier in the day.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: Phil Ogelos

                      Yes and no. For cart-based service, if you get there TOO early, the same food on the same carts just goes around you in circles, and sometimes selection can be limited (like they haven't made the char siu bao or dan tat yet because they're saving those for the rush).

                      My parents taught me that the best time to get there is right before the crowds descend, around 11am. Get seated immediately, slowly drink some tea, pick at a dish or two, and wait for the room to fill up. Cart turnover is highest when the dining room is full. They also like to keep an eye on who's manning what carts and who has just left the kitchen with a cart of fresh goodies.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Thanks, as always kathryn, for the straight dope!

                        1. re: kathryn

                          I agree that 11 AM is good time, up until 1 I think is OK. After that it's hit and miss. I think most dim sum meals end by 3:30. Dim Sum go go is all the time,,but ive had bad experiences there in the evening. They don't have carts anyway, I love carts. Triple 8's is good, but I believe the address only has 2 8's ,,what's up with that,,it's in the mall on E bway, but it changed names to 88 Palace. Kind of a fun location, with all those shops in the mall.

                          -----
                          88 Palace
                          88 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            I don't know a whole lot (~nil) about numerology or Chinese, but I'm told 8 has the connotation of wealth in Chinese. Two eights are good, but triple 8 is very special; three times the wealth.
                            Theres a Chinese restaurant in Montreal called "Amigo 168" which had me stumped for quite awhile. Someone on CH explained the 1-6-8 is plenty lucky in Chinese, kinda meaning easy wealth is a sure thing...

                            1. re: porker

                              I'll play that number tonite in the lottery

                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                Never worked for me...maybe 'cause I'm not Chinese?

                                1. re: porker

                                  Keep trying, you will win one of these good days

                              2. re: porker

                                888 is probably considered the luckiest number combination as far as Chinese are concerned. Probably more customized license plates have 888 in them than any other numerical combination. As you may notice the street address for the restaurant is 88 E. Broadway, so 88 Palace is a natural name. Back in the 1990s the predecessor restaurant in that spot was called Triple 8 Palace and I'm guessing that the restaurant changed hands maybe 10 years ago, triggering a name change to 88 Palace, but still containing lucky numbers.

                                1. re: porker

                                  Yes, 1-6-8 stands for "yi lu fa", meaning something like "fortune all the way".

                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                    When my daughter was born on 10/10 at 10:10 AM, our Chinese obstetrician said that was very lucky. I guess 10 is lucky too

                                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                                      Not like 8's....Chinese will change the number of a sale, or consider something priced so it ends in the number 8, because it's lucky. It you ever see a dish on a menu marked 6.98, that's why.