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Sep 9, 2012 06:45 AM

Dim sum in DC?

Wondering where the best dim sum in DC is. Also the best dim sum for including people who don't eat meat, or only eat fish, etc.

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  1. If you can get outofthe city, hong kong pearl in 7 corners and Oriental east insilver spring ( get there at 10:30 to wait in line)

    1 Reply
    1. re: MoCoMe

      My problem with Oriental East is two-fold: (1) I rarely if ever wait in line for a restaurant and (2) once you're inside, everybody in line is staring at you waiting for you to eat your food and leave so they can take your seat.

    2. For your dietary restricted diners, your best dim sum will be a place with wait staff who speak English fluently. There is a LOT of pork hidden in dim sum. At Hong Kong Pearl, not all the people who push carts are fluent in English, but the captains are, and could probably arrange an all seafood, no meat meal for you, but that would mean you can't order safely from the passing carts.

      Alternatively, you can go online to one of many dim sum sites and figure out what dishes are acceptable under your dietary restrictions, print out pictures and names if necessary, and go armed.

      1. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but does it have to be dim sum? I have lots of friends who have various dietary restrictions and we just agree to not go to dim sum together because as PollyG said, there's lots of hidden pork (and shrimp, and gluten, etc.) in dim sum.

        I suppose if you're familiar with dim sum and doing the navigating, your best bet would be to go somewhere with a LOT of variety so everyone has something to eat, and for that, I would second Oriental East.

        3 Replies
        1. re: SandyCat

          I'm asking specifically about dim sum because our group is interested in it. We do brunches, dinners, and everything in between, too, but would love to find a dim sum everyone could enjoy, if possible. As long as everyone can find at least one thing to eat and we know what's in what, we'll be great.

          1. re: MyKitchen

            Janet at Hollywood East speaks excellent English, as do her sons, and she would probably be quite willing to help you order things everyone can eat, and/or steer people away from the things they can't or won't eat.

            They serve from carts during weekend lunch, and from a menu through the rest of the week, so you could take a copy of the paper menu and mark it up for future reference.

          2. When I think of "DC" and "Dim Sum" my gut reaction is "yuck".

            Like others have said, I'd choose another option.

            Aside from the fact that there is no passable dim sum in the District, the OP's dietary restrictions prevent another hurdle.

            How about just going to a pedestrian place like Sichuan Pavilion and ordering off the menu?

            31 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Hong Kong Pearl which opened up earlier this year could hold its own in the San Gabriel Valley. First DC area Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant that I can make such a statement about.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                Yeah, but Falls Church isn't technically the "District" ...

                That's sort of like saying DTLA is in the "SGV area" -- as both (FC/DC and DTLA/SGV) are about 10 miles apart. But no one would make that connection.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  You noticed I said DC area. I'll agree that Chinese food within DC boundaries is awful. But when talking about Chinese food in a geographic area, it typically includes the entire metro area, e.g., we say Vancouver when really mean Richmond, B.C., Toronto instead of Richmond Hill-Markham-Scarborough, etc. etc.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    Fair enough.

                    But I have hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that Falls Church would be considered part of the DC Metro area when I cannot practice law in the former, but can in the latter.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      What's more important? Getting good Chinese food in NoVa and Maryland or being able to practice law?

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I disagree. Further, I would assert that there are many more lawyers in the DC area than there are good dim sum places.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              You say the latter, I say the former.

                      1. re: ipsedixit


                        You can practice in Virginia if you take the Bar. . . .problem solved.

                        The you can enjoy the Dim Sum and feel smug.

                        1. re: drewpbalzac

                          I wouldn't take the Bar just to enjoy dim sum in Virginia.

                          Heck, I don't know if the dim sum in Va is worth the pro hac vice application fee ...

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            If you had taken the commonwealth's Bar in the first place you could have waived into DC and MD much easier . . .

                            Good dim sum is a hell of a lot harder to find and al lot more rewarding than the practice of law. . .

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      5.6 miles from Hong Kong Pearl to DC, which is something like 6 minutes via I-66. The free parking at HKP can make it quicker to get into than finding a parking space in the District.

                      Arlington, Virginia (right across the street from HKP) was supposed to be part of the 10 miles squared that Virgina and Maryland were to give to create the District. The Potomac was to flow through the middle (designed like Paris, with the Seine separating the two halves). So it is damn close.

                    3. re: Chandavkl

                      Back on topic, I'm still stunned by this statement from Chandavkl:

                      "Hong Kong Pearl which opened up earlier this year could hold its own in the San Gabriel Valley. First DC area Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant that I can make such a statement about."

                      Admittedly, I've only been once, but I thought dim sum there was clearly inferior to all of the regular MoCo places mentioned on the board: New Fortune, Hollywood East, Oriental East.

                      1. re: DanielK

                        When I go with people who really know the place, I prefer Hollywood East.

                        1. re: DanielK

                          Apparently Hong Kong Pearl is hit and miss. I was there on a "hit" day, you probably got a "miss". . We went with some locals (I dragged them there) and they thought it was much better than what they were used to in Maryland.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            This is my feeling, too--it is hit or miss. You have to go when it's really busy. While it is good, I don't think it rivals what I've had, admiitedly in years in SGV or the Bay area, but it is the best in the NoVa area. There have been dishes we've gotten that have been excellent, and some that we barely touch. And, they vary from time to time.

                            I do think they are accommodating and would ask the hostess for a captain who might be able to help on the vegetarian/seafood only option but keep in mind, they'll all be cooked in the same area as meat products so there could be cross contamination. The OP might have better luck at A&J's since you're ordering off the menu, Not dimsum but small plates that might be a change of pace.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Actually, after going back I would say wildly inconsistent is a better description.

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        "yuck" or "good luck! and let us know"

                        dietary restrictions really do suck all the fun out of dim sum. (sorry that's no help, but you gotta play the cards what were dealt)

                        1. re: hill food

                          :) And, yeah, it's true. Let me ask. Do har gow have anything other than shrimp? What about those rice flour rolls with shrimp? The green bell peppers with shrimp?

                          1. re: c oliver

                            I'm sure pescetarian or even vegetarian dim sum places exist somewhere. there has to be a market segment out there looking for it. but I can't think of one in the DC area.

                            ipse's idea of ordering off the carte and not the 'cart' might be the only way to be satisfied.

                            1. re: hill food

                              Vegetarian dim sum is only an option in New York, and to a much lesser extent, San Francisco. You can't even get it in LA with its dominant Chinese food scene, and despite the wide variety of other types of vegetarian Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley. Fish only eaters are out of luck as dim sum items made out of fish are rare--if you're lucky there might be fish balls on the menu, but they often contain bits of pork in them. Maybe one dim sum restaurant out of 10 or 20 will also serve rice noodle rolls made of fish. Pescetarians are probably OK because there are many dim sum items made of shrimp, the only issue being whether animal by products are used in the preparation.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                You can't even get it in LA with its dominant Chinese food scene, and despite the wide variety of other types of vegetarian Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley.

                                That's not entirely correct.

                                Fine Garden technically serves vegetarian dim sum.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Thanks. Forgot they expanded their menu recently to include dim sum. They didn't have it when I dropped by a couple of years ago.

                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                    What about Ocean Seafood in Chinatown? They've made an effort to create dim sum menus that lists all their vegetarian items together under the Vegetarian heading.

                                    1. re: TripleAxel

                                      I wonder how vegetarian those items are, particularly the snow pea leaf dumpling. Lots of apparently meatless dim sum items at large Chinese restaurants include meat broths and fats.

                                2. re: Chandavkl

                                  Yeah. I took a newly minted vegan for dim sum a few months ago while we were both in SF. Turns out the amazing eggplant had shrimp paste in it. She laughed and said "no wonder it tasted so good!" And I generally find that most of the cart ladies English is quite limited so communicating effectively is iffy.
                                  ETA: And my Cantonese is limited to a few food dishes.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    it is easier if one can roll with the punches, laugh it off, and eat raw spinach for a week, or pray, or both. and (excepting anaphylaxic shock) the world moves on.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      A perfect act of contrition would probably do the trick! And, yeah, except for those with allergies, it's just one dish in a lifetime of wonderful meals.

                            2. I thought Pingpong Dim Sum in Chinablock was pretty decent, better than the Dupont location. They do a couple veg dishes like springrolls and a few tofu-centric items, but for the price, you're better off hitting Silver Spring/Wheaton (early).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                Oh no - you said something nice about a chain . . . . prepare for the wrath of CH!