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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!

                              2. Dim Sum in DC is dead.

                                Everyone moved to MD and then NOVA.

                                NOVA has China Garden in Rosslyn, which is good. Mark's Duck house is overrated as a dim sum place, but they're cooked pork and duck is the reason to go there, not the dim sum. I haven't been to the new place - Hong Kong Pearl.

                                Maryland has a ton - Red Pearl, Oriental East, New Fortune, etc.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: govmoneynvegas

                                  11/3/12 Red Pearl in Columbia is closed. Phone does not work. Sorry it had great Dim Sum and was my go to place.

                                2. Just thought I'd throw out the newest NOVA dim sum place -- Golden King in Sterling.

                                  We tried it a couple weeks ago. We got there near the end of dim sum service, so the selection was not what it normally be, but what we got was fresh and hot (not always the case at NOVA dim summeries, even at busy times, if you get the wrong cart). We will be back for sure.

                                  The rest of the menu -- at least the takeout version we got -- looks meh, but perhaps they have the usual secret menu for the cognoscenti.

                                  1. How about The Source? It's just off the Mall downtown and they only do dim sum on Saturdays but Tom S from the Post loves it.

                                    9 Replies
                                        1. re: Bart Hound

                                          Because that would be like answering "PF Chang's" when asked "What's the best Chinese in DC?"

                                          (Although given the quality of Chinese food in DC, that answer might not be far off)

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Really?!? The Source is not a chain, is it? Is the hangup that it's not owned/run by Chinese person or family? Or is it because it's not "real dim sum" vs some sort of Americanized/fusion thing?

                                            I've never been there for their dim sum lunch but I've had a couple dumpling dishes which I thought were very good.

                                            1. re: Bart Hound

                                              Really?!? The Source is not a chain, is it? Is the hangup that it's not owned/run by Chinese person or family? Or is it because it's not "real dim sum" vs some sort of Americanized/fusion thing?

                                              It's because it's not real dim sum. It barely qualifies as fake dim sum.

                                              The Source is part of Puck's (ever growing) empire. It's about as close to a chain as one can get without technically being called as such.

                                              The hangup is not that it's not Chinese, it's just that it's not dim sum.

                                              I've sampled Puck's Asian-inspired dim sum offerings at WP24. They taste ok, but given their price point, they become less than ok.

                                              It's one thing to say that The Source has good tasting food (which is debatable); it's entirely another thing to say that The Source has the best dim sum, or *any* dim sum, in the DC area (which is laughable).

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Second this. I tried the "dim sum" at Puck's Five Sixty in Dallas. It looked far better than it tasted. And for what I paid for the privelege, it really should have tasted like something. It was like crawling behind the steering wheel of a Maserati, turning the key, and nothing happened.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  You'll appreciate my WP24 story. I ordered some kind of chicken dumpling and my first thought was that "Hey, this isn't bad." My second thought was "This tastes familiar." My final thought was "This tastes just like Trader Joe's frozen chicken siu mai"--at probably 20 times the cost.

                                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                                    Yeah, but the extra cost was for the view, no doubt.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                Unfortunately the truth is not that far away from what you say. I think Ping Pong might be the best dim sum within the city limits. (Shudders.)

                                        2. i like Fortune in bailey's crossroads VA. there are always lots of chinese people in there and my friend who goes with me is half chinese (her mom is from Taiwan) and she's been there several times and says it's authentic. i especially like the dumplings and noodle dishes and yummy turnip cakes, broccoli and pea shoots. if you go for lunch during the week it isn't too crowded. i understand weekends are slammed.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: DCDOLL

                                            Fortune, Mark's Duck House, and XO Taste are all within a half mile of eachother. Some dim sum items are better at one, but lousy at another. The last couple times Fortune has been such an ordeal, I usually opt for the other two places. Smaller but I can usually get a seat without waiting 45 minutes.

                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                              Just a note. XO Taste does not serve dim sum Hong Kong Pearl, right across the street from the Eden Center off Wilson Blvd, is a large HK style banquet hall with pretty good dim sum.

                                              1. re: dpan

                                                ditto on hong kong pearl post. we're going for thanksgiving!

                                          2. Has China Bistro reopened? Seems I heard it was closed a while back for renovation.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: flavrmeistr

                                              They were closed from roughly mid-February to mid-April. Complete dining room renovation, but no changes in the kitchen - dumplings still great as ever.

                                              1. re: DanielK

                                                Good to hear. The chive, shrimp and pork dumplings are the best.

                                            2. China Garden in Rosslyn (NoVA, just outside the city) has dim sum brunch on weekends and is some of the best.

                                              1. Does anyone have an opinion on the Dim Sum at Tony Cheng's? I went there during the week, so it wasn't a real dim sum experience (no carts, for example), but it said they do the full service on the weekends. Is it any good?

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: pgm123

                                                  Even by Chinablock standards, Tony Cheng's dim sum is pretty meh. I'm pretty sure they don't make it inhouse but get it trucked in from Fortune. I haven't had much luck having anything there that wasn't mongolian bbq.

                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                    The Mongolian bbq was the downstairs restaurant, if memory serves. I'll avoid Tony Cheng's, though. I had my suspicions it was poor, but the photos of famous people enticed me. I had a solid tripe dish, but most of the dumplings were not very good. This was a few years ago and nothing was good enough to inspire me to go back.

                                                    Is there any good Chinese food in Chinatown (it doesn't have to be Dim Sum).

                                                    1. re: pgm123

                                                      China Boy is still a seedy, hole-in-the-wall guilty pleasure.

                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                        +1 and the only place I could recommend.

                                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                          i think china boy is where i used to buy fresh rice noodles there in chinatown.

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            Yup, fresh rice and flour noodles. Sheets if you prefer.

                                                        2. re: pgm123

                                                          i like the shrimp dumpling soup at Full Key...yum! but that's all i ever get there...i think one time i got some stir fried veggies that were good but those are hard to screw up...

                                                          1. re: DCDOLL

                                                            Full Kee's dumpling soup - yes, I felt guilty once when I turned a co-worker onto that place (he walked to work from his home on North Capitol and it's on the way) and he reported back he was addicted to that soup.

                                                      2. re: pgm123

                                                        No. It sucks. In fact, the entire restaurant sucks. Even the ice water there sucks.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Which actually describes Chinese food in DC Chinatown in general except for China Boy on Sixth St.

                                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                                            DC has the worst Chinese food of any major city with an actual Chinatown.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              Probably explain why Jean-Bertrand Aristide was exiled there before he returned to Haiti.