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China Star Dim Sum and Seafood

Opened today at 9 AM. 11:30, dining room almost full. I will report back later on dim sum.

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  1. fyi, taking about 8 different items to go. Everything made in house and from scratch. Spoke to two different diners and they said the dim sum is better and fresher than Boston.

      1. re: lc02139

        1733 Middlesex St, Lowell; dim sum served daily from 9-3 with carts

      2. Awesome news. Can't believe there will be great dim sum in my neck of the woods. Maybe I'll drop over on Friday.

        Did you get a chance to look at the regular menu? Are the authentic options listed in Mandarin, or can Westerners read them, too?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Dinsdale45

          I did not look at the menu but the owner showed it to me about 2 weeks ago and it was very long with the front of the menu being your typical Chinese-American items and the last several pages being geared toward the Asian population. I cannot recall but I believe that the authentic options were both in English and Chinese but I am not sure.

          1. re: bakerboyz

            Thanks. You seem to have some pull with the owners. You should suggest a better web presence. Even with the Broadway place, there's no website or anything. About a month ago, I asked Chinese friends if they heard about this place, and no one had, which means it wasn't mentioned in the Chinese community newspapers. I don't want lines down Middlesex St. every weekend, but I want them to do well.

            1. re: Dinsdale45

              You are correct. I spoke to the son of the owner and told them that they need a website and it is something that they are working on and will have.

              1. re: bakerboyz

                Even a facebook page would help and you can make one of those very quickly and for free.

        2. I wonder if they're connected to the China Star in Salem NH and China Star II in Methuen, MA?

          Good stuff there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pinehurst

            Not anymore. The owners formerly owned China Stars in Methuen, Ipswich, Amesbury, Salem NH and one other but sold them all around 1989 and purchased a supermarket in Boston's Chinatown. The family had not run another restaurant until they opened China Star on Broadway in Lowell about 2 1/2 years ago.

          2. Yikes. This place is now up on Yelp and almost all the reports are merciless. Most are for service, and I'm sure the kinks have to be worked out. I'm not deterred, but a tough opening can be a real uphill climb.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Dinsdale45

              There's one positive review now, but yeah the majority are harsh one-star pans about lack of service.

              I don't get how someone waits *30* minutes after ordering at a Chinese restaurant before asking about their non-appearing order. For certain types of restaurants/dishes, ok, I can understand a 30min wait. But at a Chinese restaurant, after ordering fairly common dishes? I'd be gently inquiring after 15m, just to make sure it's not forgotten.

              1. re: lossless

                The thing is, after going to dimsum in the greater boston area my entire life there are certain things i have come to expect. 1) service wont be great as far as water, sauces, etc.. without some effort. 2) Some dishes will be cold or rubbery or just "off" that moment.. Depends on how long its been on the cart. 3) there will be a language barrier. 4) sometimes you can wait forever for the item you want to come around on a cart while others seem to get it or the same stuff keeps coming around.. These things to me are normal at dimsum.. So the person who goes to this kinda place and tries to get some General Gaus and expects normal restaurant service (especially in the first 3-4 days of the place being open) is going to be very disappointed..

                I also notice a few of the harsh reviews are from people who have never reviewed anything else before so i have to question how genuine they are.

                1. re: hargau

                  i am not a dim-sum expert, but ANY restaurant is wobbly out of the gate and i think your other points are reasonable too. it just is what it is.

                  am not gonna waste time reading yelp reviews because i never do. will try this place in a few weeks when it's less of a zoo.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    One of the one star reviewers ordered Pad Thai, enough said....

                  2. re: hargau

                    True. Dim sum is a different experience. Also, people should not judge a specialized Chinese restaurant based on how well they do the lowest common denominator Americanized items. Why would you think a "Dim Sum & Seafood" place would make great General Gau's?

                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                      it wouldn't occur to some of us to order pad thai there, but we're not the yelp demographic either.

                2. re: Dinsdale45

                  Didn't even notice that 2 of the 1 star reviews on Yelp touted the skeevy Mandarin as a better option across the street.

                  1. re: hargau

                    This person gave it 3 stars on Yelp.

                    1. re: hargau

                      The durian roll sounds like something I have to try...

                    2. We stopped by at about 1 pm yesterday (Sunday). We went originally to Gene's but they were packed so we decided to venture on to China Star. .

                      Mob scene at China Star. Every seat filled and people crowded in the entry way and inside door. (Just like Chinatown!) They said the wait was about 20 minutes but we decided to go home since we had a sleepy toddler in tow.

                      We'll try again next week. My expectations are just as hargau describes and I am betting they'll be met or exceeded.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: poundcake

                        We did go back the following Saturday 4/13 at about 10 am. Nicely busy and we found the food and service to be good. As others have said: good variety, lots of carts, greetings from the management. We'll certainly go back.

                      2. Went over today. Service was great, very attentive, quick response to all our requests. The manager or owner was very friendly, asked us if we had everything we wanted, wanted to show us around, and even poured our tea. My gluttonous pals and I ordered salt/pepper shrimp and calamari, ribs in black bean sauce, several kinds of dumplings, pork shumai, fried taro pancakes, meatballs, two kinds of tofu wrapped rolls, chicken feet, fried sticky rice, fried dumplings/gioza, pork buns, beef pastry rolls, and shrimp in rice noodles. All very good, at least on a par with most dishes I've had in Chinatown. I can't believe that this is now an option so close to home.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                          Very glad to hear that service has improved. We'd been avoiding the place due to the early reviews.

                        2. I've been several times for dim sum now and twice for dinner. The dinner menu is kind of scattered, with the descriptions in American Chinese style and Vietnamese (I think). Maybe I'm ordering wrong, but I've been very underwhelmed with the main menu offerings. I've had mostly standard fare, and not had the offal type of stuff, maybe that's better. The standard Chicken and vegetables, salt and pepper stuff, has been short of awful, but not a lot
                          The dim sum, on the other hand, has been very good. The carts are loaded and pass frequently, everything has been hot and fresh. Har gau, siu mai, ribs (beef and pork), pork buns, rice noodle (the flat rolled ones, kind of slippery) with shrimp, congee, have all been great. Chicken feet look good, but haven't been with a group that wanted them, and I can't handle a whole order myself. I saw XLB (soup dumplings, mini juicy pork buns) on a cart on my way out last time!! They looked good. Service is typical dim sum: the cart ladies try to put everything on your table, and the other servers (for water, or extra hot sauce, etc) are hard to flag down. Everyone has been friendly thought. I'd definitely recommend it for a weekday treat. I bet it's a zoo on weekends, still, as it's so new.

                          1. Hey guys - I just went there today for early morning dim sum. Wasn't crowded yet, but even at 10am there were plenty of people. I found it to be better than China Pearl in Woburn (which was my standing suburban dim sum option..until now) Great variety as stated in earlier posts here - also were offering sweet tofu pudding today. I had no problems with service - I'm sure those of here who have been to Chinatown dim sum know what to expect - staff was friendly and nice. Told me they have already done wedding banquet and special function bookings already among the local Chinese community.

                            1. I returned on Friday and had another exceptional experience. I took dim sum home as well as Yang Chow Fried Rice, Black Pepper Steak and a Chinatown style Sweet and Sour Pork (not the gloppy, syrupy fried dish with pineapple). Everything was delicious. I also had to order 3 appetizers from the Americanized side of the menu: crab rangoon, spareribs and chicken fingers as I needed to take them to a friend's house Friday evening. The appetizers were also excellent. I found the service to be very good.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: bakerboyz

                                we finally went on monday, but only 2 of us and it was too late for dim sum.

                                place is HUGE!!! and decently busy with plenty of families.

                                menu is soooooooooooo big, lol.

                                we ordered the jellyfish salad with vietnamese sausage, the dry fried veal ribs and peashoots with crab. there was most definitely a language/cultural barrier, as the waiter asked me several times if i was sure about the jellyfish. then another round about the veal ribs, as he kept pointing to the item above it, beef with green beans.

                                jellyfish salad was great, over a bed of marinated carrot and daikon, and the sausage very good.

                                out came the beef with green beans, covered in that gloppy brown sauce which is my scourge as far as american-chinese food. the beef also was still on the bone, making it a challenge to eat. with a different waiter we probably would have sent this back, (um, not what we ordered) but my b/f didn't mind it. green beans were fresh and still full of snap.

                                peashoots and crab quite good.

                                oh, and while not cheap, the portions are very big. servers were friendly and well-intentioned.

                                we'll be back for dim sum. the original china star is walking distance from the b/f's place, so that will suit us fine, i think, otherwise.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  it really sucks that they weren't willing or able to bring you what you wanted to eat. That brown goop is a big reason why so many people think they don't like "Chinese" food even though they've never eaten Chinese food.

                                  1. re: KWagle

                                    my very first dim sum experience was as a teen in san francisco. the elderly chinese ladies running the carts basically refused to serve me anything they "thought" i wouldn't like. "no, you no like." it was like soup nazi dim-sum. lol.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Next time, ask for Joe Lee (father) or Johnny Lee (son) and they will get you what you want. Johnny was born in the US and they are both want very much to make people happy. He will be honest and forthright in recommending dishes.

                                      1. re: bakerboyz

                                        there were at least 8 servers working. i shouldn't have to ask for the owner to get what i want.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          So sorry but you were the one who said there was a language/cultural barrier. No reason to get upset with me.

                                          1. re: bakerboyz

                                            sorry, am not upset with you. have dealt with the son at the original location and yes, he is very nice.

                                            i just shouldn't have to climb a chain of command to order dinner.

                                            i wasn't ordering chop suey, pad thai and THEN jellyfish, ya know? it was unfortunate profiling on the part of the waiter.

                                            as i said, we will go back for dim sum.

                              2. We went today for dimsum and it was EXCELLENT! Plenty of carts that would come by quite often as well as people with trays. There is also a station you can walk up to that had clams, razor clams, s&p shrimp, s&p calamari, noodles, snails, and some sort of beef/tripe dish.

                                Service was very good with people refilling water regularly and at least 1 manager stopped by to see how things were. They even helped us pack up leftovers.

                                Everything was very fresh and HOT. Especially some of the fried dishes that seem to always be cold in boston.

                                Some of the things we had that i can recall off the top of my head.
                                hargau, shumai, lobster dumpling, tofu skin roll, stuffed eggplant, steamed custard buns, egg tarts, rice noodles, sticky rice, fried taro/shrimp, fried shrimp/chive, spring rolls, shrimp/celery in tofu skin..

                                We especially liked that the shrimp/taro actually had the fried taro on the outside. Seems all the places in boston have swapped to using chowmein noodles instead which isnt nearly as good.

                                We went at 11:30 with 4 people and there was no wait, no problems parking. Came to $72 with tip and we have a ton of leftovers still.

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: hargau

                                  did you get drinks? or just tea?

                                  am psyched to go back for dim sum. :)

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    just tea/water, none of us are drinkers. If they had bubble tea we would have tried it though!

                                  2. re: hargau

                                    I believe the thing with noodles on the outside is a different dish. I've had them both at the same meal... possibly at Winsor or Hollywood East.

                                    1. re: KWagle

                                      These are the very large flat shrimp pancake/disc things that usually have taro on the outside (and do here).. HLM, and China pearl have both switched to use noodles on the outside instead. Maybe it is a different dish with that being the only difference but if that is the case then those 2 places no longer have the ones with taro..So we were happy to have the taro.

                                      1. re: hargau

                                        I'm pretty sure I've had them both ways, and I'm almost certain at the same restaurant in the same meal. Maybe lipoff or someone else with more specific knowledge (or a dim sum app) will weigh in.

                                        1. re: KWagle

                                          Well China pearl used to have the flat ones with the taro and the ball ones with the noodles. Now both are with the noodles. (essentially the same thing but different shape). The Hei La Moon printed menu says with taro but what you get is with noodles.

                                          1. re: hargau

                                            Hmm, I'm used to seeing them the other way 'round: the flat ones with noodles and the round ones with taro. Interesting.

                                          2. re: KWagle

                                            I can now say for certain that Winsor has both of them: the flat disc ones with shredded taro, which we had, and the spherical ones with noodles, which another table had.

                                            (For some reason I mixed them up in my previous post--we've always called the flat ones "taro hockey pucks.")

                                              1. re: hargau

                                                The flat ones or the round ones?

                                      2. re: hargau

                                        Went again on 5/26, still really good. One dish we got were fresh sea scallops on the 1/2 shell with rice noodles and a lot of garlic. Odd being served the whole scallop with the foot and all, not common in this country. Bill ended up higher this time $84/with tip, i guess the scallops, lobster dumplings and the shrimp/head we got counted as supersize items or something.

                                        1. re: hargau

                                          Returned on 6/9/13... The place was very slow/empty.. 11:30 on a Sunday, I found that concerning because a lack of people is always a big downfall for cart based dimsum. Not sure where everyone was... We were impressed though, at least 3-4 times a cart server refused to give us dishes we asked for since they knew they had been sitting on the cart too long. Instead they had fresh ones made in the kitchen and brought to us. Came out to $14/per person with tip and we had a ton of leftovers. The more people you have, the cheaper dimsum is per person i have found. We got all the typical cart items.

                                        2. re: hargau

                                          just fyi 'taro shrimp' (shrimp patties w/ taro noodles on outside) are still prepared as such at Winsor; one of my fav things. and thx so much for the report.

                                        3. We've been twice. My son is a vegan and a durian lover, one thing to note is both times we've grabbed the dim sum take out menu and been able to ask for anything on there and they've had it out hot in 5 mins. On the fried cart I also asked if it was hot and 5 mins later she was back with a piping hot fried shrimp dumpling. They're very accommodating. My Chinese buddy says that the Chinese community find them good but pricey. I see their point but by the time you drive to Boston and pay for parking it's easily a wash. Love having it in my back yard, I burned out on Lin Garden years ago.

                                          1. Finally made a trip to Lowell to try this restaurant out.

                                            Service was generally very attentive until it got busy. The host actually rushed to greet us when we got in. With regard to the food, if I gave the restaurants in Chinatown a score of 8-9, Tenichi in Natick would be 5.5 then China Star got a 7. But I was amazed by the variety of dim sum or special dishes there. In my over 40 years of dim sum experience, I had never seen a restaurant offered so many different items even though I felt bad for the chef and pondered how long they could maintain the standard with such an extensive menu. Price is not cheap but they have to make money!

                                            I don't think I would drive an hour to go to China Star again except if I have to go to NH for shopping. But overall, I felt the owner and the staff tried hard to make the business successful by treating the customers the best they could. One last thing: when we was walking out, I saw almost every table had a tender roast pork and they looked extremely good.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: sheila

                                              What did you find about the food that made it not as good as boston? We feel it is just as good and actually better for several items compared to out normal boston places China Pearl or Hei La Moon. Agree that it seems to be slightly more expensive.

                                              1. re: hargau

                                                The Siumai lacks salt fish flavor and the beef ball is a bit too hard. It might sound weird but I don't like tasting the soy sauce in the soy sauce for Cheong Fun. But they are not bad.

                                            2. went yesterday, FINALLY! got there just after 1:00 and place was very busy, but no wait for party of 8. am sooooooooooo glad we were so many, and got to try so much!

                                              we all had had hectic mornings and many of us had gone without breakfast so arrived starving. tea and water came immediately and waters were refilled frequently and promptly.

                                              we gave enthusiastic yes's to almost all the dumplings, buns and rolls and such that came around. none of us took pix, and i don't know the chinese names, but the radish cakes and soup dumplings were super. everything was hot, fresh, crispy (or very tender) and well-seasoned. we got 15-16 small plates and when we thought we could fit no more the salt and pepper shrimp and pork belly came around. we groaned and ate more. both were excellent.

                                              there was something -- pork??-- wrapped in very fine shreds and fried? too fine for noodles. anybody know?

                                              only 2 of us had ever had dim sum before and i am no expert, but i cannot wait to go back.

                                              no drinks.

                                              manager came to check on us and was very nice and happy to see us enjoying ourselves so much. the ladies driving the carts were also super nice and happy to see a table of round-eyes game to try almost everything.

                                              even with a generous tip, the bill was $15 pp and we ate like emperors. :)

                                              also, etiquette/service question? have seen some mention a dim sum menu? and ordered stuff to-go? if there is stuff you want but don't see can you order that? no real interest in taking stuff to go since we live so close, but would like some more proteins next time and fewer rolls/buns. would have killed for those fresh scallops!

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                You could download one of several dim sum apps and use those to communicate what you want.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  Was the unknown dish sorta the consistancy of purplish mashed potatoes?? There is a taro dish with pork inside.. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_-aduX9GU0f4...

                                                  They have a photo menu at China Star and you can ask for things to go from it or even while you are there.

                                                  I wasnt a fan of the fresh scallops, too much garlic and the part you dont normally get (not sure what its called) is very tough

                                                  1. re: hargau

                                                    did an image search and looks like it was maybe taro/pork dumplings? the coating was even thinner strands than angel hair pasta, not lacy like some of the taro pix.

                                                    ok, here, like this:


                                                    also had spring rolls, sticky rice, shu mai, baked egg custard buns, sesame balls, and some other stuff i can't find. :)

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      The thing in the picture you link to is indeed a taro dumpling. Haven't had those in quite a while, maybe I need to go back to Winsor for the third time in two weeks.

                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    Really hope they will do good as I felt their passion of making their business successful.

                                                  3. Has anyone been lately? we are moving our oldest in to UMass Lowell next Saturday and dim sum would time out perfectly.

                                                    Hoping its still good...?

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: grumpyspatient

                                                      just got back from there about 30 minutes ago.. We go about every other week. Today the place was not very crowded so many of the fried items on the carts were cold.. Otherwise, still decent. Best to catch it when crowded.

                                                      1. re: hargau

                                                        I usually ask if they're hot and if not, they'll get me one, I agree don't like the cold fried stuff.

                                                        1. re: Fishegg

                                                          yea after our first couple cold dishes we started asking/feeling the bottoms of plates and not taking many..

                                                          1. re: hargau

                                                            good to know, thank you both,
                                                            maybe it will be busy since its move in day!

                                                    2. I eat here regularly, but sometimes the place is nearly empty around weekday lunch. How are they doing? I worry that they might end the daily dim sum option if they aren't pulling in the crowds they expected.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                        we just go on weekends and it remains packed then.

                                                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                                                          I was there last Thursday around 11 AM and no one was there but by 11:15 there were about 30 people eating and it was still early.

                                                          1. re: bakerboyz

                                                            any recommendations from the regular (not dimsum) menu?

                                                            1. re: hargau

                                                              do you guys know if they are doing dim sum tomorrow?

                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                yes, they are open tomorrow for sim sum.

                                                                1. re: bakerboyz

                                                                  we went around noon today. pleasantly busy. we polished off 13 different plates and everything was quite good again.

                                                                  indulged in some drinks this time too! couple mai tais and fog cutters, both of which were way more well-made than i was expecting.

                                                              2. re: hargau

                                                                From their regular menu, I have had their bbq ribs, pekjing ravioli, house special fried rice, various beef dishes and the mayonnaise shrimp, all have been excellent although the shrimp and house special fried rice are my favorites thus far.

                                                                1. re: bakerboyz

                                                                  Only thing we have tried has been the hot & sour soup which was best described as "odd".. wouldnt get it again