Maybe it's a coast thing -- growing up close enough to a large city with distinct ethnic centers that include a Chinatown; maybe it's my general addiction to potstickers and Chinese appetizers. Probably it's a combination of both, but I've always been a huge fan of dim sum for Sunday brunch.
If you don't know of a dim sum place in your town, you can check out CitySearch: just search for "dim sum" and you are likely to find some spots and reviews. Traditional dim sum is served from carts that move throughout the restaurant. In places like LA and San Francisco, the dining rooms resemble large hotel banquet facilities and the carts are constantly in motion; in smaller cities dim sum is sometimes only available on the weekends and the normal dining room is used.
I enjoy dim sum places that keep the items that are heavy on the oil in the kitchen and use the carts to distribute steamed and cold items; there are places that will actually finish potstickers and the like in portable fryer carts, but you wind up smelling like, well, a portable fryer cart when you leave. Further, I enjoy dim sum places that have picture-based "decoders" of all the food available. We went with some friends to a dim sum place in LA where the waiter was trying to serve us what sh termed "beef inside" -- turns out it was beef (read "cow") insides (read "intestines").
Most dim sum restaurants use a system of stamps to keep track of your consumption and generally different items are grouped into different price "buckets"; the cart servers and waiters all carry stamps and stamp the appropriate bucket each time you get a plate. One dim sum place I used to go to in San Francisco simply color-coded the plates and counted the stack when you were done, but that does not seem to common around the country.
I do enjoy the dim sum with a Tsing Dao (it is actually pronounced "ching dao"), especially in those mornings where I'm recovering from the night before. Traditional dim sum restaurants will include unlimited water and hot tea with dim sum service, but be careful with the tea if nothing indicates that it is bottomless.
In South Denver try the Palace Chinese Restaurant for dim sum on Saturdays starting at 11AM; if you get there right when the doors open, you can generally avoid the crunch. I always recommend:
- Shrimp dumplings (steamed; sometimes referred to as "shrimp shumai")
- Pork shumai
- Chive shrimp dumplings
- Steamed pork bao
- Shrimp rice crepes (these are called a multitude of things, but essentially consist of large, thin rice noodles wrapped around shrimp and covered in a light soy-based broth)
- Foil wrapped chicken (unfortunately not available at the Palace, but a staple at dim sum places on the coasts)
Learn more about dim sum via the Wikipedia link below.
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