Sunday called for a carefully timed excursion to Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood. I’ve been adequately advised that if you don’t arrive at this dim sum parlor at or near opening, the angst that will brew inside you as you helplessly wait in the lobby will be unrecognizably fierce. So fair warning to you lucky people who sleep in on the weekends- get there early or stay home with Netflix and wait out the lunch crowd.
Dim sum is a style of food, originating in Southern China, that’s characterized by bite-size small plate portions, traditionally offered on rolling carts and enjoyed with hot tea. The dim sum experience can be kind of intense – here’s a 10 step cheat sheet to becoming a dim sum master:
(1) Gather your friends and family. Dim sum is best enjoyed with a big group of people and there are plenty of tables here that can accommodate large groups. The more people you have, the more items you can sample. That is, unless you bring someone who hoards entire plates of dim sum to themselves. In this event, act casual and make a mental note to forget to invite this perpetrator next time. Hoarding is a dim sum no-no.
(2) Once you’re seated, there’ll be a yellow menu ticket on your table, this is as a tally sheet of what you’ve ordered and it stays on the table the whole meal. **For those who have not yet learned to use chopsticks by adulthood, you can refrain from stabbing food with one chopstick as a method of operation. Forks at the table is a standard at this joint.
(3) Order a pot of hot jasmine tea, it’s a ceremonial must have that will also help clean your palate and help with digestion. Even if you don’t want to mess with the tea, order the tea. I would trust the ancient Chinese on this.
(4) If they’re not there already, give the parade of servers about half a second to appear at your table. We were one of the first tables seated and the servers were eager to unload food from their steam carts a la “tapas on wheels” onto our Lazy Susan.
(5) Dim Sum has around 40 dim sum items in their repertoire and each server offers anywhere from 1-5 selections at any given time. When a server arrives at your table, ask what they have and either pass, or tell them which plates you’d like. It’s perfectly ok to pass.
(6) There are different approaches to dim sum – you can be discerning and get a few plates over a period of time or do what we did, and order way too much food all at once. If you missed something you wanted to try, stay calm – the servers will refill their carts and come back around.
(7) The majority of the items are $3.50 a plate and there are plenty of opportunities to be adventurous, or not. Chicken feet lovers, rejoice! A chicken foot with black bean sauce will only set you back $3.50. My apologies for not getting a photo, we had to pass on this delicacy because of squeamish kids at the table. Next time.
(8) Our favorites were the shrimp rice noodle crepe, shuffled eggplant, deep fried taro dumpling, shumai, egg custard tarts, and baked coconut bun. If dim sum isn’t your thing, you can also order “real Chinese food,” as stated on the tally sheet.
(9) Dim sum is surprisingly filling, pace yourself. Eat, chat, drink some tea. Repeat.
(10) When you’re ready, take the tally sheet to the front counter to pay. Remember to tip. Look at the people waiting for a table in the eye, be glad you’re not in their shoes, and pass some mild judgement on their timing.
Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant is pretty much the only dim sum game in town. They don’t mince words, dim sum is their specialty and they offer it on the weekends only. During the week, you’ll have to be ok with ordering just “real Chinese food” off the menu. Be sure to spend a moment to appreciate the old school elementary tile ceiling and the vertical pipes scattered around the room. As is the case with many authentic Asians restaurants, the exterior and interior are underwhelming, but the food and experience compensate nicely. Now go get some dim sum.
Dim Sum Chinese Restaurant
2920-B Central Avenue
Monday-Saturday 11 am – 9:30 pm; Sunday 10:30 am – 9:30 pm