Down the hatch goes the excellent tripe at Dun Huang, as friends look on enviously.
As a restaurant critic, the question I’m most often asked is where to find the best dim sum in town. Five years ago, I would have had to hang my head in shame, and offer no suggestions. Today, you can find really great dim sum in at least three boroughs.
A new yellow awning heralds Manhattan Chinatown’s latest dim sum parlor.
One of my favorite places used to be the generic sounding Oriental Food Restaurant on Mott Street just north of Canal. When that place changed hands a few weeks ago, I could barely contain myself as I waited for the new place to settle down.
The newcomer is Dun Huang Seafood Restaurant, and, though the layout of the large dining room remains the same, the premises have been completely spruced up, including gold-colored fabric draped over the chairs, and the usual dragon and phoenix with blinking eyes. Now there are waitresses in addition to waiters, both wearing handsome tailored suits and red silk ties.
Light, fluffy steamed bao are like delicate flowers opening in springtime to reveal a meat filling.
The dim sum parades by in carts, and the first to arrive–the standard Shanghai meatballs flecked with orange rind–were only equally as good as the ones at Oriental Food had been. But as nine subsequent plates hit the table, we gradually became convinced that this establishment surpasses the former establishment. In fact, Dun Huang currently serves the best dim sum in any borough.
For a change, the pork short ribs are not sodden with rice starch.
The har gao were perfect in their transluminence, each cradling a whole shrimp like a gestating mammal; the pie gwat (pork spare ribs) clean tasting and flecked with scallions and green chiles; the ha chong fung (rice-noodle rolls) extraordinarily floppy and agreeably bland; the steamed savory bao bursting with a near-crunchy meat mixture that possessed just a fraction of the sweetness that mars other examples.
This is my favorite dim sum–shrimp rice noodle rolls, a challenge to chopstick users in their elastic floppiness.
The range of dim sum is not as great as that found at a couple of Sunset Park spots (among them East Harbor, itself a very serious candidate for Best Dim Sum in Town), but everything we tried was scintillatingly fresh. We were offered no jelly fish, steamed clams with black bean sauce, or jellied beef tendon while we were there, but we did enjoy a translucent sweet-potato starch dumpling in the shape of a goldfish, with salted egg yolk for eyes, a harbinger of great skill in the preparation of dim sum, suggesting that the dumpling list would be evolving at Dun Huang. And now I can’t wait for my next visit.
Dumplings shaped like goldfish come with a shrimp and water chestnut filling.
To help you identify varieties of dim sum, check out Fork in the Road’s Visual Dim Sum Dictionary.