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THE BEST: Chinatown Dim Sum


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weinoo, at Congee Village, I've never had to deal with a host trying to tell me my party can't sit at a table that's available, just because he for whatever reason doesn't feel like letting us sit there (my brother had to "negotiate" with him, and I think we ended up just going by ourselves and sitting there). It's also never happened that they let the phone ring and ring with no answer consistently for a period of 15 minutes or so (when we were trying to call them from the taxi to let them know we were stuck in traffic and would be a bit late - and no, their phone wasn't out of order, evidently). OK, that may have something to do with staffing problems rather than weird pretentiousness, though there seemed to be a bunch of staff camped out at the host's desk when we arrived. Oh, and I've also never experienced loud dance music bleeding out of the downstairs area for most of the meal at Congee Village, not that I can recall.

And I think you know I can spell and can drop the freakin [sic]. :laugh:

What do the lunch specials cost on weekdays? I would tend to go to CB only for dim sum items, which would cost me easily twice what I pay at Dim Sum Go Go if not more, correct? Meaning that c. $20 would become c. $45 for lunch, perhaps? Maybe $50? Sorry, not willing to pay that for higher-quality ingredients or even more delicious food. Too expensive. But I'm willing to listen to some details on lunch specials. I could imagine paying $30 or so for a really good lunch every few months.

The "Happy Birthday" song is annoying but not pretentious (you hear that at loads of low-end, proletarian places) and the lights at Congee Village indeed don't bother me.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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If the dim sum in Manhattan's Chinatown were better, I wouldn't want to pay CB prices either. But you know what? It's all pretty lousy down there, and I for one definitely appreciate the higher quality ingredients, including a very nice tea selection.

As for service, it hasn't ever been great, but I do think the pretentiousness has dropped over time. There are only a couple of waiters who are great, and one hostess who is very friendly with us, but the rest have always just been ok - so despite service being good for me when I go, I wouldn't count that as a big plus in general for them.

I think it just has to do with how you were brought up. My wife grew up with traditional style chinatown (not NY) dim sum, which is cheap, served in huge rooms with minimal fuss and decor. It took her a long time to get adjusted to the "faux imperial" vibe, better ingredients and (principally) higher prices at CB. Myself, I didn't grow up with dim sum and don't mind paying $30-$40/pp (we order a lot) given the clearly higher quality ingredients and craftsmanship involved. Initially my wife did mind it, and I'm still not sure she would want to take her family there if they visited, cause their initial reaction would likely be similar to hers.

The funny thing is that this old/new school distinction exists in Hong Kong as well, to a far greater degree. The tourist guides still point you to the old school, no frills, cheaper ingredients/prices dim sum main stay of the city (mostly populated by older locals and tourists - a weird mix) while I've found myself far far more attracted to the newer, fancier and pricier places in town.

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If the dim sum in Manhattan's Chinatown were better, I wouldn't want to pay CB prices either.  But you know what?  It's all pretty lousy down there, and I for one definitely appreciate the higher quality ingredients, including a very nice tea selection. 

As for service, it hasn't ever been great, but I do think the pretentiousness has dropped over time.  There are only a couple of waiters who are great, and one hostess who is very friendly with us, but the rest have always just been ok - so despite service being good for me when I go, I wouldn't count that as a big plus in general for them.

I think it just has to do with how you were brought up.  My wife grew up with traditional style chinatown (not NY) dim sum, which is cheap, served in huge rooms with minimal fuss and decor.  It took her a long time to get adjusted to the "faux imperial" vibe, better ingredients and (principally) higher prices at CB.  Myself, I didn't grow up with dim sum and don't mind paying $30-$40/pp (we order a lot) given the clearly higher quality ingredients and craftsmanship involved.  Initially my wife did mind it, and I'm still not sure she would want to take her family there if they visited, cause their initial reaction would likely be similar to hers.

The funny thing is that this old/new school distinction exists in Hong Kong as well, to a far greater degree.  The tourist guides still point you to the old school, no frills, cheaper ingredients/prices dim sum main stay of the city (mostly populated by older locals and tourists - a weird mix) while I've found myself far far more attracted to the newer, fancier and pricier places in town.

Well said. Although I'm with Pan in not being willing to pay CB's prices for dim sum, I really do appreciate that there are just about no places that manage inventive quality at reasonable prices and the alternative, especially in Manhattan's C-town, is low cost mediocre fare. However, they do pop up for brief periods and, over the years, I've been able to catch places as new chefs try to get a foothold in NYC by starting with a local C-town place. I remember Mandarin Court on Mott as being one such place a good 15 years ago and it lasted less than a year at that quality level.

The one exception is World Tong in Brooklyn. It remains a solid quality (not so much in high end ingredients as in preparation and execution) at low end prices. Take your wife's family there & they'll be fine.

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The one exception is World Tong in Brooklyn.  It remains a solid quality (not so much in high end ingredients as in preparation and execution) at low end prices.  Take your wife's family there & they'll be fine.

This is quite true, but once you've taken into consideration the travel costs in time and money, the prices at CB just don't seem all that much higher.

Lunch specials for assortments of dim sum (I think there's a large and a small one) are under $20, including soup...tea is expensive, however, at about $6 a pot.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Since I've only been there by car and always assumed it wasn't accessible by subway, I was surprised to figure out yesterday (slow work day) that World Tong is all of two blocks from the nearest subway stop (N line). So the commute there might cost time -- but it needn't cost much money. And I doubt it's any farther from most parts of Manhattan, by subway, than Flushing.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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The one exception is World Tong in Brooklyn.  It remains a solid quality (not so much in high end ingredients as in preparation and execution) at low end prices.  Take your wife's family there & they'll be fine.

This is quite true, but once you've taken into consideration the travel costs in time and money, the prices at CB just don't seem all that much higher.

Lunch specials for assortments of dim sum (I think there's a large and a small one) are under $20, including soup...tea is expensive, however, at about $6 a pot.

Agreed, if you live in Manhattan. Although, as Sneakeater said, it's more a time consideration than a $$ consideration since the N train gets to World Tong pretty easily.

Of course, your (unwritten) assumption that most diners at CB's dim sum are from Manhattan may not be correct and World Tong may actually be closer to many of us from the farmlands. Or, more concisely, a lot of us live in Bklyn to begin with.

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If the dim sum in Manhattan's Chinatown were better, I wouldn't want to pay CB prices either.  But you know what?  It's all pretty lousy down there, and I for one definitely appreciate the higher quality ingredients, including a very nice tea selection. 

As for service, it hasn't ever been great, but I do think the pretentiousness has dropped over time.  There are only a couple of waiters who are great, and one hostess who is very friendly with us, but the rest have always just been ok - so despite service being good for me when I go, I wouldn't count that as a big plus in general for them.

I think it just has to do with how you were brought up.  My wife grew up with traditional style chinatown (not NY) dim sum, which is cheap, served in huge rooms with minimal fuss and decor.  It took her a long time to get adjusted to the "faux imperial" vibe, better ingredients and (principally) higher prices at CB.  Myself, I didn't grow up with dim sum and don't mind paying $30-$40/pp (we order a lot) given the clearly higher quality ingredients and craftsmanship involved.  Initially my wife did mind it, and I'm still not sure she would want to take her family there if they visited, cause their initial reaction would likely be similar to hers.

The funny thing is that this old/new school distinction exists in Hong Kong as well, to a far greater degree.  The tourist guides still point you to the old school, no frills, cheaper ingredients/prices dim sum main stay of the city (mostly populated by older locals and tourists - a weird mix) while I've found myself far far more attracted to the newer, fancier and pricier places in town.

I definitely hear you on all of this. The thing is, I grew up partly in Malaysia, and when we were in Kuala Lumpur during our stay from 1975-77 (which was mostly in Terengganu), we were regular customers at Dragon Court at the Hotel Merlin - a luxury hotel (now the Hotel Concorde, with its dim sum restaurant of Xing) - which had a big dim sum selection every weekend. All of the Hotel Merlin's restaurants were expensive - even from our standpoint as Americans living on my mother's generous grants (which paid a per diem based on what a diplomat would live on in KL, rather than what we lived on in rural Terengganu, which was way less) plus part of the time, my father's full-time CUNY salary (sabbatical) - except Dragon Court. Nevertheless, it was clearly pricier than most of the restaurants we typically patronized in Malaysia. Service wasn't great, but the food was fantastic and the prices weren't overly high for us. And for that matter, on my return trip to Malaysia in 2003, I went to Xing for a blowout lunch on a weekday (they have plentiful dim sum items every day). It was more luxurious, even arguably pretentious, than the Dragon Court had been (but they walked the walk, by hiring a talented young pipa and zither player to perform beautifully while we ate), but again, because of the exchange rate, a splurge that cost me around $13 in American money.

To sum up, it's all a balance between the value of the deliciousness of the food vs. the value of the money, with subtraction for every instance of bullshit in dealing with personnel and addition for good service on top of a lack of bullshit. And in the final analysis, what figure comes after the equals sign depends on how each person rates those values.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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If the dim sum in Manhattan's Chinatown were better, I wouldn't want to pay CB prices either.  But you know what?  It's all pretty lousy down there, and I for one definitely appreciate the higher quality ingredients, including a very nice tea selection. 

As for service, it hasn't ever been great, but I do think the pretentiousness has dropped over time.  There are only a couple of waiters who are great, and one hostess who is very friendly with us, but the rest have always just been ok - so despite service being good for me when I go, I wouldn't count that as a big plus in general for them.

I think it just has to do with how you were brought up.  My wife grew up with traditional style chinatown (not NY) dim sum, which is cheap, served in huge rooms with minimal fuss and decor.  It took her a long time to get adjusted to the "faux imperial" vibe, better ingredients and (principally) higher prices at CB.  Myself, I didn't grow up with dim sum and don't mind paying $30-$40/pp (we order a lot) given the clearly higher quality ingredients and craftsmanship involved.  Initially my wife did mind it, and I'm still not sure she would want to take her family there if they visited, cause their initial reaction would likely be similar to hers.

The funny thing is that this old/new school distinction exists in Hong Kong as well, to a far greater degree.  The tourist guides still point you to the old school, no frills, cheaper ingredients/prices dim sum main stay of the city (mostly populated by older locals and tourists - a weird mix) while I've found myself far far more attracted to the newer, fancier and pricier places in town.

i agree that CB's quality is unrivaled and the service these days is solid. for the minimal fuss dim sum, i recommend trying kings seafood (not to be confused with ping's), my go-to in manhattan. it's on 39 e. broadway, 2nd floor. make sure to sit in the main dining area and not the side/back rooms where the cart traffic is scarce. it's consistently piping hot unlike 88 palace or jing fongs and more authentic than go-go. chatham square restaurant (no carts) and of course golden unicorn are also good standbys.

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i agree that CB's quality is unrivaled and the service these days is solid. for the minimal fuss dim sum, i recommend trying kings seafood (not to be confused with ping's), my go-to in manhattan. it's on 39 e. broadway, 2nd floor. make sure to sit in the main dining area and not the side/back rooms where the cart traffic is scarce. it's consistently piping hot unlike 88 palace or jing fongs and more authentic than go-go. chatham square restaurant (no carts) and of course golden unicorn are also good standbys.

Look forward to trying Kings Seafood - has anyone else been?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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i agree that CB's quality is unrivaled and the service these days is solid. for the minimal fuss dim sum, i recommend trying kings seafood (not to be confused with ping's), my go-to in manhattan. it's on 39 e. broadway, 2nd floor. make sure to sit in the main dining area and not the side/back rooms where the cart traffic is scarce. it's consistently piping hot unlike 88 palace or jing fongs and more authentic than go-go. chatham square restaurant (no carts) and of course golden unicorn are also good standbys.

I definitely appreciate the recommendation, but what do you mean by "more authentic"? I understand that Dim Sum Go Go is new-style Hong Kong style, whereas most other places serve 1980s Hong Kong style.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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i agree that CB's quality is unrivaled and the service these days is solid. for the minimal fuss dim sum, i recommend trying kings seafood (not to be confused with ping's), my go-to in manhattan. it's on 39 e. broadway, 2nd floor. make sure to sit in the main dining area and not the side/back rooms where the cart traffic is scarce. it's consistently piping hot unlike 88 palace or jing fongs and more authentic than go-go. chatham square restaurant (no carts) and of course golden unicorn are also good standbys.

I definitely appreciate the recommendation, but what do you mean by "more authentic"? I understand that Dim Sum Go Go is new-style Hong Kong style, whereas most other places serve 1980s Hong Kong style.

i saw go go hamburger and vegetarian dim sum on the menu and assumed that it was trying to cater to everyone. big assumption, i know. i thought only CB is new hong kong style and didn't know that go go is as well. thx for the info.

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i agree that CB's quality is unrivaled and the service these days is solid. for the minimal fuss dim sum, i recommend trying kings seafood (not to be confused with ping's), my go-to in manhattan. it's on 39 e. broadway, 2nd floor. make sure to sit in the main dining area and not the side/back rooms where the cart traffic is scarce. it's consistently piping hot unlike 88 palace or jing fongs and more authentic than go-go. chatham square restaurant (no carts) and of course golden unicorn are also good standbys.

Look forward to trying Kings Seafood - has anyone else been?

here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

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here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

Thanks. Can you describe those black sesame rolls a little? They look moist. Are they agar agar with black sesame?

[Edit: I realized I've gotten these elsewhere. But go ahead and describe them if you like.]

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

Thanks. Can you describe those black sesame rolls a little? They look moist. Are they agar agar with black sesame?

[Edit: I realized I've gotten these elsewhere. But go ahead and describe them if you like.]

Certainly not. Chestnut flour and sugar, I believe.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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i agree that CB's quality is unrivaled and the service these days is solid. for the minimal fuss dim sum, i recommend trying kings seafood (not to be confused with ping's), my go-to in manhattan. it's on 39 e. broadway, 2nd floor. make sure to sit in the main dining area and not the side/back rooms where the cart traffic is scarce. it's consistently piping hot unlike 88 palace or jing fongs and more authentic than go-go. chatham square restaurant (no carts) and of course golden unicorn are also good standbys.

Look forward to trying Kings Seafood - has anyone else been?

here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

Those are great, and definitely look really good, thanks!

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here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

Thanks. Can you describe those black sesame rolls a little? They look moist. Are they agar agar with black sesame?

[Edit: I realized I've gotten these elsewhere. But go ahead and describe them if you like.]

Certainly not. Chestnut flour and sugar, I believe.

Chestnut flour? Christ, if you're cooking at home. You know you only get the good stuff from grandma, momma and auntie. :)

Nope. They're ground black sesame with glutinous rice flour. The chefs who are lazy may use gelatin but the "gee mah guen" are supposed to be made in the same way as cheong fun, with some tweaks.

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here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

Thanks. Can you describe those black sesame rolls a little? They look moist. Are they agar agar with black sesame?

[Edit: I realized I've gotten these elsewhere. But go ahead and describe them if you like.]

Certainly not. Chestnut flour and sugar, I believe.

Chestnut flour? Christ, if you're cooking at home. You know you only get the good stuff from grandma, momma and auntie. :)

Nope. They're ground black sesame with glutinous rice flour. The chefs who are lazy may use gelatin but the "gee mah guen" are supposed to be made in the same way as cheong fun, with some tweaks.

Yes, I will concede - the restaurant possibly uses rice flour (or, you may know that for a fact). But traditionally, chestnut flour.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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here are some photos from king's to give you a better idea. a couple of tips. arriving before noon usually guarantees you a seat in the main dining room, and ordering specialty items from the main table requires patience on the weekends but well worth it.

Thanks. Can you describe those black sesame rolls a little? They look moist. Are they agar agar with black sesame?

[Edit: I realized I've gotten these elsewhere. But go ahead and describe them if you like.]

it's gelatinous like agar but stickier and not as moist. it jiggles a little on your chopsticks and people with texture issues aren't going to like it. it's mildly sweet with a nutty sesame flavor. not sure how it's made so i'll defer to everyone else. lung moon bakery (83 mott) has pretty good ones if you want a quick try.

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  • 2 months later...
Well, Red Egg hasn't been mentioned yet in this thread. I haven't been there yet, but there's been a lot of talk about it on Chowhound:

Has anyone been to "red egg" in chinatown

Dim Sum this Sunday, Chinatown (long thread that includes more recent discussion of Red Egg, among other places)

Sounds like it's a bit like Chinatown Brasserie, what with the cocktails and higher priced dim sum (though not quite as high as CB)...if the quality of the dim sum is anywhere near as good as CB's, might be worth a go.

Here's their website.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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