Living in downtown Manhattan, and so close to Chinatown at that, it would be criminal to not do dim sum every once in a while. Although hubs often gripes about the "zoological experience," I've never walked away from a dim sum experience that I didn't enjoy.
Dim sum, traditionally speaking, is a Cantonese culinary experience and generally done over breakfast (read: early). It's since then been modernized to become the equivalent of a Chinese tapas meal, while the type of cuisine and overall ambience remains the same (why mess with a good thing?).
I've always liked the atmosphere of dim sum, just as much as the food -- since I'm a big proponent for family-style dining. The entire dim sum affair generally takes place in a large space with a ton of commotion, so the bonus is that nobody will hear your baby if he/she decides to act out.
- My personal favorite is the har gao (aka shrimp dumplings, 虾饺). I heard that it's the ultimate gauge for how good a dim sum venue is. The juicier the har gao, the better!
- It ain't dim sum if you don't order a heap of steamed goods (I.e., steamed buns, dumplings, etc etc).
- Always go for the turnip cakes, some are pure vegetarian sorts, some have pieces of bacon baker inside. All are equally delicious.
- If you're feeling truly fancy, you can opt for some seafood (clams are a favorite), or some green veggies dim sum dish.
- Believe it or not, the sweets at dim sum are pretty darn good. I love the little egg tarts that they pass around, and if you're feeling truly adventurous, go for some durian puff pastries!
- Generally, dim sum is a kid-friendly activity (it *does* gets frenetic however, irrespective of whether there's young kiddos around or not, so just be forewarned).
- I've only ever been to the ladies' room, but for the most part, changing rooms can be chaotic, though not unmanageable. I've done it multiple times and it's fine.
- Some places, like Jing Fong, do have high chairs (though I must admit they've seen better days). I highly recommend bringing your own wriggler wrapper.
- General rule of thumb is to arrive before noon -- the closer to 11am, the better (which won't be hard to do with a little one).
- Above all, just relax and enjoy the experience! Remember, dim sum is not for the uptight!!
City Baby’s recommended dim sum spots:
- When it comes to dim sum with the little guy, we would recommend something spacious, such as Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth Street) or the Golden Unicorn (18 East Broadway). Places like Nom Wah (13 Doyers Street), as highly regarded as they are, tend to be on the smaller side.
- Another place that we’ve been going to recently is called Hop Shing (9 Chatham Square), which is also quite good and very, very authentic (i.e., just be prepared to be looked at funny if you are a “laowai” 老外 aka not Chinese).
- Lastly, always have Chatham Square restaurant (6 Chatham Square) as your background plan, since many other dim sum spots will have a long wait if you turn up after 12 or 12:30pm. Let’s just say, we’ve had to do that a few times, and the food there is good too!