For years I’ve wanted to go to an authentic dim sum brunch experience ala Bourdain. To go to a restaurant that can house 1,000 people, where English is not spoken, where dim sum is more than just boring, pre-made dumplings, and where old ladies run after dim sum carts fighting over their favorite morsels. This past weekend I finally made it to my first honest dim sum experience and it was at Jing Fong restaurant. Quite simply put, the best brunch ever. To make it even better, one of the best deals ever. Who would ever pay $20 for a brunch of poached eggs and watered down bloody mary after having real dim sum? Only jabronis.
Jing Fong, dim sum for brunch
Jing Fong is not a restaurant, it is a royal banquet hall. For those that cherish personal space, dimly lit, romantic yet hip settings, Jing Fong is the anti-thesis. It is a wedding hall, populated with tables that can sit up to 10. These tables can be comprised of multiple parties, but don’t get buddy buddy with your neighbors, that’s not kosher. It is definitely best to go with a group of friends in order to order more of the menu and really go to town. There’s a mass of bodies outside, waiting for their number to be called from a gentleman manning a mic to then take up the escalators to the dining hall on the 2nd floor. For the most part the vast majority of those waiting are Chinese, mixed in with a few foodies and tourists.
Carts of 100+ variety of dim sum are pushed around for hungry eaters to choose from. Having friends fluent in Mandarin and well-averse with dim sum dishes are definitely recommended but not required. The fun of dim sum is the culinary adventure of just trying tons of different types of small bits, so just go ahead, pick some dishes, and give them a try. At $2-3 per dish (each with a minimum of 4 dumplings, rice cakes, buns, etc), experimentation is not only highly encouraged by also won’t break the bank. Even Groupon cannot make this deal any sweeter. So just go crazy and try everything with your friends – it will only ultimately cost you $15-20, after eating half the menu. Well worth it, food coma central.
What are some dim sum essentials? Surely, there are the many types of dumplings – steamed, fried, shrimp & snap pea, shrimp, pork and chive, fried glutinous rice, etc. Then there are the rice noodle rolls, stuffed with seafood or minced pork, both topped with a soy sauce mixture. And also the buns, stuffed with bbq pork, and either steamed, baked, or fried. Serious Eats has a seriously solid guide to dim sum here. But my favorites are those that do not involve the gluten.
Get more than dim sum dumplings and buns, like feet and crueller
Of course, dim sum is not dim sum without chickens feet. These chickens’ feet are fried and then steamed. The feet are in the deep fryer until puffy and inflated and then covered in a sweet and savory sauce. The texture is spongy and delicate – an absolute blast to eat with one’s hands. An off-the-beaten-dim-sum path favorite of mine is the rice noodle wrapped cruller. This is basically a long, Chinese style fried doughnut bread, wrapped in a thick rice noodle, and then topped with a soy and sesame sauce. The fried dough has a natural sweetness and its texture contrasts drunkenly with the sticky, gummy rice noodle. Another favorite is the turnip cake. These are squares of daikon radish mash with flour and served like squares of fried polenta. In the cake are pieces of Chinese ham to bring this party to the roof.
Other dim sum at Jing Fong that we enjoyed included the steamed pork spare ribs, congee with pork & scallions (Chinese style rice porridge & amazing for breakfast), tofu pudding served with a sweet, fruity sauce, meatballs, sauteed greens, snails in black bean sauce, and braised tripe. With so much to choose from, there’s plenty of variety to keep any type of eater happy. I’m on the record saying this is one of the best brunch experiences ever. Sure, at times the dumplings were too gummy and other dim sum were not as well executed or flavored as could be, but the sheer experience, value, and plethora of tastes and textures are more than enough to compensate for any negativity – so go get your next brunch at Jing Fong or another dim sum house ASAP.