September 12, 2012

Where to Get Dim Sum in Philadelphia

Update: Dim Sum Garden has moved to a new, more spacious and modern location at 10th and Race. 

Our recent post comparing top spots in Philadelphia to San Francisco did not mention our trip to SF’s Chinatown for some awesome dim sum and dumplings. We had never tried any dim sum places in Philly before then so we could not compare.

We highly recommend both Delicious Dim Sum and Good Mang Kok in SF if you’re looking for dim sum to go. Check out some pics on our Pinterest board. You should make Chinatown a stop on any SF trip.

The experience inspired us to go on a recent dim sum hunt in Philadelphia. We decided to check out Dim Sum Garden after several of our Twitter friends recommended it, as well as David’s Mai Lai Wah after Philadelphia Magazine’s glowing dumpling review in 2011.

We’re not dim sum aficionados, but Dim Sum Garden was more than satisfying. We've already been back there a second time, and plan to return regularly.

The grimy, unpretentious location underneath the Hilton Garden Inn's overpass on 11th Street gives the place a feeling of authenticity, though it's not a traditional dim sum restaurant where they come around with carts and you point to your picks. Here you just order from a waitress. Fine with us.

Many of the other customers at Dim Sum Garden were regulars who knew the menu and the servers were also quick to give recommendations. Dim Sum Garden wasn’t trying to be all things to everyone.

The Shanghai Steamed Pork Juicy Buns were the highlight. The soupy interior was like magic in your mouth. On our first trip, we also ordered the Shanghai SiuMai, which we remembered from our SF stop. The only drawback was we only ordered four. Order more than that cause you'll want them. The total cost was less than $15, including tip.

Shanghai Steamed Pork Juicy Buns (Soup Dumplings)
Shanghai SiuMai

On our second trip, we upped our order to four items off the dim sum menu, and that proved to be a hearty Sunday afternoon meal. The Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Juice Buns were great, but did not generate the same OMG-this-is-amazing reaction as the thinner, steamed soupy buns last time. Fried to a crisp, the Chicken Wings were just how I like them, though Kristy was more a fan of the light, airy shrimp dumplings. If you are in the mood for something more doughy and substantial, the Triple Steamed Buns filled with scrambled egg and chive are a good choice.

Inside the Triple Steamed Bun
Fried Chicken Wings
Shrimp Dumplings

The verdict for David’s Mai Lai Wah was not nearly as good, especially the famed dumplings. Philly Magazine's statement that the "pork dumplings with ginger scallion sauce [are] are more addictive than crack, heroin and crystal meth combined" is attention grabbing, but not much else. The dumplings are actually about as addicting as stale fortune cookies. We won’t be going back for more is all you need to know.

David's spicy salt and pepper fried chicken wings had a nice crunch and were full of meat, but nowhere near the Korean-style wings at Sammy Chon’s or Dim Sum Garden. What really irked me was calling them spicy since not even a small hint of spice was detectable. It's possible, and my hope, that we were we were actually served the regular wings by accident.

Salt and pepper wings at David's Mai Lai Wah

Our Philly dim sum hunt is still on so please share your recommendations and register over on the right side of the blog to get email updates on our future posts. Next up on our list are Ocean City, a top recommendation from Midtown Lunch, and Joy Tsin Lau, suggested by a reader.

Dim Sum Garden on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Aimster said...

Ocean harbor used to be the best although I think half the staff defected to Ocean City a few years ago. Davids MLW is not a dimsum place. That's strictly late night (read-drunk) dining.

If you want dimsum without the hustle and bustle...Mong Kok station (the bakery on 10th st) actually serves a decent dimsum. And if you're in south philly, Wakano's (11th and washington) is pretty good too.