If I had to pick a favorite type of cuisine, it would definitely be "Asian." I love all types of Asian food, whether it's Thai, Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. I love it all!!! One of my "must-eats" on any trip is to find a good Asian restaurant. When we were planning our honeymoon trip to San Francisco last fall, I was so excited to experience Chinatown. I read up on all of the good Dim Sum places to try out and finally settled on one that the guidebook said was good for novices. I was definitely a novice at Dim Sum. Minnesota has so many wonderful Chinese restaurants, but Dim Sum is not a big thing here.
After walking around Chinatown all morning, we finally found the restaurant that the guidebook promised would be "excellent for novices." We figured that 11:00 a.m. would be a good time to avoid the lunch crowd who would all be making fun of us because we didn't know how to order off the carts properly. At 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, however, the restaurant was packed to the gills. We were quickly lead to an empty table, and immediately the carts were rolling towards us. The first cart that came to our table had the daily special, which was covered with a silver dome. The cart driver pointed at a covered plate and asked if we wanted to try the special. We had just sat down and had not come up with a pre-Dim Sum game plan, so instead of looking at the cart's offering we just nodded our heads and before we knew it this was plopped down in front of us:
This was our first tactical error (I'm talking about the seafood special dish and not the pork buns). We did not really know what the dish was, and it ended up being flavorless and kind of icky. It was also expensive. I think it was around $17-$20, although they never actually tell you how much something cost at a Dim Sum. They just stamp your ticket and then bring you a final bill at the end.
After the seafood cart rolled away, Mike and I had a quick tactical discussion. We only wanted dishes that looked appetizing and wanted to get mostly appetizers with no more main dishes. At some point during that discussion the pork bun cart driver rolled by and I almost tackled him to get a plate.
After we got situated, the carts rolled fast and furious. Soon we were inundated with delicious looking dishes and we had a table full of food. I mean it. Here was our table:
As we looked around at the other patrons' tables, we realized that most people just had one or two dishes on their tables and we looked like little piggies at the casino buffet. It was embarrassing.
Our second tactical error was not telling the cart drivers "no" or "come back later." Instead, we packed our table so full of food that there was no way we could finish it all. I think once you start saying yes to everything, word spreads that you are suckers and then every cart comes to your table. I think the pork bun cart came to our table 4 times.
The real problem with this, besides wasting food, is that you have no idea what you are spending because none of the dishes are marked with a price. I'm sure you could ask, but we didn't. Our final bill was over $50! Even in San Francisco, that is a lot to spend at lunch for two people. We didn't even have booze.
I'm not sure that the restaurant we went to was good for the novice Dim Sum person, so I won't even name it. There were tons of Dim Sum restaurants, and I think that anywhere you go you will probably have a good dining experience. Unless you are a Dim Sum expert I would suggest going into a larger restaurant that looks like it has a good variety of food to choose from.
My favorite dishes from the lunch were the aforementioned buns and the ribs and pot stickers:
I was somewhat disappointed in my first Dim Sum experience, but I think a lot of the disappointment came from how overwhelmed I felt while dining and the large price tag that the lunch had. Next time I do Dim Sum I will go in with a better game plan and be firm in telling the cart drivers when I don't want something before our table gets loaded up again. It was a fun life lesson and I don't regret going, it just wasn't my favorite meal in San Francisco.