Getting Down With Dim Sum

Jo McGarry
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Friday - November 11, 2005
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If I had to choose a last meal, I think I may forgo the fine dining and just eat dim sum. There’s almost nothing I enjoy more, and at least once a week I get a craving that can only be satisfied by a visit to one or two of my favorite places. Honolulu certainly has its fair share of Chinese restaurants that serve the easy-to-eat and, for the most part, beautifully presented dishes, but there are only a couple of restaurants that really go out of their way to woo diners with dim sum delights. I know many of you are fans of Legends in Chinatown, but I find it too impersonal and noisy, and I feel that there are better offerings to be had elsewhere. One of my all-time favorites, in terms of choice and availability, is the excellent Mei Sum in Chinatown, on the corner of Pauahi Street. Dim sum here has become so popular that the restaurant now serves until 7 p.m., unlike most places that are done by 2:30 or 3 p.m.

Dim sum was always traditionally a breakfast dish, but I love to eat it for lunch (and for a snack and for dinner, if I can). At Mei Sum, there are dozens of the usual offerings (chicken feet, pot stickers, pork hash, siu mai, etc.) but their seafood offerings and specialty items like the fried bean curd wrapped crab and shiitake mushroom parcels are among the best in town. They offer a huge variety of seafood and include delicacies other than just the usual har gow and siu mai.

Dim Sum at Hong Kong Harbor View is served from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with kamaaiana specials (dim sum for just $1.89) offered until 11 a.m. daily.

As well as the traditional carts offering baskets of everything from braised pigs feet to spare ribs and seafood dumplings, there is a grill cart pushed from table to table, offering even more.

A dim sum waitress offers a selection of single items that include shrimp stuffed mushrooms, look funn, pot stickers, mochi rice and stuffed eggplant.

The dishes are grilled individually for a few moments before being served at the table.

Hee Hing is another favorite, serving more than 75 different dishes. And at Shanghai Bistro, at the Discovery Bay Center, dim sum is served until 4:30 p.m., with the offerings almost as beautiful as the elegant surroundings. Chef Chang brings a similar menu from Hong Kong Harbor View (both restaurants are owned by Li May Tang) and then he adds the flair and style that local diners have come to expect from this stylish and trend-setting restaurant.

Dim sum dining offers a rare opportunity to eat “fast food” at a leisurely pace. Yes, those ladies with their carts can be tough to deal with, but once you’ve got the dim sum etiquette down (don’t hog the carts, know what you want as soon as it arrives, don’t be browbeaten into eating dessert while you’re still working on your pigs feet, point to the pictures if in doubt), then for value, variety and the opportunity to eat like a champion (my personal record is 21 pieces at one sitting), there’s nothing quite like dim sum.

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