I am sure there is a favorite Chinese dish for everyone out there. But, to me, the greatest creation of Chinese cuisine/style is Dim Sum. It is like tapas of Chinese food. You get to have small amount of dishes, one after another, until you are fully stuffed with yummy goodness. A really nice way to try all sorts of dishes, finding out what you like and what you don’t like, at affordable price. One of the worst thing that can happen at the restaurant is that you order a main dish, a large entrée, and it turns out terrible. Then, you are stuck with the pricey bill for the food you didn’t like. With dim sum, you can make the risk much smaller, both in portion and price. So, as we looked at where to go, we came across this place called Jing Fong Restaurant. The outside didn’t look like much, but it was not that hard to find with the red awning.
The inside had a small lobby with hostess table. When it gets packed (which I heard this place gets completely packed all the time), I assume you give your name to a staff here. On the day we went (on a snowy day), there was no wait, so we went right up the looooong escalator. About half way up, the mood of the restaurant starts to change, with huge, beautiful chandelier.
Then there is this huge, enormous dining room, tables after tables, under big chandeliers. They have all sorts of tables, both in shape and size. Most of them are round table, small and large. The small one can seat party size of four, and the large one can seat up to eight or more. They also have rectangle tables, also small and large. Maybe they have tables that is even larger somewhere, but I couldn’t see with the sea of people and tables.
We were quickly spotted by staff (there were few staffs on stand-by right at the top of escalator). They have walkie talkie to communicate in this large space, and the staff got on the walkie talkie to tell another staff who is in charge of seating people. She called us over and we hurried over to a large round table. It is all “shared” table, unless you are coming with large group of people. They had a menu on the table, but you don’t really need that unless you have something specific that you want to order. All you really need is the dim sum price list in there. The pricing is simple. Small = $2.95, Medium = $3.75, and Large = $4.50. If you get something other than under these listing, then the price is different.
As soon as we sat down, a make stuff came and asked “Tea? Jasmine?” We said yes and he brought over tea pot with Jasmine Tea ($1/person). We asked for a refill at one point, but it seems that it is free-refill, since we didn’t get charged any extra. Great! It had some tea leaves in there, but I didn’t mind, and it went really nicely with the dim sum. And you really can’t beat the price…! We were given a dim sum card, which is how they keep track of what you order. Don’t lose this one!
What I really liked about this place is that they have these old-fashioned dim sum carts, pushed by female staff everywhere. Each one will be carrying something different, from dumpling, meat, tofu, baked goods, desserts… Just stop them and ask what they have, point to what you want, and they will put it on your table. (It seems like they didn’t want you to pick it up yourself). Make sure you hand them the dim sum card when you get a dish, and the staff will put a stamp or initial in the right box (small, medium, or large).
First one we picked was Char Siu Bao, or Steamed Pork Buns. Berbecued pork filled buns, really tasty and had distinctive, strong flavor of “Chinese barbecue” which my husband and I liked. I wouldn’t say it was amazing, but it was comforting and good way to start the dim sum, as it is one of the most basic, typical dish. This was considered “Medium” – I am not sure exactly how they do the size, maybe based on how many are in it??? (Some had three, some had four, etc.) We didn’t really care, as the price difference is only around $1 between the sizes, and they are very affordable.
Another thing we did here, was that we got one item at a time. Two at most. We learned from our experience/mistake, not to order too many things at once. I see some people get really excited and get so many dim sum dishes all at once, ending up not being able to finish half of them because they get super full about mid-point. Unless you already know exactly how much food you can handle, I suggest you order small quantity at a time. It is more enjoyable this way, and the dishes stay hot too.
We also got a Fried Sticky Rice, I believe is called Nor Mai Fahn. But, I gotta say it was more like it was forced onto us. Be careful with those ladies with dim sum carts, they can be pushy and persuasive if you don’t say NO right away. Sometimes you have to say NO several times before she gives up and walks away… The rice was good, but not necessary… Anyways, The it is made with glutinous rice, bits of sasage (?), scallions, and mushroom. Really, very sticky. The sticky-ness was quite powerful. They also had another sticky rice wrapped in Lotus Leave, Pearl Chicken Sticky Rice (I believe is called Lo Mai Gai) which looked more fun to eat than this one.
Then, we got Har Gow, or Shrimp Dumplings. It has a whole shrimp inside a translucent wrapper. I believe this was Medium. We really liked this one, we got another one of this later on. The shrimp was plump, very simple but fresh and light.
They had this spicy chili sauce for each party, and I put a small amount on the shrimp dumplings. I liked the little added kick to the simple flavor. Most of other dishes had strong flavors, so I only used this sauce for the shrimp dumplings.
We also had Siu Mai, open-topped dumplings filled with ground pork and shrimp. It was juicy and tasty. Some of the dim sum might be out and about for a while, as it is on the dim sum cart from the moment it is cooked until it is picked up by a customer. So, I assume not all of them will be super fresh… But, with the restaurant with sea of people, I think the food gets picked pretty fast, so I think most of the food we picked were fresh.
The last “main” dishes we had was Steamed Pork Dumplings. I think it was supposed to be a soup dumpling, Xiao Long Bao, but it didn’t have any “soup” in it… I am not sure if it is supposed to contain soup, and that it is the way it is, or it got to us a bit too late, and that all the soup had evaporated??? It was ok, not great, I felt like the wrapper was just a bit too tough, and the filling was a bit too…squeezed? But, it was bound to find one or two item that you are not completely like, when you are getting so many different items. And that is the idea, finding out what you like and what you don’t like, for the next time.
they have a walk up station for other non-traditional dim sum dishes. It looked really…well, exotic. It had a very strong smell, and the way they looked were a bit too adventurous for me, so I didn’t try any. It is good that they offer more of their authentic dishes for the people who wants more than just dim sum.
We were getting pretty full, so we moved onto desserts. They do have dessert carts, and even though they are not lots of varieties of desserts, they had interesting looking things. Some desserts that are steamed are on regular dim sum cart also, you do need to check with the staff when they come around with the cart to see if they have anything sweet there.
We got this half see-through balls filled with custard. This is a steamed dessert, so we found it on the regular dim sum cart. It was not as good as I expected it to be. The material used for the wrap had similar texture to mochi, but more like strange gelatin… The custard wasn’t great either. If we go back, I will definitely skip this one.
But we did get a super adorable dessert to make up for the strange custard balls. No, these are not carrots, but mochi-type dessert in shape of mini carrots, with sweet bean paste. Its not that it was amazing or delicious, but it was just soooo cute! Since these are the only two desserts we had here, I can’t speak for all the desserts they offer, but I felt that desserts are NOT their specialty.
Out of everything we had, One of the things were marked as “Small” – I am not sure which one that is, maybe one of the desserts? Two of the items were marked “Large” – could have been two orders of the Har Gow (shrimp dumplings)??? The rest were marked “Medium.” Unless you are checking closely each time they put a marking on the dim sum card, you lose a track of the size of thing easily. But at the end, the average of the items were about $4.00, which is a great price.
Overall, we had a great dim sum experience here. We learned what we liked and what we didn’t like, in which I can say we liked most of what we tried. I would recommend to focus on the savory dim sum here, and not their dessert. There are so many great dessert places right around this spot, so you can always go over to one of them for some desserts. Dim sum is a fun way to eat, and great way to share with family and friends. We would definitely try dim sum again in the near future, at Jing Fong or other restaurants!
Jing Fong Restaurant – 20 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013