Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Dim Sum Adventure

"Dim sum," in Cantonese, means "order to your heart's content." What better way to spend the morning after an '80s exercise party? After months of making abstract plans to go, my roommates and I finally ventured to Chinatown for dim sum. We ended up eating at the first restaurant we stumbled upon, Imperial Inn (located on 10th st. between Race and Cherry). The first thing that struck us was the delightfully tacky décor. A lit-up plastic landscape painting elicited an “Ooooo” from one of my roommates. Speakers, a TV, projectors, and a disco ball made the room ideal for a high school graduation party, which only added to the dive's charm. Though we were told we would have to wait fifteen minutes, our party of four was seated quickly.

Within minutes of being seated, the first cart rolled up to us and we tried rice noodles filled with beef and drowned in soy sauce. From then, it was hard to say no to any carts that rolled our way. We had steamed barbecue pork buns, shrimp dumplings, crusty pork pie, vegetable egg rolls, roasted duck, calamari, and a steamed bun filled with custard -- all accompanied by a big pot of hot tea. We unanimously agreed the custard buns and barbeque pork buns were our favorites. Sweet, thick, and rich, the baked egg custard was a surprising treat; it was a nice compliment to the salty, savory dishes we had been eating to that point. The pork bun was satisfying because of its doughy thickness. Yet some dishes were sadly left untouched. The vegetable egg rolls had an unappealing crunchy texture and were filled with bland, watery vegetables. Also, the calamari tasted of MSG and little else.

The service is nothing to rave about but, at dim sum, I never expect much attention. For just $36 for four people, we left happy and filled to the brim with greasy Chinese food -- a welcome remedy to the Spandex debauchery of the night before. Though the restaurant itself is nothing to write home about, my roommates and I certainly enjoyed the pork and egg custard buns, and the whole unique dining experience. Perhaps dim sum may just be the new alternative to Hill's Sunday brunch.


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