Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bloggers' Bites: Ocean Harbor Dim Sum

Bloggers' Bites is a series of posts chronicling the foodie adventures of Penn Appetit's blog staff. This past Sunday, we went out for Ocean Harbor's dim sum at 11th and Race.

Nicole Woon: Having grown up around dim sum and Chinese banquets, I'm no stranger to har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) and jellyfish tentacles. What was new to me was the place we dined at: Ocean Harbor. I've been on the hunt for a good dim sum place in Philly's Chinatown and was pleasantly surprised with the fare at Ocean Harbor. While I wasn't a fan of a couple dishes—take the BBQ beef skewers (the beef and the cloyingly sweet sauce that coated it was neither good nor authentic) and the jellyfish (I never could get over the odd texture and lack of taste)—, I was quite pleased with the rest. Personal favorites included the perfect pan-fried pork and scallion dumplings (excellent pan-crusted exterior, savory and juicy interior, flavorful throughout), steamed sticky rice (deliciously glutinous with a good balance of meat to rice), and the plump siu mai (what succulent steamed pork dumplings these were!). I was disappointed that the restaurant's golden egg tarts (a must-order for every dim sum meal) weren't ready until after we left, but that's just more incentive to return. Based on the quality of the food and the excellent price ($8 per person is a steal for the feast we had!), I'm sure I wasn't the only one who enjoyed Ocean Harbor overall. The crowds are a testament to the restaurant's success as well; the dining area was PACKED and by the time we left around 11:30 am, the waitstaff was calling group #18 after giving a "place in line" ticket to group #34! The icing on the cake (er... the coating on the taro dumpling?) was the spirited Chinese New Year bash going on outside; we reveled in the delightfully noisy firecrackers and talented lion dancers' performances before our departure.

Rachel Marc: The dim sum experience was a nice change of pace from the traditional dining scene. It was nice to see so many large groups together to enjoy a meal in a lively and bustling atmosphere. The carts wheeled about by servers served as a reminder that not all restaurants operate in the same manner, and the contrast from the typical experience was refreshing. It was great to be able to sample a variety of dishes and the table sharing experience was quite pleasant. My favorite dish was the coconut pudding. It was delicious and light, and it perfectly alleviated the craving for something sweet after the meal. I also really enjoyed the jasmine tea and didn't feel the urge, as a I frequently do, to sweeten the beverage. Overall, dim sum at Ocean Harbor was a great experience and I look forward to returning there to further explore its array of options.

Jessica Chung: Dim sum is one of my favorite kinds of brunch. I love the atmosphere, in which ladies bustle around, pushing carts full of food from which you can pick the dishes that appeal to you. I love the clamor of hungry people shouting out which dish they want as it goes by. And I love the smell of the salty, fried cooking. As for the food, I find all types of dim sum delicious: shrimp dumplings, roasted pork buns, egg custard tarts. Out of the dishes the bloggers and I ate at our trip to Ocean Harbor, my favorite was the fried taro dumpling. This dish consisted of mashed taro stuffed with shitake mushrooms, shrimp, and pork in the center, covered in a fried bird’s nest shell. The crunch of the bird’s nest nicely contrasted the soft, potato-like taro. And the mushroom, shrimp, and pork filling gave the taro a salty flavor. The one thing we were missing at this brunch were egg custard tarts. This is my favorite dim sum dessert. Egg custard tarts look like mini pies with a flaky pastry crust filled with a sweet yellow egg custard. The smooth texture of the custard goes well with the flaky texture of the crust. And it is small enough to satisfy a little sweet craving at the end of such a salty meal. We did have a coconut jello though for dessert. Its consistency was that of jello, it’s color was white, and the flavor was distinctly coconut. It was satisfying, but I wouldn’t have minded an egg custard tart too! So, I guess that means we’ll just have to go for dim sum again some time!

Katie Behrman: Upon entering Ocean Harbor, I knew I was in for a treat! Waiters bustled throughout the restaurant pushing carts piled with delicacies. Once seated, our waiter brought two pots of jasmine tea. The delicate, slightly sweet tea warmed my throat and soothed my body. I cannot even tell you how many cups I drank! The food-filled carts arrived at our table throughout the meal, enabling us to taste a variety of dishes. Below, I have described some of my favorites:

Haam sui gok: My favorite dish, Haam sui gok consisted of fried dough filled with chopped pork and vegetables. The dough possessed a delightful outer crunch combined with a soft inner layer. It tasted sweet and sugary, almost like a donut, but not quite as overwhelming. I also really enjoyed the filling as the pork and vegetables complemented the dough very well.

Steamed sticky rice: Not only delicious, the steamed sticky rice contained an intricate, and mesmerizing, construction. Wrapped in a thin layer of what I believe to be a pastry, the rice and its other components (pork and vegetables) created an almost perfect circle. Although I did struggle initially cutting away a piece with my chopsticks, I really enjoyed this dish. It was hot, packed with flavor, and contained a variety of textures.

Coconut pudding: Our final dish, the coconut pudding resembled a smooth, purely white rectangle. It was cold, yet melted in my mouth. I thought that the pudding tasted like milk infused with sweet and fragrant flavors. The refreshing pudding also cleansed my palate, and I really enjoyed ending the meal in this way!

Elliott Brooks: Dim sum for the gluten-sensitive is a near impossible feat. So while my fellow bloggers chowed down on siu mai and har gow (my two favorite dim sum delicacies from before I realized I had a gluten sensitivity!) I sipped my jasmine tea and tried to think about other things. Luckily, there were a couple things I was able to try. The first was jellyfish, certainly not a dish for the faint of heart. The jelly fish had been sliced into long translucent-looking "noodles". Suprisingly, jellyfish is quite crunchy and pretty bland. However, ours had a slightly pungent fishy aftertaste, which might just be because our jellyfish wasn't particularly fresh. I ended up eating the pickled diakon (a large white radish) that was nestled under the jellyfish.

The second dish I was able to try was the coconut pudding, which came in a wobbly, jello-like block. I love both coconut and pudding, so this was the perfect dessert to me. Not to mention, it wasn't too sweet and was almost refreshing. Needless to say, I ended up eating three times more coconut pudding than a normal person, and didn't regret a single bite.

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