The title of this blog may be NJ Spice, but where I go, you go, and yesterday I had dim sum brunch in Chinatown. For someone who loves the cuisine, I have not had a lot of experience with dim sum, but one thing I do know – it is a lot more interesting if you are Chinese or have Chinese friends with you.
My old favorite spot, Sweet-n-Tart Restaurant, has decamped to Flushing, so, along with a friend and my nephew, I tried Oriental Garden at 14 Elizabeth St. Oriental Garden is best known for their seafood, but they do a basic dim sum brunch, too. The dim sum here are presented in bamboo steamers instead of stainless, and the things we chose were, indeed, delicious, especially the ethereal vegetarian dumpling and shrimp in rice noodles. But I found the selection limited, lacking, for instance, congee, the Chinese rice porridge, I have come to count on. And if they had chicken feet, they weren’t offering it to us Westerners (not that we minded, I admit).
Far more interesting to me was the solo gentleman (not Asian) at the next table who ordered up a two-pound sea bass out of one of the fish tanks. It was fished out by a guy on a ladder with a net, weighed on a scale on the floor in a corner, and carried off to the kitchen. It shortly reappeared on a platter, steamed and festooned with ginger and scallion. Voila! A work of art, and our new friend even let me lean in for a photo as he dug in.