A by-product of traditional Chinese yum cha, or tea service, the once overlooked snack bites now join the ranks of New York City's best Chinese food. From faithfully reproduced pushcarts doling out fried and steamed bites to a modernized pastrami egg roll, here are the best places to go dumpling crazy for dim sum in NYC.
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The best dim sum in NYC
Ascend giant elevators to access this gargantuan dining room with walkie-talkie-toting waiters marshalling diners and a rattling frenzy of pushcarts rushing between tables. Gaudy red and gold decor and snappy service don't stand in the way of exceptional traditional fare like a succulent shrimp shumai with glass noodles and ground pork wrapped in a big black mushroom. The restaurant's surprisingly modern touches include English-speaking pushcarts bearing champagne drink specials, complete with watermelon and peach mixers for a boozy weekend brunch.Read more
In the dark dining room, European tourists on the hunt for Chinese food on Mott Street tightly hug tables next to fine-fare-seeking regulars and sample staples like pork shumai. Steamed crab dumplings (xie rou feng yan jiao) are subtly enhanced with fragments of leek and cilantro and a dab of roe. For a bit more flair, order the unabashedly hot chili peppers (jian niang qing jiao). The pan-fried water-chestnut cake (ma tai gou) is a lightly sweet refresher, with cool, crisp chunks of the star ingredient adding bite to the gently grilled jelly.
There’s no weekend lull at the office tower housing this ’90s-era dim sum standby. Hostesses marshal brunchers, via elevators, to one of two distinctly extravagant floors: the first, displaying classic Chinese pomp with bold reds and golds; the second, all recessed lighting and damask drapes. On both levels, bilingual cart handlers gregariously promote their steamers above the din of gossipy catch-up sessions. The selection sticks to a tried-and-true set of standard bearers. Pork shumai are dense and chewy, a knockout punch of meat wrapped in wontons, while the steamed shrimp dumplings (har gow) are appropriately dainty.
In a 2012 reinvention as an It party spot, Red Egg ditched the quiet vibe in favor of a glammed-up, clubby scene. The lounge phase fizzled, but the mirrors-and-leather look and overcomplicated cocktails live on. Without packs of dolled-up scenesters, the mood feels a bit forced, but staying true to its roots, the dumplings still are spot-on. The pick of the menu is the eponymous Red Egg Puff, a crumbly orb of pastry stuffed with a rich red-bean paste that walks the line between sweet and savory. Other notables include the shrimp-stuffed tofu and the crispy shrimp rolls.
The name of this bi-level Flushing establishment roughly translates to “good kitchen.” Filling a gap in the market for slowpoke souls who can’t handle hard-nosed steamer hustling, things move at a sedate pace. Considered choices yield results like deep-fried crullers (zhaliang) packed with sautéed bean sprouts and carrots and wrapped in soft rice noodles. Chunks of daikon in the pan-fried leek dumplings (jiu cai bao) add an unusual crunch and radishy tang. Even the simple glutinous rice balls (jian dui), usually an afterthought, have extra-generous globs of nutty lotus-paste filling.
Having dropped into the midst of Chatham Square’s hustle in 2000, this mod spot is starting to show its age. But the streamlined selection of healthy, slightly Westernized dishes still reels in regulars and steamer-cart-phobic tourists. Prime examples of the house style are the pumpkin cakes (nan gua gao). Stuffed mushrooms (niang dong gu), an oft-overlooked dim sum classic, make a welcome appearance, their velvety caps topped with dabs of dense, shrimp-heavy seafood paste. Sampler platters offer one-of-each selections for those who can’t choose (or aren’t sure how to).
A gilded and chandeliered palace, this Flushing staple is a proud prototype of dim sum grandeur, but when the crowds swell on weekend mornings, every available cranny (including some that possibly double as supply closets) is put to use. A contrast with the stuffy finery, the dumpling options trundling by on carts are refreshingly elemental. Shrimp dumplings—shaped to resemble little bunnies—are superb in their simplicity: translucent steamed wrappers bursting with thumb-size nuggets of unadorned prawn. Slow-braised chunks of eggplant (niang qiezi) are held together with crusted dollops of dense, briny seafood paste.
Fit for a blowout, Real Housewives–style wedding, this nouveau-rococo banquet hall, opened in 2006, is a testament to how far Sunset Park’s once-derelict Chinatown has come since it first started sending up shoots in the mid-’80s. For all of Pacificana’s showy decor, though, the local families filling the perpetually packed space are just there to kick back with old favorites. The menu largely sticks to comfort-food classics, like deep-fried pork dumplings. Crispy tofu-skin rolls stuffed with shrimp paste (fu pei guen) are a hungover bruncher’s dream: deep-fried on the outside, salty and succulent on the inside.
The appeal of this dim sum innovator doesn’t seem to have dulled since its smash opening in 2011. The hand of serial Chinese restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld is evident in the whitewashed and gingham-ed “urban barn” interior, which is neatly themed to complement chef Joe Ng’s farm-to-table twists on traditional bites. Try the Katz's Pastrami Egg Roll and the shrimp-and–snow-pea-leaf dumplings, embellished with black sesame “eyes” atop dabs of red sauce. The lobster version—decadently overstuffed and lounging on a bed of braised mushroom chunks—is also a delight.
The wait for a table can extend into hours at this Sunset Park hall, and once seated, it’s jostle or be jostled in the hangarlike dining room. Steamer carts move fast, and snap decisions usually result in fortuitous discoveries. Glutinous flour dumplings (chaozhou fun guo) stuffed with pork, peanuts and mushrooms have a sweet, nutty flavor. The braised bean-curd-skin rolls (pei guen) are drenched with a thick coating of sweetened soy sauce. Fresh noodle wraps (ji si fen juan) may have a precious presentation, but it’s worth using roughhouse tactics (if needed) to snag them off a cart.
Jade Asian has been quietly setting itself apart from the Flushing competition since 2008, bypassing a gilded-banquet-hall crescendo for modern understatement. The food follows along these lines, with clean, well-crafted updates on the classics. Turnip cakes (jiang chao luo bo gao) are chopped into cubes and stir-fried with chilies, scallions and bacon, turning a typically bland side dish into a spicy, crispy update on home fries. Seafood-stuffed hot peppers (jian niang qing jiao) have a lighter filling that allows the lip-singeing chili heat to really zing. The barbecued-pork buns (char siu bao) are meatier than most, skipping a showy, overly saccharine sauce in favor of hearty chunks of grilled meat.
Given Doyers Street’s notoriously grisly gang wars in the early 20th century, it’s a surprise that the original owners of Nom Wah decided to set up a dainty tea shop there in 1920, turning out reputation-making moon cakes. Today, the biggest fight on the block is the weekend wait for Nom Wah—now the oldest dim sum parlor in the city. The classics remain, alongside brunch mimosas and gluten-free options. The historic house specialty, almond cookies (xing ren bing), are as big as dinner plates. Roasted-pork buns (char siu bao) explode with shredded meat and caramelized onions. “The Original” egg roll (chun juan), is the size of a prizefighter’s meaty fist and comprised of a soft, eggy crêpe, stuffed with shredded chicken and mushroom.