A by-product of traditional Chinese yum cha, or afternoon tea, New York’s best dim sum isn’t just a midday Chinese snack—it’s some of the best Chinese food in the city. From old-school Chinatown restaurants doling out soup dumplings to modern Chinese spots serving pastrami egg rolls, here are the best places to go dumpling-crazy for dim sum in NYC.
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Best dim sum in NYC
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.
The Hong Kong–born dim sum parlor—notable not only for its exceptional pork buns but also for being the world’s most inexpensive Michelin-starred restaurant—is finally coming to New York. At the East Village outpost, the chain’s first in America (it has five locations in Hong Kong, along with offshoots across Asia and Australia), diners can find standbys like those baked BBQ pork buns, pan-fried turnip cakes and steamed rice rolls, as well as two location exclusives: a custard-filled French toast and deep-fried vegetable spring rolls. As is dim sum tradition, plates are ordered via forms left at the table, but alas, there are no roving carts here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.