Thumbing through some of the mental notes about the eating life in beloved DC, it occurred suddenly that I have criminally neglected Dim Sum. Of course, Dim Sum is the original brunch – where Chinese restaurant provides many small plates etc etc etc. Obviously, we don’t live in New York – so the pickings are destined to be a little slim. That said, recently when we visited Silver Fountain in Silver Spring, we stumbled upon what was pretty clearly my favorite Dim Sum experience. But I’m not going to put a full review here – it’s Dim Sum, and at Silver Fountain ALL of the major blocking and tackling elements were good (shu mai, pork buns, congee, turnip cake) – but sort of work through the major elements that have shaped my view of the discipline in the area.
- Obviously, DC proper is worthless for a real get your hands dirty experience. Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown is good, but also very gringo-focused. The food is good, but on the pricey side, and meant to provide the motif of dim sum, but when you sit in a douchey DC bar decor, you know that this is a fancypants impostor.
- A&J in Rockville has the Northern Chinese dim sum. I’ve been twice – well once to their Virginia location – and liked it both times. That said, the dim sum items were on a menu, and not on carts hurtling through the restaurant. That is a bit of a bummer. In a related story, I am shallow.
- This starts veering me towards what had been our standby for years – China Garden on Rosslyn, located in the ABC 7 building. This screamed dim sum to me – the very Chinese crowd, the enormous line after Church, the carts and the indecipherable markings as items are ordered. It used to be uniformly excellent but in recent years it has slipped. Things like the sticky rice end up having too much Chinese sausage and end up wallpapering over a less appealing texture. On this side of the river, it is still the best – but the craving to do it has ceased mostly.
- Silver Fortune we were lucky to get there for opening as the line exploded after we sat down. The carts were in full force here too. But between this place and China Garden, the food was just better, every dumpling, every leaf wrapped sticky rice, every Chinese broccoli, it all works. The service was – well I would not say “spotty” but it felt weird to wait so long for the shu mai to show up – but once it did, order was restored.
- Obviously, like any Sunday brunch, this really benefits from being with friends. It is very much a communal operation as people stop carts and take stuff and you get to sample tons of things. It is a slow, steady trip towards a serious food coma.
- And no, I still can’t do Chicken’s Feet.