A few weeks ago, my friend invited me out to dim sum with a group of her friends, most of whom are visiting New York from other schools across the country, and had never been to dim sum before. For those of you who have never been before, dim sum is a Chinese style brunch—as much a time of day as it is a type of food. Filled with dumplings, noodles, and tea, dim sum, also known as yum cha, is a relatively safe meal for me. Dairy is rarely used in Chinese cooking, and peanuts, particularly due to the prevalence of peanut allergies in American culture, are generally easy to avoid.
Our plan was to go to the famed Golden Unicorn, but a late start and a long line deterred us from Golden Unicorn and toward a newer place down the street, called Dim Sum Go Go. Golden Unicorn is so famous that the lines are like Disneyland, and oftentimes, small parties will be squished together at the same large table, in a Hong-Kong-style mishmash of strangers. Chinese families tend to stick to their dedicated favorites, and my family in particular would probably stand in line all day at their favorite place before trying any place new. However, I was not with my Chinese family, so we ventured away from the lines toward the welcoming doors of Dim Sum Go Go. I was personally skeptical about Dim Sum Go Go, but the interior was clean and the staff was very friendly.
For those familiar with dim sum, you will know that the whole concept is like a giant moving buffet. Servers have metal pushcarts stacked high with steamer baskets and boxes filled with dumplings, various baos, noodles, veggies, and other random morsels. As such, most dim sum newcomers resort to asking their resident Chinese friend what everything is, from a piece of shrimp to an unfamiliar vegetable. (“What is this?” “It’s broccoli, just try it.” “It doesn’t look like broccoli…” “It’s Chinese broccoli. It’s good! Just eat it!”)
Dim Sum Go Go has eliminated the pushcarts in favor of a paper menu, much like a sushi ordering menu at a Japanese restaurant. The English names are printed next to the Chinese names, and customers need only to fill in the quantity of their favorite items. In addition, like any other restaurant, if you don’t know what is inside your food, many waiters in Manhattan Chinatown speak English and you may ask them to describe your food. There was also a menu for noodles and larger rice dishes. As a result, we got filled up on beef chow fun and a large selection of items that would usually be found on pushcarts.
As someone who eats dim sum relatively often, I have to admit that Dim Sum Go Go was not my favorite. The baos were smaller than usual, the dumpling wrappers were a little thicker and stickier than usual, and the fried items were not as crisp—read: fresh—as usual. While everything tasted fine, the quality was not necessarily as high as I would have expected from a restaurant with similar Yelp ratings to Golden Unicorn. (Of course, most people on Yelp are not old Chinese ladies with a penchant for this kind of critique.) In addition, the prices were roughly similar to that of more established restaurants, so the overall value was not as satisfying as I feel it could have been. My family would have more likely waited for Golden Unicorn, or trekked over to Ping’s Seafood or Oriental Garden.
That being said, the restaurant itself was very clean and had nice presentation, which is great for a group in which most members have never experienced the hustle and bustle of Chinatown and dim sum. The main clientele seemed to be young families as well as other college students and young adults checking out the dim sum scene. The service was very slow, and I had to run our checklists to the waiters a couple times, but they were generally accurate at bringing us the food we ordered. They also were very gracious about splitting the check amongst eleven or so of us.
I will probably not return to Dim Sum Go Go, but it is a great place for groups and dim sum newbies. It offers an introduction to the traditional cuisine of Chinese teatime without any of the pandemonium that seems to really scare people off from the whole concept. If you’re looking for a quiet and leisurely gateway into the noisy and manic world of dim sum, Dim Sum Go Go may be the place for you!