June 15, 2017
BY OMAR SOMMEREYNS | February 21, 2013 | Food & Drink
Dark lacquered wood and red lanterns add to the Eastern ambience at Tropical Chinese.
An artful presentation of shrimp siu mai dim sum.
Chefs Yanwen Miao and Zong Jing Wang make chicken dumplings, with a filling of chicken, cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms.
A cook hand-rolls the wraps that will compose the skin of the chicken dumplings.
Guangan Zhu ladles a bowl of hot and sour soup from one of six carts circling the dining room, with steamed roast pork buns, chicken buns, and shrimp rice pasta in the foreground.
FROM LEFT: Baked roast pork buns, sweet Mexican buns (filled with egg custard and topped with a sugar crust), and egg custard tarts.
The dim sum experience—choosing from an array of small plates or baskets filled with dumplings, buns, rice noodle rolls, and soups-—offers the simple pleasure of sharing a cornucopia of food with friends and family. Different textures (achieved by steaming, frying, or pan-searing), flavor combinations, and ingredient mixtures make for an ever-changing meal. But perhaps because Miami has a smaller Chinese community than other large cities, getting genuine dim sum service here can be tricky. So we’ve contacted some well-informed locals (and dim sum aficionados) to give us the lowdown.
Walid Wahab, president of Wahab Construction
“About 30 years ago, while I was attending the University of Miami, someone took me to Tropical Chinese on Bird Road, and we still frequent this place. It offers a nice variety, and it’s easy in and out, factory-like, which is what dim sum has always been about. I love the pan-grilled leek dumplings, the soft shrimp rolls, and the salt-and-pepper squid. But if your wallet allows it, head over to Hakkasan at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach—those dim sum are particularly delicate and very sophisticated. And if you’re willing to drive a bit north, try China Pavilion in Pembroke Pines.”
John Joseph Lin, principal of Lin Projects
“For dim sum, I love Chef Philip Ho in Sunny Isles Beach. He’s the former dim sum chef at The Setai, and he opened his own place where there’s a great selection of both traditional and innovative dim sum, with carts rolling around on weekends, plus regional Shanghainese versions, like the cold beef shank. I go for the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, the har gow (smooth, pleated shrimp dumplings), the wrapped tofu rolls, the beef tripe, and the chicken feet. It all reminds me of the foods I grew up eating with my family every Sunday after church.”
Tamara Galinsky, owner of JetSet Pilates
“South Garden in southwest Miami is perfect for Saturday or Sunday brunch if you love dim sum. The restaurant’s clean, and the food is very fresh. I especially like the stuffed tofu and stuffed eggplant, as well as the spicy squid and shredded duck with rice noodles. It all tastes great without being too oily or salty, and this place is ideal for those who travel between New York and Miami and are used to New York-quality Chinese dining.”
Matt Knobel, chief engineer and director of operations at Setai Recording Studio
“At first, there was only Tropical Chinese when it came to real, traditional dim sum. But then Chef Philip Ho opened up, and it’s just amazing. It really does dim sum correctly: lots of variety and not a lot of cost. Dim sum shouldn’t be $14 a dish—it should be around $3 to $5. Some of my favorites are the yummy steamed Shanghai soup dumplings and other delicious steamed dumplings, like scallop or chive and shrimp. My friends and I started a monthly Sunday dim sum gathering there, and I can’t wait for our next meal.”
photography by paul warchol (hakkasan); jess swanson (chef philip ho); thinkstock.com (dim sum)