Since our most recent dim sum meal had been so dire—at Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington, MN in July—I’d asked for recommendations on Mouthfuls for dim sum parlors in Manhattan. Now, the best dim sum, or for that matter the best Chinese food in New York, is said to be not in Manhattan but in Queens. On this trip, however, our focus was on eating not the best possible versions of the things we were interested in but the best possible versions of the things we were interested in that were also within easy reach of other places we were going to be visiting. And so when it came to pass that we were going to be in the vicinity of Chinatown for lunch one day we were only too happy to stop in at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which had been recommended by a few people. What did we find? Read on.
Nom Wah, situated on a funky street (Doyers), is apparently the oldest dim sum parlor in Manhattan (in all of New York?) but I’m guessing it has received a refurb somewhat recently. Its decor and design—which includes counter seating—seem to nod in the direction of contemporary trends. The dining room is not tiny but it’s not over-large either—which means it was quite full even around noon on a weekday. Kitchen turnover is high and as a plus they feature not carts but a la carte ordering, which always means fresher, better dim sum.
We got a booth for four and got settled in quickly. While they may have a more extensive selection on weekends, the weekday dim sum menu is mostly a list of standard dishes. They don’t offer anything that is not on that dim sum menu, by the way. We asked if they had any congee and they said no, only what’s on the dim sum menu. But there was enough there to make us happy. We ordered a range of steamed and fried dishes and found it all to be decent enough. With the exception of the steamed eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste nothing really jumped out but nothing was close to bad either (though the execution on one order of pan-fried dumplings was not great).
The food came out at a steady clip and it was a quick tasty meal, as dim sum should be. To see what we ate please launch the slideshow below. I took photos only on my phone but they should give you a good sense of things. Scroll down to see how much it cost, what we made of it as a value and where we’d rank it vis a vis dim sum in the Twin Cities and Los Angeles.
This was enough food for four adults and it came to just about $86 with tip (they only accept cash or American Express, by the way). So $21.50/head. That’s cheaper than dim sum in the Twin Cities and is certainly a very good price for Manhattan. How does the quality of the food compare, however? Well, this was quite a lot better than any dim sum we’ve had in the Twin Cities—apologies to those people who bizarrely claim that the Twin Cities has dim sum that’s as good as anywhere else. However, while I’ve no idea where it would rank vis a vis the best places in all five boroughs of New York, it can’t compare to the best of the Los Angeles metro. In Los Angeles this would be third or fourth tier. And I’d put the dim sum we had in London at the two Royal China locations above it too. But it was a tasty meal and we were happy to eat it. And if you’re visiting New York from some place without good dim sum I would recommend it highly. Or for that matter I’d recommend it to anyone looking for decent dim sum at a good price. But maybe on our next trip we’ll venture out further to Flushing.
Up next from New York: Korean barbecue in Midtown Manhattan. That’ll be this weekend.