Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mandarin Court Dim Sum


We went to Mandarin Court (61 Mott St., New York, NY, 212-608-3838) for dim sum. We chose this over our usual dim sum place (Grand Harmony) mainly because we were hungry and we were traveling with my vegan/vegetarian sister-in-law and needed to find a place that had a menu (preferably posted outside) that featured something vegetarian. Mandarin Court was a smallish restaurant with small tables compared to the seating-for-hundreds-giant-tables-where-you-sit-with-strangers Grand Harmony and when the woman came around with the cart, it had a quite a few different items, compared to Grand Harmony where each cart has maybe 2 different items (tops) and you have to wait for the next cart to come to see what they are offering. This way we got a few dumplings and things at once and when she came around again, she had different things and we picked out some more. My sister-in-law, Julie was able to order dim sum off the menu and they made it just for her. Below is what she ate, some veggie only dumplings (unlike the so called "vegetable dumplings" we had that included shrimp-something the waiter nicely pointed out before Julie ate them) and some greens that were very long and difficult for her to eat with chopsticks. Matt had no problem though, he is a chopstick wiz. I, of course, ate my dumplings with a fork and kept away from the greens.

veggie dim sum

Now on to what Matt and I had:

Little round shrimp dumplings (har gao), and two types of pot sticker style dumplings: "vegetable" dumplings with shrimp and scallions, and pork dumplings. Both varieties of shrimp dumplings were wonderful. I think I liked the round ones slightly better because they were steamed and not fried.

dim sum

Lotus leaf steamed rice with tiny bits of pork inside (no mai gai). Really yummy. We so need to find a source for lotus leaf so we can make this at home. You don't eat the leaf, but the rice steams in it wonderfully!

sticky rice

We didn't have dessert but they did offer the typical sesame seed balls with red bean paste and I think some of those little steamed cakes.

The only thing we missed was steamed barbecue pork buns (cha siu baau) and some more unusual varieties of dumplings. This was just lunch, so what we had was plenty. I also hate having to eat then take the train to the ferry so it was good not to eat so much.

Here is our check:

dim sum check

There are different categories of dim sum and as you order/eat they circle how many of each you had and them and then they add it up when you leave. Our whole bill was about $20. I sort of feel like Grand Harmony might be a bit cheaper, but $20 for three people's lunch is awesome.

A big plus for Mandarin Court was that they had vegetarian dim sum and they were willing to make it to order. Also: they had a variety of items on each cart so you didn't run into the problem of having to wait until something you liked came along or worse-eating a lot only to have your favorite come around after you are full. I am sure they would have made anything off the dim sum menu for us to order as well. The staff was friendly and the signs were in English as well as Chinese and they were able to explain things to us in English. This is good, because at Grand Harmony some times things were only in Chinese, the dim sum ladies didn't know English, there are no menus (at least during the early dim sum hours when we've been there) and you just had to guess what the food was if you couldn't tell just from looking at it. Not some thing I generally mind but not good if you have dietary concerns. Mandarin Court didn't have quite the variety or some of the more unusual items (shark fin dumplings, chicken feet) that Grand Harmony had, but again, they might have made it and not just had it on the cart. They also had non dim sum if you'd rather order a meal. At any rate, I would go back to Mandarin Court again and recommend it to anyone. I suggest going early in the day on the weekend to any dim sum place to get the full experience.