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April 22, 2009

Empress Pavillion: Dim Sum in Chinatown

My dad was hungry for Chinese food, so we headed downtown on a Monday afternoon with no specific destination in mind. We found $3 all day parking in Chinatown next to an Italian restaurant, and explored on foot. Coming across a local cop, we asked him if he could recommend a place to eat, and he sent us to Empress Pavillion. It's a large banquet hall on the second story of an office/retail building on the very corner of Chinatown, and it turned out to be something different than we expected. My dad was looking for Hunan, where he could get chicken chow mein. We found ourselves trying Dim Sum, where carts of food wandered the aisles, and you picked your food by site.

the menuthe ticket
There is a printed menu but it basically explained how pricing worked--there was no waiter to take your order. Our ticket at the table had sections labeled A, B, C, which the cart attendand would stamp accordingly if she gave you a plate. "A" items are only $2.50 apiece, "B" items $3.30, and so on. Click on the menu images above to enlarge them to a readable size.

There were three different versions of the carts running the aisles. The one above served the barbequed meats. The one below is my favorite. The top shelves of the cart had cold salads, and the bottom shelf had desserts. The third cart actually had a flat grill surface, with two shelves of various items on the top, that the cart driver heated to order. This was the cart where we got the water chestnut gelee.We tried eggrolls, a seaweed salad, bok choy, water chestut gelee off the grill cart, the peanut dessert, Jasmine tea. It was a bit frustrating to my dad not to be able to understand the names of dishes and know exactly what we were being served--for example, we thought we'd picked some steamed broccoli, and ended up with what I think was a crunchy bok choi. I was enjoying the new experience, and thought it was really neat to try something different. I'd never been served this way before.

the bok choy and our dessert
Here is the inside of our dessert. There were whole peanuts and nougat inside a coconut dough.

Have you ever had dim sum? Where is your favorite, and what is the most interesting dish you've tried? Tell me about it in a comment below.

If you've not tried dim sum, what is your favorite ethnic cuisine?

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