Bright and early every Sunday morning, Speedy and Alex drive down from our hilly suburb to San Juan. Alex is enrolled in culinary school—yes, the one owned and operated by the respected chef Gene Gonzalez—and she opted for the once-a-week-Sunday-only schedule. Father-and-daughter routine never varies. They have breakfast along the way, Speedy drops off Alex then he goes shopping in Greenhills.
Last Sunday, I went with them. And I announced early on that I wanted dimsum for breakfast. I browsed the web for Chinese restaurants serving dimsum that are open for breakfast and found The Dimsum Place on Annapolis. The reviews looked good. On a scale of 1 to 5, the average was about 4.3. Not bad, I thought. But the above-average rating was misleading. I don’t know how people rate restaurants. If it’s based on the price alone, then, no rating can ever be reliable. Just because a restaurant serves filling food at low prices doesn’t mean the food is good. Value for money is not about how much you can eat for the lowest price.
So what was wrong with the food at The Dimsum Place?
Let’s start with the xiao long bao. Look at the photo above. The tops of the soup dumplings were so thick that, after steaming, the dough was undercooked. I’m not a dimsum maker but I know one basic rule in making xiao long bao wrapper—the edges must be thinner than the center so that the bottom of the dumpling does not break during steaming while the edges, when gathered to form the top, does not become so thick. But look at the dumplings in the photo. Look how opaque the tops are. They were chewy and they left a flour-y sensation in the mouth. I wouldn’t even give The Dimsum Place’s xiao long bao a rating of 3. Gee, a 3 would be far too generous.
The steamed pork ribs had so much cartilage. And because the ribs were also undercooked, no cartilage was edible. The meat was barely edible. If someone wearing dentures tried them, their dentures might have flown off. Speedy, who ordered the ribs, was so disappointed.
The chicken feet were tender but the seasoning… You know the feeling that where there were supposed to be 10 ingredients in the seasoning but only five were actually used to cut down on cost? That was how the chicken feet tasted.
That observation about the chicken feet was echoed in the bean curd rolls. They weren’t bland because they weren’t salty enough. On the contrary, the saltiness was just right. But they were still bland because there weren’t any other distinguishable flavors in them aside from the saltiness. Flat would be a more accurate word. They tasted flat. Flat, flat, flat.
The pan-fried asado cake (sesame seed covered glutinous rice patty stuffed with pork asado) was well cooked. Oh, the texture was good. I won’t find fault with them save to say that they would have been more satisfying had there been more pork in them. But, considering the cheap price, they were more than passable.
The Chinese chive dumplings tasted just as flat as the chicken feet and the bean curd rolls.
The truth is, the dingier restaurants in Chinatown, the kind that the pa-sosyal won’t be caught dead dining in, serve better and cheaper dimsum.
We’re never going back to The Dimsum Place. Not even if the meal were free. Disappointing would be too much of an understatement to describe the experience. Restaurants like that can fool the fools but not everyone is a fool.