Friday, April 22, 2011

Dim Sum Discovery at East Harbor Seafood Palace

I briefly had second thoughts about trying dim sum at East Harbor Seafood Palace in Brooklyn after we arrived and received a number that would be called over a speaker when we were to be seated. It didn't take long to realize that the numbers the man was calling were in Cantonese, Mandarin or some other Chinese dialect. In any case, it wasn't in English.

Finally, a pinch of English. "Forty-six!" the man called. We were 84. Until he got to us, we heard only one more number in English -- a testament to the mostly Chinese clientele at this restaurant located where Bay Ridge meets Sunset Park and Brooklyn Chinatown.

I'd lately been eager to try dim sum -- small dishes, kind of like Chinese tapas -- and what better place than a restaurant that had been getting rave reviews online (like from The Girl Who Ate Everything, who took terrific photos of the food) and, better yet, is only a mile from our apartment? The place was hopping when we arrived at 11 a.m. on a recent Sunday and was no less crowded when we were seated an hour later or left an hour after that. And for a place the size of a basketball court, that's a lot of people.

East Harbor has only tables for large groups, so Paul and I were seated with a party of three who didn't speak English -- or at least didn't do so with us. No matter -- we were too busy inspecting the passing carts of food to bother with too many niceties. The worst part of the seating situation was my deplorable chopsticks skills. I'm sure they got a good chuckle out of the number of times I dropped my dumplings.

But on to the food. A-maz-ing. I did some research and knew what a few of the must-haves looked like, but I had no idea what their names were. No big deal. The servers carting around the dishes or carrying trays of food knew at least enough English to tell us if the dumplings were filled with pork or shrimp, and to give us a rudimentary idea of what we were digging into.

Dumplings, turnip cake (center), calamari

With each dish we selected, the server would stamp our card, which was tallied at the end -- about $30 for the two of us. It easily could have been cheaper, but we were so eager to try everything in sight, we kept eating long after we were full. We even brought most of two of our favorite dishes home with us:

Fried whitebait

The fried whitebait looks like french fries, except for the tiny eyes that are still visible. Crunchy, salty, yummy.

The black sesame paste inside the coconut-and-peanut covered mochi looked like tar but was sweet and delicious.

I still have so much I want to try; I wish I would have learned of the glories of dim sum long before living here for 3+ years. I suppose the only thing to do is to return to East Harbor Seafood Palace soon and often.

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