Which dim sum delights in the city have impressed us so much, Hong Kong might want to take a few tips?
Dim sum refers to a plethora of dishes – steamed and fried little treats and dough-encased dumplings, traditional to the Canton regions of China. But it also refers to the Cantonese art of turning dumplings into a meal time and occasion; the Chinese answer to afternoon tea. In Dubai, dim sum varies from authentic yum cha served from trolleys, to highfalutin foie gras stuffed concoctions. We ate our way through bamboo steamer after bamboo steamer with dim sum deals and à la carte options galore (with even a Himalayan option thrown in for good measure) to find out where Dubai gives Hong Kong a run for its money when it comes to dim sum.
With 34 dim sum varieties to choose from, even the most ambitious diners will need a couple of visits to sample everything this sophisticated Cantonese restaurant has to offer. There is a roughly 50/50 split between fried and steamed dim sum with standard offerings on both counts. The crispy taro puff has a crunchy exterior giving way to a gooey, richly-flavoured filling, while the steamed buns and dumplings all have a light texture but strong flavour. Also try the shrimp banana waffle roll, radish cake with dry shrimp and a sticky glutinous rice and chicken serving wrapped and served in a leaf.
If this dim sum were a famous person it would be… Chinese state circus acrobats: Small, sophisticated, perfectly formed, beautifully-presented and with plenty of variety.
Dhs21 per plate.
For those who are looking for more variety when it comes to dim sum, Ping Pong at The Dubai Mall offers a unique selection. From spicy chicken, vegetarian and seafood options, guests can choose from more than 15 dishes. Seafood lovers can sink their teeth into the crab and prawn dumpling or go for a mixed seafood dumpling with snow crab, prawn and scallop in carrot pastry. For vegetarians, the crunchy golden vegetable dumpling with carrots, shallots, garlic and celery in a turmeric pastry hits the spot.If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Lady Gaga: Always full of surprises.
From Dhs18 per dish.
Popular with holidaying couples for its dimly lit, fine-dining feel, this restaurant offers six different types of dim sum, including a fried foie gras gyoza, typically tasty chicken and shrimp siew mai and the emerald vegetable dumplings, which arrive as radioactive green parcels lightly drizzled in chilli oil. Fried options are limited to spring rolls and gyoza, but the menu holds some tasty Chinese dishes and the service is faultless. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… The Great and Powerful Oz, straight out of Emerald City.
The dim sum section of the menu at this pan-Asian includes siew mai, pot stickers, prawn bags and hacao as well as vegetable spring rolls. The steamed chicken siew mai are stuffed with tender meat and mixed vegetables and are deceptively filling, if a little bland. The huge portion of pan-fried vegetable pot stickers looks great, but the filling is slightly uninspired; luckily they're served with a tasty soy and coriander dressing to liven things up a bit. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Ashton Kutcher: Looks great but that's about it.
From Dhs30 per portion.
Not strictly dim sum (in the Cantonese sense), but if you are looking for a dumpling experience with a difference, Yalla Momos is difficult to beat. This tiny kiosk in Karama sells ‘momos', the Himalayan/Nepalese answer to the dumpling. Try plenty of vegetarian, as well as non-vegetarian options, all freshly steamed or fried. Exotically spiced, try delicious dumplings stuffed with shredded spinach and paneer (cheese), or lively ginger and onion seasoned shrimp dumplings with a peppery twist. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… The Dalai Lama: A Himalayan export that will bring you inner peace.
From Dhs11 per portion.
Flagrantly chic Chinese restaurant-lounge-bar Hakkasan's dim sum is just as you'd expect: a sublime blend of old and new '“ such as siew mai topped with roe '“ served with panache and as beautiful to taste as to gaze at. Best sampled with its Friday brunch package, every table can choose just four steamed and four fried dim sum '“ just one serving of each per person, although there are live roast duck and beef dumpling stations if you're still peckish '“ as well as a main and dessert, making it more like a set menu than the relaxed flow of the pastime's tradition (in which, interestingly, tea is included but water is not). But the tastes are hard to fault. The ha gao and venison puff are especially delicious. If this were a person it would be... Cate Blanchett: Dainty, classy, slightly arrogant, annoyingly on-trend but unmistakably talented.
Dhs199 (unlimited teas), Dhs398 (mixed drinks), Dhs558 (bubbly).
An international brand renowned for offering a touch of comfort to globe-trotting Chinese travellers, Shang Palace serves up a reliably authentic, all-you-can-order, à la carte dim sum package every lunch time. Choose from a huge list of more than 30 time-honoured treats, including soups (four), steamed (12) and deep fried (seven) dim sum, as well as rice, noodle and dessert options. The standard is uniformly high, with the steamed favourites such as cheong fun, siew mai and shrimp dumplings outstanding. The competitive price and wide range make this easily one of the best places for a dim sum newbie to sample its many delights. Ask to dine in the main room, rather than on the balcony over the lobby. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Humphrey Bogart: Stylish, traditional, timeless, andever-charming.
Dhs115; Dhs188 with three hops.
Some of the tastiest we've tried in the city, the assortment of freshly-made dim sum at this London export includes doughy, steamed barbecue chicken buns, minced chicken and prawn varieties as well as Beijing-style dumplings served with vinegar. The service is slick and the jasmine flower tea is reason enough to go. The stand-out by far is the cheung-feung, pieces of sweet barbecued chicken wrapped in glutinous, dumpling-like noodles. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Tom Ford: Slick, stylish and sort of expensive.
Dhs188 (tea). Dhs388 (grape). Dhs488 (premium drinks).
This Cantonese restaurant offers an old-school dim sum dining experience, complete with a traditional style of service, since steamed dumplings are served from a trolley. The daily, unlimited dim sum package offers guests soup, plus a few noodle and rice sides. Leave the latter alone, since they are greasy and unexciting. Fried dim sum includes spring rolls, prawn wontons and more, but the greatest variety and flavour is to be had from the steamed selection (and luckily, this is all included in the unlimited part of the deal). From classics such as ha gao and barbecued chicken buns, try also cuttlefish with sweet satay, succulent beef balls and frothy little clouds of glutinous rice with shrimp inside. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Audrey Hepburn: Vintage, classic and elegant.
Dhs99 (including tea). Daily noon-3pm. Dhs139 (including tea).
Basket upon basket of freshly steamed dim sum will be rolled over to you on a trolley when you take your seat for the generous yum cha offer every Friday and Saturday. For Dhs89, you can feast on delicious, traditional dim sum as well as fried variants and a side of soup, all washed down with a pint of hops or free flowing tea. Fresh from the trolley, the steamed dim sum is hard to beat, so make the most of this as the fried options don't compare. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Tom Hanks: A reliable performer.
Dhs89 per person.
This dim sum ‘yum cha brunch' offers diners an unlimited array of dumpling choices from an à la carte menu. Made with skill and artistry, these are attractive pieces of dim sum heaven. The menu brims with traditional and contemporary choices of steamed and fried dumplings, spring rolls and salads '“ the crispy chicken salad with pomelo and a mango plum sauce is a delight. Aside from the dim sum, this stylish restaurant also offers claypot dishes and a nice set of sweets. The restaurant has a cool vibe with a resident DJ playing ambient house. If this dim sum were a famous person, it would be… Lucy Liu: Stylish, elegant and cool.
Dhs188 per person.