by smmmarti guide
March 30, 2003
To the Chinese it is known better as dim sum, which appropriately means, "heart’s delight." More substantial than hors d’ouevres, more appealing than tapas, dim sum refers to both the type of food and the strategic parading of steam carts filled with a variety of tasty morsels meant to tempt but never totally satisfy. Pork stuffed buns, deep fried shrimp porcupine balls, Peking duck, wontons and pot stickers, and seared scallops are some of the diverse options presented on small plates by competing "cart ladies" who pass by the table at regular intervals and tempt as Eve with an apple. According to these ladies, enough is never enough as they happily scribble another check and add it to the mounting stack under the hot mustard bottle and soy sauce.
Dim Sum is an ideal weekend brunch menu, as it’s essential to partake with plenty of time on your hands. In order to savor from the boundless selections, sharing is required, making dim sum a prime social activity as well.
We knew we wanted dim sum from the moment we planned our trip, but hadn‘t yet determined where; in San Francisco the options are extensive. Since hunger struck quickly that lazy Saturday, we followed the advice of our concierge and walked five blocks to the nearest specialist, who also happened to be one of the most highly regarded in a city of supposed experts in the matter.
Seafood and Dim Sum
is a grand scale dining room with high ceilings and lofty windows that filter the afternoon light and cast shadows on the aging walls. The revelry of the night before (Chinese New Year) likely kept the crowds down this "day after" and only a few of the many tables scattered about the large room hummed with friendly chatter. Profuse artificial flower arrangements and oilcloth table coverings presented an atmosphere slightly seedy though not worrisome. In fact, lazy Saturdays were just made for dives like this.
We sat in the back near the fresh seafood tanks that crawled with tentacled and clawed creatures skulking drunkenly in the briny waters. We did what people tend to do when eating dim sum; we ordered and ate too much. (It was the second order of honey barbequed pork buns that finally did me in.) But by consuming copious amounts of green tea and engaging in the easy-going dialogue this manner of dining seems to spontaneously encourage, we ended the meal with a greater appreciation of the reference in the name.
Relax, wile away the afternoon and eat to your heart‘s delight. Clever, these Chinese.
From journal San Francisco: America's Favorite City