World ? Asia ? China ? Hong Kong

Hong Kong: Dim Sum

Everyone should try a dim sum meal at least once, as much for the atmosphere as for the food. It's eaten primarily for breakfast or lunch, or as an afternoon snack with tea. On weekends, restaurants offering dim sum (mostly Cantonese restaurants) are packed with local families. On weekdays, they're popular with shoppers and businesspeople. Prices are low and you order only as much as you want. On weekends, some restaurants bring out their trolleys, filled with steaming baskets and pushed throughout the restaurant, allowing you to choose what appeals to you. Otherwise, most restaurants nowadays offer dim sum from a menu, which may or may not be in English (hotel restaurants have English menus; otherwise, many Cantonese restaurants have at least one staff member who speaks English). In any case, in most restaurants that offer dim sum, one pays by the basket, and each basket usually contains two to four items of dim sum; the average price is about HK$20 to HK$30 (US$2.60-US$3.90/ţ1.40-ţ2.15). The prices given below, unless otherwise specified, are per basket; expect to spend HK$60 to HK$100 (US$7.80-US$13/ţ4.30-ţ7.15) per person for a light meal. You'll be charged extra for tea, usually around HK$10 (US$1.30/70p).

The restaurants serve more than dim sum. However, since dim sum is such a special Chinese tradition, they are emphasized again below. You may also notice that a restaurant listed in this section may have a different number of stars than was given previously in an above listing. This is not a mistake: A restaurant that might be ho-hum in all-round meals can be a standout in dim sum.

However, since dim sum is fairly predictable, I've only made specific food recommendations below when the dishes are different and/or are standouts from the usual choices. The open hours below are for serving times for dim sum.

Kowloon

City Chiuchow Restaurant CHIU CHOW -- Although it's a Chiu Chow restaurant, this place serves its own dim sum, which is not too surprising if you consider that Chiu Chow food has been greatly influenced by Cantonese food.

East Ocean Centre, 98 Granville Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui East. tel. 852/2723 6226. Dim sum HK$17-HK$28 (US$2.20-US$3.60/ţ1.20-ţ2). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11am-4pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Fook Lam Moon CANTONESE -- This is a Hong Kong old-timer, with an atmosphere that is reminiscent of an earlier era. There aren't any trolleys here, however. The English menu is limited, listing only the restaurant's top choices, including the highest-priced item -- steamed shark's fin dumpling with superior soup. There's a branch at 35-45 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai (tel. 852/2866 0663), open the same hours with the same menu.

53-59 Kimberley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2366 0286. www.fooklammoon-grp.com. Dim sum HK$30-HK$80 (US$3.90-US$10/ţ2.15-ţ5.70). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11:30am-2:30pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Hutong CANTONESE -- Great views of the harbor and creative dim sum are what you get at this hip venue. Expect the likes of steamed lamb dumpling instead of pork, with about five different kinds of dim sum that change monthly. You can also order dim sum combination platters with either 12 or 20 pieces of dim sum for HK$128 (US$17/ţ9.15) or HK$198 (US$26/ţ14) respectively. This place is pricey, but worth it.

1 Peking Rd. (28th floor), Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/3428 8342. www.aqua.com.hk. Dim sum HK$78-HK$98 (US$10-US$13/ţ5.55-ţ7). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Sat noon-3pm; Sun and holidays noon-3pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant CANTONESE -- An easy place for the uninitiated, this Cantonese chain is tourist-friendly and conveniently situated across from the Star Ferry terminus. It offers views of Victoria Harbour and an extensive English menu for dim sum, along with noodle and rice dishes and desserts. There's a branch at 1 Hysan Ave., Causeway Bay (tel. 852/2577 9332), serving dim sum Monday through Friday from 11am to 2:30pm, Saturday 11am to 5pm, and Sunday 10am to 5pm.

Star House (4th floor), 3 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2730 6888. Dim sum HK$17-HK$38 (US$2.20-US$4.95/ţ1.20-ţ2.70). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Sat 11am-5pm; Sun and holidays 10am-5pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Serenade Chinese Restaurant CANONTESE -- This is my top choice for inexpensive dim sum with a view in Tsim Sha Tsui. Located up on the first floor of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, next to the Star Ferry, it offers views of Victoria Harbour and a comprehensive dim sum menu (only desserts are served from trolleys), including "figurine" dim sum, like the steamed shrimp dumpling in the shape of a fish. On weekdays (excluding public holidays) from 8am to noon, dim sum prices are cheaper than those given below, and even cheaper still from 2 to 4:30pm. Bright and cheerful, it's more upmarket than some but more casual than hotel restaurants.

Hong Kong Cultural Centre (1st floor), Restaurant Block, Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2722 0932. Dim sum HK$16-HK$38 (US$2.10-US$4.95/ţ1.15-ţ2.70). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 8am-4:30pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Shang Palace CANTONESE -- One of Kowloon's most elaborate Chinese restaurants comes complete with red-lacquered walls and Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Its dim sum is among the best in town -- a bit more expensive, but worth it. Choose your dim sum from the English menu, which changes every 2 weeks and always includes more than a dozen varieties.

In the Shangri-La Hotel, 64 Mody Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui East. tel. 852/2733 8754. www.Shangri-la.com. Dim sum HK$30-HK$38 (US$3.90-US$4.95/ţ2.15-ţ2.70). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Sat noon-3pm; Sun and holidays 10:30am-3pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Spring Moon CANTONESE -- As you'd expect from a restaurant in the venerable Peninsula hotel, this is a very refined and civilized place for the humble dim sum, with an English menu that lists more than a dozen mouthwatering choices that change with the seasons. Many dim sum connoisseurs believe the dim sum served here is among the best in town, with past examples including Shanghai-style steamed pork dumplings with lobster; steamed eggplant dumplings with minced pork and XO chile sauce; and deep-fried chicken and curry crisps in Portuguese sauce. Spring Moon is also famous for its more than two dozen varieties of Chinese teas and even employs professionally trained tea masters. The restaurant is decorated in an Art Deco style reminiscent of how the restaurant would have looked in 1928, the year The Peninsula opened, with stained glass, wood paneling, and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired highlights.

In The Peninsula hotel, Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2315 3160. www.peninsula.com. Dim sum HK$42 (US$5.45/ţ3). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11:30am-2:30pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Super Star Seafood Restaurant CANTONESE/SEAFOOD -- This lively and popular seafood restaurant, filled with locals, is one of Tsim Sha Tsui's best places for trying authentic dim sum in a typical Chinese setting. There's no English menu (and unfortunately, no more trolleys), so you'll just have to look at the pictures on the Chinese menu. There are many branches in Hong Kong.

83-97 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2366 0878. Dim sum HK$12-HK$38 (US$1.55-US$4.95/85p-ţ2.70). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Fri 10:30am-4:30pm; Sat-Sun 9:30am-4:30pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

T'ang Courturant CANTONESE -- This fancy restaurant offers its own interpretations of classic Cantonese dim sum and even offers a dim sum lunch.

In the Langham Hotel, 8 Peking Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui tel. 852/2375 1133, ext. 2250. www.langhamhotels.com. Dim sum HK$33 (US$4.30/ţ2.35); dim sum lunch HK$208 (US$27/ţ15). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Sat noon-3pm; Sun 11am-3pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Tsui Hang Village Restaurant CANTONESE -- Tsui Hang Village, a modern restaurant located in a shopping complex across from the Miramar Hotel, offers inexpensive plates of dim sum, including traditional choices like steamed shrimp dumplings or steamed barbecue pork buns and its own creations like deep-fried shrimp in mashed taro or baked mini oyster tarts. There's a branch across the harbor on the second floor of the New World Tower, 16-18 Queen's Rd., Central (tel. 852/2524 2012; MTR: Central), serving dim sum Saturday from 11am to 5pm and Sunday and holidays from 10am to 5pm.

Miramar Plaza, 1 Kimberley Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2376 2882. www.Miramar-group.com. Dim sum HK$16-HK$40 (US$2.10-US$5.20/ţ1.15-ţ2.85). AE, MC, V. Mon-Sat 11:30am-5pm; Sun and holidays 10am-5pm, for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Yan Toh Heen CANTONESE -- One of Hong Kong's top Cantonese eateries, this elegant restaurant with large windows treats diners to views of the harbor. A daily changing menu lists about two dozen varieties of dim sum, but signature dishes usually on offer include steamed bean curd sheet rolls with shrimp and chives, and steamed shark's fin and bamboo pith fungus dumpling in soup.

In the InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. tel. 852/2721 1211. www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com. Dim sum HK$32-HK$68 (US$4.15-US$8.85/ţ2.30-ţ4.85). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily noon-2:30pm for dim sum. MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui.

Central

Luk Yu Tea House CANTONESE -- The most authentic dim sum teahouse in Hong Kong is often so packed with regulars that mere tourists can't get a seat. Furthermore, trolleys with dim sum are pushed through the place only until 11am, after which there's an English menu with pictures but no prices (ask before ordering). Yet it's worth the effort to come here; try to bring along a Chinese friend to help you with your selections.

24-26 Stanley St., Central. tel. 852/2523 5464. Dim sum HK$25-HK$55 (US$3.25-US$7.15/ţ1.80-ţ3.90). MC, V. Daily 7am-5:30pm for dim sum. MTR: Central.

Maxim's Palace CANTONESE -- There's no better place for cheap dim sum than this enormously popular restaurant, located on the second floor of City Hall with good harbor views. It's a lively, noisy place, with dim sum still offered from trolleys, plus there's an English menu with photos and prices. It doesn't get much easier than this.

Low Block, City Hall, Connaught Rd. Central and Edinburgh Place. tel. 852/2526 9931. Dim sum HK$20-HK$29 (US$2.60-US$3.75/ţ1.40-ţ2.05). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily Mon-Sat 11am-3pm; Sun and holidays 9am-3pm, for dim sum. MTR: Central.

The Square CANTONESE -- This smartly decorated restaurant, next to Hong Kong Station and ifc mall, offers only a dozen or so dim sum choices on weekdays but a greatly expanded dim sum menu on weekends and holidays (reservations are a must). The restaurant is renowned for its steamed lobster dumplings and jumbo shrimp and asparagus spring rolls, but even the humble steamed barbecued pork buns here are among the best I've had.

Exchange Square II, Central. tel. 852/2525 1163. Dim sum HK$17-HK$58 (US$2.20-US$7.55/ţ1.20-ţ4.15). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11am-3pm, for dim sum. MTR: Central.

Zen Chinese CANTONESE -- Starkly modern and hip, this Cantonese restaurant offers dim sum daily from an English menu, with more varieties available on the weekend.

The Mall, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Central. tel. 852/2845 4555. Dim sum HK$30-HK$48 (US$3.85-US$6.25/ţ2.15-ţ3.40). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm; Sat 11:30am-5pm; Sun 10:30am-5pm, for dim sum. MTR: Admiralty.

Causeway Bay

Bo Kong VEGETARIAN -- Although there are at least a few dim sum vegetarian offerings at most restaurants, this simple Chinese restaurant with an English menu offers a larger selection than most, including a steamed vegetarian barbecued "pork" bun, steamed spinach dumpling, and deep-fried bean curd rolls with vegetable.

Times Square (12th floor), 1 Matheson St., Causeway Bay. tel. 852/2506 3377. Dim sum HK$10-HK$15 (US$1.30-US$1.95/70p-ţ1.05). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11am-4pm. MTR: Causeway Bay.

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