As any child who had spend part of the childhood growing up in Hong Kong, one of the more definitively and lingering memory would probably be going Yum cha, or “drink tea” with the family on the weekends, which really is the custom of going to a Chinese tea house to have Dim Sum – a style of food prepared as small bite-sized, served in steamer baskets or small plates, which includes a wide varieties of dumplings, buns, meats, steamed or fried, savory and sweet.
Sunday was the official day off for my parents back then, so every Sunday morning was the beginning of my culinary adventure which more often than not, rotated between Dim Sum and Shanghai cuisine.
“What kind of tea do you want?” was the standard greeting from the waiter, which then began the morning ritual. My dad would be the one who usually poured the tea for everyone, while teaching us to tap our fingers as a sign of appreciation.
Char sui bao (barbequed pork bun), har gao (shrimp dumpling), siu mai (pork dumpling), glutinous rice wrapped with lotus leave, cheong fun (steamed rice roll), these were the dishes we always picked while sipping our hot Jasmine or Bo-Lei tea. Dim Sum, in my opinion, was the grandfather of this “small plates” movement that has become so popular these days.
The affair with dim sum continued on most Sundays in Chinatown after we immigrated to San Francisco. There were never any shortage of good Dim Sum for me.
Located on the 2nd floor inside the Atlantic Square, Atlantic Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant was only opened last year, so the space still felt fresh and clean. The restaurant is large, with glass chandeliers and separate dining areas. I like the fact that they employ the more traditional push carts instead of choosing from a list. One is able to see exactly what the dish look like before ordering. The service was efficient, with the waiters and busboys always around when I needed anything. The best part of the experience was in the unexpected and incredibly low prices of $1.58(on weekdays) and $1.88(on weekends) per dish.
Having had tried a fair amount of dim sum throughout the years, I still get excited when I come across something new, something tasty. The one item that stood out was a sweet and savory bun that resembled a tall pineapple bun with a runny salted egg yoke custard filling. Imagine the sensation of hot, cold, sweet, savory, soft, flaky, crunchy all within a soft pastry with warm luscious golden filling.
If one desires something other than the standard shrimp and beef cheong fun, there is a vegetarian version filled with mushrooms and chives, as well as the steamed pork ribs with small rice rolls. I asked if they offer Pig’s feet with ginger vinegar with egg(usually eaten after a mother has given birth), I was told they only have Braised pig’s feet. The pig’s feet, though not too meaty, had a rich flavor as well as very tender skin.
The steamed Daikon cake came out piping hot with tiny bits of dried shrimp and Chinese sausage. I preferred the steamed version over the pan-fried. The Chinese broccoli was fresh but small in quantity, probably due to the low price. The Tofu skin roll was soft and moist with with pork, mushroom, and bamboo shoots.
While there are other places that offer similar or lower prices, they are no where even near the quality of the food, service, and the comfort of this restaurant. I would go so far as to say that this might be the best deal one can get if one is in the mood for some good dim sum with “Good Old Day” prices.
Atlantic Seafood $ Dim Sum Restaurant: 500 N. Atlantic Blvd. Suite 200, Monterey Park, CA 91754 Phone: 626-872-0388