“Oh, so that you’re consuming inside once more now?” says Salina Kuo, trying up from her clipboard to attract a protracted listing of diners ready on a current weekend for a desk on the beautiful China Gourmand restaurant.
Sure, I mentioned with a sheepish shrug, marveling at Ko’s photographic reminiscence of her purchasers. It has been just a few years since I visited China Gourmand in Northeast Philadelphia, my favourite native Cantonese dim sum corridor and the closest factor this metropolis has to a Flushing-style dumpling palace. And at that bleak stage of the pandemic in early 2021, this large 400-seat house was restricted to solely a fraction of its seating capability in the course of the well being disaster. I’ve not but obtained the vaccination, and I got here to eat out as a present of help. However I additionally fearful that this touchstone of Northeast Philadelphia’s rising Chinese language group — a normally bustling dim sum corridor full of spherical tables drawn by rolling carts serving dumplings for family-style eating — would by no means be the identical. Happily, I used to be mistaken.
“We’re alive! We’re alive!” Ko informed me with a large smile, framed by pink horns sprouting from the headscarf she was carrying so diners may spot her among the many crowd of hungry hopefuls gathered close to the restaurant’s entrance. “Simply search for the woman of the century!” I joked. Prospects can usually wait as much as 45 minutes for a weekend desk at this huge shopping center location of China Gourmand, the place Kuo and her husband, chef Ming Feng, moved in 2018, incomes rave critiques and a spot on the menu. Prime 25 that yr.
I used to be thrilled once I noticed the festive vitality return. A sea of spherical tables coated in pink linen full of greater than 300 individuals. A fleet of rolling carts cease incessantly beside the desk to ship steaming steel baskets of hand-folded har gow shrimp dumplings, tender spare rib ideas, tanned hen toes, shiny inexperienced mounds of Chinese language broccoli, and bundles of tea leaves full of sticky rice. As we took our personal desk, scorching tea began flowing by my little cup and my visitors have been somewhat shocked once I mentioned “Sure!” To each automobile that got here our method. However this felt like a celebration of a return to pre-pandemic normalcy. Inside moments, each inch of our desk was full of meals.
Delicately wrinkled dumplings comprised of translucent white dough and full of pork and peanuts. The open-topped sui mee is full of floor pork and shrimp. Fried shrimp balls wrapped in pastry strips that appear like dumpling comets. Fluffy white “snow mountain buns” (shiu shan bao) full of roasted cha siu pork, whose domed crusts are full of a skinny layer of baked candy cream, are a specialty that’s notably exhausting to seek out. Actually, within the Philly space, lots of the 50+ dumplings and small plates can solely be discovered effectively carried out right here at China Gourmand. The one factor you will not discover are xiao lengthy bao, the well-known soup dumplings which are a Shanghai specialty, as China Gourmand delicacies relies completely on Cantonese delicacies.
Ming’s Kitchen presents a dizzying array of different objects each day, however particularly on weekends, when greater than 1,200 clients sometimes come by the room. And the meals is pretty much as good as ever, from crispy prawn and chive dumplings, to lengthy chili peppers full of fish paste (softer and extra refined in taste than the standard prawn paste filling), and prawn muffins topped with matchstick slices of fried taro. There are newer choices, too, corresponding to stick-sized prawn rolls wrapped in crisp sheets of fried bean curd, which servers reduce with scissors.
I’d have continued to discover extra of the carts, then stayed for dinner to benefit from the China Gourmand Aquarium with big stay crabs, clam sashimi, and lobster (Hong Kong model is my favorite) – if solely I had the urge for food. However I will save that for one more day. Kuo and Ming plan to quickly convey extra of that dim sum expertise to weekend getaways at Jin Ding, the previous Yangming house in Bryn Mawr that the couple bought simply two months earlier than the pandemic. Unlucky timing, coupled with adapting to the totally different tastes of the broader mainline viewers, little doubt accounted for its comparatively sluggish begin. Nonetheless, I am reassured to know that China Gourmand is again the place we left it pre-pandemic, with its delicacies filled with dim sum wonders progressing at full velocity.
2842 St. Vincent St. Philadelphia, PA 19149. Telephone: 215-941-1898; phillychinagourmet.com
The typical dim sum meal price per buyer is $20.
Entry services for the disabled.