On the way home to Maryland from New Jersey, my parents and I decided to stop for lunch in Philadelphia. My dad had heard about a place in Chinatown that was highly praised for its Shanghai "soup dumplings," and so the decision was made to lunch there.
The restaurant, Dim Sum Garden, is just a small place, very easy to miss. It didn't seem like anything impressive from the outside, and its menu is fairly limited, but we decided on four things that we wanted to order.
Our orders were quickly taken and we barely had a chance to enjoy the hot tea before our food arrived on the table. The service was quick and friendly, and the waitress occasionally came by to ask us, "Is good?" to which we wholeheartedly replied yes.
We started with their famous "Shanghai Crabmeat & Pork Juicy Bun" ($5.75 for 8 pieces). The English name of the dish is a mediocre translation from the Chinese name, but it gets the point across. Some people call these "soup dumplings" because once you bite into the dumpling, not only is there the standard meat filling, but there is also a delicious, warm broth that fills your mouth. It was great and fun to eat, and we all agreed that this restaurant lived up to its reputation.
The scallion pancakes ($2.50 for 6 pieces) that we ordered also exceeded our expectations. The "pancakes" were thin and very crispy, flavorful and perfectly seasoned. The texture of the pancakes were especially pleasing because scallion pancakes can sometimes be on the soft and pliable side, but these were perfect.
We also ordered a roast duck dish ($6.95). This was actually the only disappointment. It didn't have the strong "five spice" flavor that typifies roast duck, and it leaned heavily on the salty side. We actually didn't finish this dish, although it was small, because it was too salt to keep eating. We did, however, bring it home, and after heating it in our toaster oven, we found the leftovers to be just fine when eaten with rice.
These shrimp dumpling ($5.75 for 6 pieces) were another hit. They were flavorful, perfectly cooked, and beautifully made.
Everything was hot, fresh, and well made. We were especially pleased with the scallion pancakes and impressed by the Shanghai "juicy buns" or soup dumplings. On our way home, we were already talking about our next visit. Not only was the food great, but it was also incredibly affordable. While the restaurant's specific location might not be the best, it is Philadelphia's Chinatown, and conveniently close to many tourist hot spots. So, if you ever happen to find yourself in the area, I will say that Dim Sum Garden is the place to go for a good, affordable Shanghai-style dim sum meal.
Dim Sum Garden
59 North 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3004
Tel: (215) 627-0218
Overall rating for the price: 8.5 out of 10