Atmosphere: Never judge a restaurant by its entrance. I’d been walking past the nondescript, plastic-curtained door to the Baoqing Lu branch of Dim Sum Garden at least twice a day for four months before a friend finally encouraged me to check it out.
Inside, it’s much more genteel than the frontage, with its faded advertising boards and supermarket-style insulation measures, would have you believe. Think marble floors, round tables draped in white and a series of semi-private rooms connected by a larger, central area. It’s more bustling than refined, with a reassuring, relaxing hum of activity and lunchtime chatter.
Food: It’s dim sum (with additions), and it’s mostly great. My introduction to Dim Sum Garden came when a friend brought over a little plastic tub of their black, gold-brushed, molten custard buns. They were so good that I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be dragging people there to try them fresh from the steamer.
We ate in a big group, ordering plenty. The fairest way to judge the food, I think, is to consider what we ordered seconds of. The custard buns – yes, of course. They’re amazing. I’d also highly recommend the crispy shrimp rolls. If you’ve ever had British fish and chips with scraps on top, imagine that but in a chewy wrapper. If you haven’t – well, go and try the Dim Sum Garden shrimp rolls, and you’ll get a fair picture.
There were some other highlights, too: the char siu buns were fluffy and claggy and delicious, and the sweet and sour pork – deep fried then packed in ice to crisp the coating – was worth the trip alone. There’s also a good range of vegetarian options, from rolled green pancakes to little translucent dumplings and a fluffy fried tofu dish.
I wasn’t crazy about some of the textures and flavours: the ribs were too chewy for my taste, and the cold turnip cakes came with a particularly cloying sauce. One of the wonderful things about dim sum, though, is that there isn’t too much of anything, so it’s easy to ignore the less satisfying dishes.
Service: Menus show pictures and/or English translations, so the only difficulty in ordering is deciding between all of the excellent options. Dishes arrive as soon as they’re ready, which is generally fairly quickly. The staff were good enough to let us bring our own wine in for a birthday lunch, too.
We ate as a table of seven and ended up paying about 120rmb each for an endless succession of plates, platters and steamers. Great value for this dependable, convivial dim sum spot. It isn’t the most refined iteration in the city, but it’s a great option if you’re local and hungry.
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