Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dim Sum is back in town!

Zhongshan Restaurant
323 Park Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 223-1881

Dim sum is back in Baltimore - and right around the corner from where I work at the Central Library. Boy howdy! First a Vietnamese place opens down the street (the wonderful Mekong Delta Cafe), and now this; could this be the dawning of a new wave of authentic Asian restaurants (as opposed to those faux "pan-Asian"/"fusion" parlors like Pei Wei) downtown? The dim sum place is called The Zhongstan Restaurant (named after the prefecture-level city in south China, itself named after the "Father of Modern China" Dr. Sun Zhongshan - aka Sun Yat-sen), though people sometimes refer to it as The Chinatown Cafe - the name of the previous restaurant in that space. It's at 323 Park Avenue between Mulberry and Saratoga Street, on the block that passes for Baltimore's Chinatown. The entrepreneurs behind the new restaurant are Philadelphia's Richard Wong and co-owner Shirley Cheung; the chef behind Zhongshan is Sam Thang.

Dim Sum is some yum-yum fun

The only Charm City dim sum I ever sampled was at the old Grand Palace in Brooklyn ( it was great and I thank my neighbors Ed and Bella Chou for taking me there to enjoy the many delicacies on offer), but it's long gone; the only other options until now were Jesse Wong's Hong Kong in Columbia and Oriental Manor in Ellicott City. In her Dining@Large blog, Sun reviewer Elizabeth Large called dim sum "Chinese tapas" and while the two menus can be polar opposites in price (tapas = pricey, dim sum = thrifty), they both do cater to folks who like to sample lots of small dishes. Dim sum is basically steamed and fried dumplings and other small dishes that are traditionally served on weekends as brunch up until 3 pm. So if you get a whim for sum dim, check it out!

Here's Elizabeth Large's "Table Talk" review from the Baltimore Sun (March 25, 2009).

Chinese restaurant Zhongshan to open in Baltimore

Once Baltimore had a Chinatown. It was small, but it was a Chinatown. Now Richard Wong, a Philadelphia restaurateur and native of China, hopes to resurrect it. The first step is his new restaurant, Zhongshan (323 Park Ave., 410-223-1881), scheduled to open for regular business Friday.

Some restaurants open quietly and have their grand opening months later. Not Zhongshan. The night before the opening, the owner will hold a 10-course banquet (by invitation only, unfortunately). The 300 block of Park Ave. will be closed off, and the celebration will include firecrackers (yes, the owner has gotten the necessary permits) and a Chinese lion dance.

I asked the general manager, C.K. Cheng, if anything else was planned.

"Local dignitaries have been invited," he said. "I don't know if they'll be here or not. The Chinese Embassy in Washington is sending someone."

And here's a Chowhound post from aubzamzam:
After the tragic demise of Grand Palace (and the ensuing decline and fall of Imperial Gourmet's dim sum) I thought decent dim sum would require a trip to Philly or further. However, I had some great Dim Sum at the Chinatown Cafe today. It's on Park Avenue, between Saratoga and Mulberry, in the former Chinatown. I was delighted to see that their dim sum menu had some of the more interesting standards (tripe and chicken feet) as well as the dumplings, buns and turnip cakes, etc. I was pleased with what I had. No carts, alas, but it was a weekday and not busy.

I also liked the looks of their menu (many of the standard American-Chinese stuff, but also some more traditional Cantonese dishes) and was thrilled that they included their daily specials (which looked like pretty "challenging" food) in english listings. They also have some HK-style noodle soups, which usually requires a trip to Golden Gate Noodle House up in Towson. I shall have to return for non-dim sum to see how it measures up. Expect to hear more in the next week or two.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to Zhongshan today with some friends for DimSum. There were not carts, just a poor quality photocopy ordering sheet, that had a very limited selection for DimSum. The other of the sheet had lunch specials. I didn't find the DimSum to be all that good, and was dissapointed going off the reviews of some other sites. However, the service was quick and friendly. Still a bit unorganized being newly open. I might try them again if they are still open in a few months.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i had the most fantastic experience there just last week and am going back there tonight. got the fish taken straight out of the tank and lightly battered and friend in minutes! all the dim sum itself was spectacular, especially the specials that night. cannot wait to try more things.

9:44 PM  
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