If you're craving soup dumplings or Xiaolongbao (XLB) in Philly, the one place you have to check out is Dim Sum Garden. Highly praised by Iron Chef Jose Garces, DSG offers cheap, and most importantly, delicious bites. How good is it? Iron Chef Garces sources his soup dumplings from DSG for his new Revel Casino restaurant, Yuboka. The one caveat associated with DSG? It used to be in a dumpy location behind Reading Terminal Market.
But all that's changed now - DSG has moved to a better location on Race Street, replete with a sleek interior design. So before heading to Hop Sing Laundromat for some drinks, the GF and I met up with some friends for good eats in Chinatown.
The Da family came to Philly in 2008 to represent Shanghai's style of dim sum. The head chef, Shizhou Da, is the fifth generation of the original four chefs who created the first soup dumping. With the assistance of her daughter, who runs the front of the house, they've created a restaurant that's becoming a popular spot for Philadelphians to grab a delicious bite.
DSG does take reservations, though it seems as though this simply gets you a table quicker, rather than providing you with a seat at a designated time. Still, without one, you'll be waiting in line for a bit. On a Saturday night around 7:30PM, the line was about half an hour deep, though the turn around was relatively quick.
Pro tip? DSG is BYO! So bring on some bubbly or some wine to pair with your dim sum and start your night off right.
Pan Fried Beef Dumplings [$5.75]
But on to the food. Dishes here come as they're prepared so don't expect any sort of coursing. But no matter. We started off with deliciously gluttonous pan fried dumplings, with a meaty exterior that was nicely crisp. And inside? Sweet and savory pork. These gorgeous bites are meant to dipped in the vinegar and chili oil provided at the table.
Vegetable Fried Rice [$7.50]
The veggie fried rice was really good as well. Though a bit salty, you could taste each individual grain of rice, which was the main component for this melange of scallions, eggs, and carrots. This was a larger portion than it looks and was quickly devoured.
Double Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce over Noodles [$6.95]
The pork with garlic sauce was available to come atop rice or noodles. The noodles were clearly hand-crafted and simply amazing. It's a bit cumbersome to eat for date night, so I'd advise you not to wear a crisp white shirt. But the noodles are definitely worth it - the texture and the way it holds the garlic sauce is simply superb. And the tender pork combined with baby bok choy and celery? Savory, sweet, and texture abounds.
Shanghai Wonton Noodle Soup [$6.95]
This isn't your Americanized Chinese food joint's won ton soup. The broth is clear and deep. The wontons are well-crafted and large, filled with abundant portions of pork. Not overly salty, this soup will fill you up for under $7.
Stewed Chicken Over Rice [$5.95]
For the stewed chicken, we went with the rice. The moist and tender chicken came with a gravy that was rich. With baby bok choy on the side, this definitely eats like a meal - for under $6.
Pan Fried Beef Potato Cake [$3.80]
And if anything is a must order (other than the soup dumplings), it's these pan fried potato cakes. A gluttonous form of Chinese latkes, there was richly seasoned beef and potato bits within. And the crispy exterior offered great texture.
Shanghai Pork Soup Dumplings [$5.75]
But what are we really here for? The infamous XLB. For everyone other than myself, this was the first adventure into soup dumplings. So naturally, some instruction was needed so the night didn't end with peoples' mouths being scalded.
Simply grab your dumpling with your chopsticks and place them on your soup spoon. Then, pierce the skin to allow some of the hot broth to seep out. Slurp and then take a big bite of the dumpling. Sweet, savory, and then sweet again. All filled within a gossamer thin fresh dumpling wrapper. I could easily eat three orders of these in one sitting.
Crab & Pork Soup Dumplings [$6.25]
But on this occasion, we had to try the crab and pork iteration as well. The scent and taste of the crab comes on the forefront, with the pork taking over on the end. I prefer the regular pork soup dumplings, but this offers a nice change of pace for those inclined for surf and turf.
So at Dim Sum Garden, for under $60, a party of 4 can get their fill of great food to start off the night. But really, I'd pay twice as much for these Iron Chef-endorsed soup dumplings. They're just that good. And don't forget - add an order of those delicious pan fried beef potato cakes!