Here’s a compromise for anti-buffet types who love to brunch: a buffet that comes to you. The food is tucked into small tin pots and rolled to your table in a metal cart. Lovers of Hong Kong style cuisine call it dim sum.
Yes, I know you’ve heard about dim sum. But who are we kidding? This isn’t Hong Kong or New York or San Francisco – or any city where dim sum is more a religion than a meal. This is Palm Beach County, where dim sum menus are few and far between.
Luckily for seekers of the real deal, there’s still tasty dim sum to be found at Grand Lake, the 10-year-old Chinese restaurant that sits in a suburban West Palm Beach plaza.
The Saturday and Sunday dim sum crowds put plenty of mileage on that metal cart. It’s laden with dumplings, finger foods and dim sum favorites.
On a recent visit, I asked my dining companions, two dim sum devotees, to order their favorite dishes. I added a couple of my own (Hello, sticky rice in lotus leaf!) and soon our table was filled with what seemed like the contents of two dim sum carts.
We feasted on plump shrimp dumplings ($4.25), pork sui mei dumplings ($3.95), raggedly finished and greasy fried taro dumplings ($4.25), dense chive dumplings ($4.25), sweet-savory steamed barbecue pork buns ($4.25), chicken feet ($3.95) and rich steamed egg custard buns ($4.25).
In this dumpling landscape, two dishes stood out as must-order: the delicious shrimp dumplings and the sui mei dumplings, which revealed their porky filling through their split tops.
Best of all, however, was a bean-curd skin roll stuffed with pork and chopped vegetables ($4.25). The beautifully seasoned filling is wrapped in a thin tofu sheet, steamed and served in a savory sauce.
Also delicious: the sticky rice in lotus leaf ($5.25), moist, nicely seasoned rice that’s wrapped in an aromatic lotus leaf and steamed until fragrant. The result is a dim sum cousin of a cornhusk-wrapped tamal or plantain-leaf-wrapped pastel. The filling takes on an ethereal layer from its steamed wrapping.
A crispy roasted duck dish ($8.50 for a quarter bird, $15.95 for a half) was ample and tasty, though slightly overcooked in parts.
We started our dim sum feast with steaming bowls of fish fillet congee ($7.25), a delicately flavored rice porridge. Hinting of ginger and dotted with chunks of mild white fish, it was downright soul-warming.
As one might guess, we had plenty of leftovers. But before those take-home containers were filled, we enjoyed our dim sum bites amid the chatter of locals in this family-owned restaurant.
No, there’s no bottomless Bloody Mary bar. But we did have a couple of pots of hot chrysanthemum tea. It soothed our full bellies on a lovely Sunday.
DIM SUM AT GRAND LAKE
ADDRESS: 7750 Okeechobee Blvd. #6, West Palm Beach
PRICE RANGE: Inexpensive to moderate
NOISE LEVEL: Low key, manageable.
FULL BAR: Beer and wine only
HOURS: Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 11 p.m. Cart-served dim sum is offered Saturday and Sunday.
CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted
RESERVATIONS: Walk-ins welcome
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother