Imagine sitting down at an empty table with an empty stomach and an empty menu in front of you. It is full of various types of Chinese food, some familiar to you, some not, and you want to try all of it.
Imagine that, due to each dish’s small size and equally small price, you can sample them all. They arrive at your table in disorganized waves, and you and your dining companions dig in with an anarchic frenzy, using their hands, chopsticks, silverware or any combination of the three. Imagine wobbling out of the restaurant fully sated, knowing that the aforementioned feast hardly left a dent in your wallet. This is dim sum.
Okay, so if you’ve ever lived anywhere in or around New York City (or any major city for that matter), this concept is probably not so foreign to you. But having been born and raised in the food-lover’s nightmare that is Rochester, restaurants like this are often a godsend. The process is simple. You get a menu, circle whatever sounds tasty and eat it whenever the mostly silent waitresses bring it out to you. You then pay the bill and leave. Digest and repeat.
Last Sunday, while most patriotic Americans were glued to their TV feeling a little better about themselves and their knowledge of the national anthem, three friends and I decided to head to Golden Port Dim Sum on East Ave. It was a fitting choice given that two of them were vegetarians and Golden Port has a relatively large and very tasty selection of vegetarian dim sum. We passed the menu around, circling items impulsively and waited for the wonderful consequences of our actions.
The tempura crab sticks came first. Though I previously believed that anything breaded in panko and then subsequently deep fried is bound to be wonderful, the crab itself was a bit mushy and flavorless. The crispy crunchiness of the fried pork spring rolls fully made up for it, though.
The shrimp toasts were moist, briny, crunchy pockets of goodness that should be mandatory with every meal. The staples of every trip here for me, the scallion pancakes and turnip cakes, were perfect as usual: The scallion pancakes were thin and crispy and luckily not overly greasy, and the turnip cakes can only be described as a wonderful variation on a hash brown, but much richer.
One of my favorite parts of any trip to Golden Port is the edamame. For those who don’t know, these are salted and boiled soy beans that one pops out of their skin and eats without mercy. As per usual, they were a real crowd pleaser.
The fried pork dumplings that we received were less satisfying, the grayish, meatball-like filling had an unappetizing texture and salty but bland flavor. I recommend sticking to the much more subtle and complex flavor and texture of the veggie dumplings. The fried tofu was fairly disappointing as well — the inside was slimy and mushy, and the whole dish tasted of essentially nothing.
All in all, the meal was highly satisfying. Each time I venture into Golden Port I have to select few items that I know I’m going to order, but I also plan on trying a few new items. And with the low prices that average about $3-4 per dim sum, trying new things is quite affordable. The service is quick and generally satisfactory, and the food of very high quality every time.
But the thing that I love the most about this place — the thing that restaurants and home chefs alike could stand to learn something from — is the overall format of the meal. With everyone ordering several small portions sharing becomes so common that by the end of the meal no one knows who ordered what, and it doesn’t matter. Everyone can sit back, relax and pick up and take whatever food looks good to him or her, the way eating should be.
Ford is a member of
the class of 2013.