The classic Chinatown meal is the dim sum brunch or lunch. For those who’ve never tried it, dim sum is a meal made up of many small dishes, primarily different sorts of dumplings and buns, a tradition that started in the tea houses that lined China’s Silk Road many centuries ago (scholars believe the custom began shortly after a.d. 300, when the long-held notion that tea should not be accompanied by food fell out of favor). And the top place for dim sum in Chinatown today is this cacophonous, always-jammed restaurant, where the clientele is often entirely Chinese, and the dishes range from the expected to the un: boiled snails, tripe stews, eggplant with shrimp paste. Since many of the servers don’t speak English, you’ll have to point at what interests you. If you make a mistake (hard to do, as it’s all tasty), it’s no big deal, as most dishes cost just a few bucks.
- Pauline Frommer