Monday, January 4, 2010
I've previously sung the praises of the 7 train, the elevated subway that cuts east-west across Manhattan and Queens, exposing the deep belly of some of the city's best ethnic eats. God, I love that train. I'd ride it start to finish, and in fact I did just that a few weeks ago, when I trekked out to its last stop, Main St/Flushing. Flushing is home to the country's largest population of Chinese immigrants east of the Rockies*. It's at once more dense and less hectic than Manhattan or Brooklyn's Chinatowns, and a real culinary wonderland. I've previously compiled entire walkable dumpling tours covering wide swaths of Flushing, but mostly focused on smallish stalls and restaurants doling out seriously cheap eats. This time, my trip was little different: I was out for dim sum, in the grandest fashion possible.
Tropical tiki tripe
Dim sum is not a casual affair in Flushing: massive, ornate banquet halls heave and ho with the weight of hundreds of diners, pressed tightly into circular tables, barking back and forth with the brusque waitstaff hawking their miniature wares. After some research, we settled on Ocean Jewels as our venue; it has a reputation for serving excellent seafood for dinner but is also renowned for their weekend dim sum feast. At Ocean Jewels, it’s best to stay seated to avoid losing a foot (or worse) to one of the ladies torpedoing down the aisles with a cart full of pork buns. It's also best to come with a group, to ensure maximum variety in dishes tasted, and it's probably best to designate one loud, slightly bossy person to deal with the cart-staff and order for the table.
Our bill after several hours of eating-- that's 37 plates
Major kudos to my adventuresome friends, who woke up early on a Saturday, rode the subway for over an hour, and were promptly greeted with braised tripe and abalone dumplings. Here's a sampling of some of our wares: some were fairly standard, some a bit more advanced. We had shrimp cakes, steamed pork buns, jellified tripe, egg custards, sweet bean rolls, sautéed morning glory, chicken feet, the aforementioned abalone dumplings, and a creamy, milky dessert with lychee and mung beans. This was dim sum for the masses: nothing was transcendent, but everything was solid and fresh. And when brunch for 8 comes to a grand total of $120, I’d take the 7 there and back again.
*Lee, Jennifer 8. “In This Chinatown, Chinese Is Just a Start.” The New York Times. 23 July 2006.