Recently, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, I was jonesing for a dim sum brunch. My Chinese coworker overheard my yearning and immediately recommended a spot her and her family frequent: Chatham Square, in, well, Chatham Square in Chinatown. It was exactly what I was looking for–an authentic, delicious experience not found by searching online.
My roommates and I went on Saturday around noon and walked into a bustling, cavernous room full of carts running from table to table full of covered goodies for the taking. For those who are unfamiliar, dim sum is a Chinese meal of pre-cooked dishes that are walked around a room so that as they go by, you simply point at what you want, and it’s yours! My coworker informed me the best time to go is Saturday around noon–it’s less crowded since people are still working on Saturdays (as opposed to Sundays, when everyone is off), and the food is freshest between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
After a quick 15-minute wait, we were ushered to a table near the back and almost immediately had five dishes on our table: (from middle top, clockwise) fried shrimp-stuffed eggplant, pork buns, shrimp wrapped in chewy rice noodles, (tea) shrimp shumai, and bacon wrapped shrimp. Okay, so we went a leetle shrimp crazy.
It was all incredibly delicious. And once those were devoured, we continued with sesame balls, scallion noodles, and a few other equally delicious mini-dishes. That day began my love for sesame balls–fried dough covered in sesame seeds with sweet red bean paste on the inside–that has grown exponentially since.
For dessert we ended with egg custard and fried taro dough balls.
Unfortunately, the egg custard was overcooked and tasted like scrambled eggs, when it should have been a creamy, sweet pastry treat, and the taro ball was a little boring after the magnificent sesame balls. But when the whole meal of 10+ dishes clocked in at $30, we were more than placated.
And an important lesson was learned: go for more sesame balls.
Chatham Square, http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/chatham-square-restaurant, 6 Chatham Square (between Mott St. and E. Broadway), New York, NY, 212-587-8800