“You don’t disappoint.” That’s definitely a good start to a conversation when you get back into the car after a meal.
Confession time: I’m fifty years old and have never had dim sum. As an extremely suburban child, in a town with no Chinese restaurants, it was one of those exotic ideas that you saw in movies set in New York City. Then I forgot about it, for years. It bubbled back to the top of my head, after a fantastic meal at Gunshow and has been percolating there ever since. Today, we set out to remedy that. What better place than Canton House, which has been named Creative Loafing’s “best dim sum” for multiple years running. We headed over to Buford Highway, arriving shortly after noon to find groups of people standing outside, waiting for tables, we gave our name and waited underneath this giant chandelier, for about twelve minutes (coincidentally, also our number – “12”) and were shown to our table, right by the kitchen. This was a great thing as food was coming to us piping-hot. We placed our only order off the menu – two bowls of hot and sour soup, then waited on the carts.
The soup was very tasty, but we had already tried the first two dishes before it arrived – we were immediately greeted by a server with a cart. And then the first of the food arrived. For those of you who aren’t familiar with dim sum, it is a style of Cantonese food, prepared as small bites, typically served on carts pushed around the restaurant with fully prepared dishes in steamer baskets or small plates. Think of it as a rolling buffet that they bring to you. When the first cart rolled around, the young man stopped and asked what we’d like. He had “honeycomb”, which I thought Jo would be really excited about – until he explained that it was beef intestine. We passed. We did take this dish,
which we think we were told was fried shrimp and tofu. Jo cut it in half and found the inside to be very red. Having never seen red shrimp, we asked the waiter and he insisted that it was fine – that was probably just the way it was prepared. This didn’t “sit” well and we couldn’t seem to get a better answer. Until later in the meal, when they brought the cart around and that server described it as a pork and shrimp dish…
I also ordered curry squid in a pasta of some sort,
which was interesting – very salty and the pasta shell was kind of chewy. I ate a few pieces. Jo passed. We also ordered the two dishes below – on the left (shrimp wrapped in rice paper) and
and what they referred to as “shark fin”. They said the latter was actually pork, so I took one of these and they weren’t bad, particularly with soy sauce and a good bit of the hot sauce – I ultimately ate all three. The shrimp was very good and we even ordered a second dish of these when the carts came back around.
We later took the red bean paste buns below,
which were oddly sweet. Jo really enjoyed these. The red bean paste was the consistency of a thick jelly. We also ordered sticky rice, wrapped in lotus paper. (About half way through the meal, I noticed that there was a Chinese woman sitting at the table next to us, along with a Caucasian woman with her daughter, explaining all of the dishes to her companions – I eaves dropped and followed her lead.) The sticky rice had all kind of stuff in it and turns out to be a dish called “lo mai gai” – traditionally prepared with chicken, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese sausage and scallions. I wish I had looked it up before-hand, as I likely would have tried more of the “stuff” in the rice, but I was a little cautious, based on some of the options that had been presented to us.
We had passed on the “honey comb” and several dishes with spicy chicken feet involved, so when I saw the sugar cane shrimp (which I was familiar with from Nam Phuong), I though that we’d enjoy that.
I did enjoy the sugar cane shrimp, again, particularly with the hot sauce added to it. Then the platter came around with calamari and we ordered it before seeing it –
which was, visually, fried small squid. Jo said that they tasted like the sea, as seafood should, and really enjoyed them. After this dish, and the second order of rice-paper wrapped shrimp, she was finished and I took one more dish from a server. This was a fried noodle with pork, covered in a vinegary soy sauce. It was fine.
All things considered, we enjoyed more dishes than we didn’t and we didn’t try anything too crazy. And after numerous stops from servers with trays and platters and carts and even more questions, this is what we ended up with:
I think this translates into 3 big plates, 6 small plates, 2 hot and sour soups and 2 Diet Cokes. I didn’t even know that I could read Cantonese! Actually, this translated to just under fifty bucks. Quite a feast for the money. We definitely need to try it again, with friends.