People of South Florida, I have an important announcement. There is a new dim sum restaurant. In Sunny Isles. And it appears to be quite good.
This is not my usual style. I usually will give a place at least a couple of visits, and typically a couple of months after opening, before writing about it. But there is dim sum involved here, people. I love dim sum.
Dim sum options in Miami are fairly limited. Most often, we make the pilgrimage south to Tropical Chinese, which I prefer to some of the other more southerly options, Kon Chau and South Garden. Chu's Taiwan Kitchen in Coral Gables is in my weekday lunch rotation, and is also one of the few places in town that have xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. On the northern end of town we used to frequent Hong Kong Noodles, which was inconsistent, not exactly the cleanest place, and closed down a while ago; I could never get that excited over Sang's. And of course there is Hakkasan in the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, which is excellent in quality, but expensive and limited in selection.
Enter Chef Philip Ho.
Thanks to a tip on the Chowhound board, I heard that a new dim sum place had opened up in Sunny Isles, in a location that was formerly occupied by one of those inexplicably ubiquitous Chinese buffet operations. It's a sizable place, probably capable of seating a hundred people, even though the room is still bisected between a dining room and the space that used to house the buffet.
They offer both pushcart service and a printed checklist style menu, the best of both worlds for partisans of the different dim sum service styles.
It was only Little Miss F and myself, so we didn't get to do a comprehensive sampling, but everything we tried was quite good and had me eager to make a return visit. We picked exclusively from the carts, which carried most, but not all, of the menu items.
(You can see all my pictures in this Chef Philip Ho flickr set).
Pictured at the top of this post is the "Chef's Special Dumpling," which I believe had coarsely chopped shrimp topped with
Chive and shrimp dumplings were delicately pan-seared, and were lighter-textured and less greasy than similar items served at Tropical.
Steamed pork buns were also pleasingly light, the char siu pork filling a bit less cloyingly sweet than is often encountered.
Shrimp cheong fun (rice "pasta" or "crepe") had a pleasingly chewy texture to the noodle and nice fresh shrimp, bathing in a thin sweet soy sauce.
The hue of these vibrant green vegetable and shrimp dumplings was matched by their bright fresh flavors.
Not on the menu, but making its way around the room was this dish of crisp fried squares of turnip cake with XO sauce. The crispy edges and soft, almost gooey interior of the turnip cake were reminiscent, in the best possible way, of a tater tot, all punched up by a dice of garlic, green onions, ham and chiles. It was excellent.
The dessert selections were more extensive than I've typically seen, and Little Miss F found one of her favorites, steamed egg custard buns. Filled with a dense, sweet, yolky custard, these must have been good: she ate them all.
Prices for most dim sum items range from $3-5 an order depending on size and ingredients, and aside from the old standards, there were a number of other things that intrigued: steamed black truffle and scallop dumpling, bitter melon and chicken rice crepe, black truffle egg custard tart, fresh lily and scallop rice crepe, braised beef tendon and turnip. The menu is rounded out by a number of noodle and rice dishes as well as a few more entrée type items that were listed on the backside of the printed dim sum list. I assume, but don't know, that they have a "regular" non-dim sum menu as well.
Update: I tried the scallop and truffle dumplings, the braised beef tendon and turnip, and the black truffle egg custard tart on a return visit a week after my first, and all - as well as several other items - were again very good.
Servers were friendly and helpful if not always capable of English translations, which never deters me. Given that we were some of the only gringos in the room, I take it as a good sign.
So who is Chef Philip Ho, you may ask? Well, I did. And after doing a little sleuthing, I got the answer, courtesy of an All Purpose Dark post: he used to be the dim sum chef at the Setai Restaurant. That's another good sign.
And there were plenty of auspicious signs about Chef Philip Ho. It only opened this past week, and so I know this may be premature, but it sure looks like we've got another good dim sum option in Miami.
Chef Philip Ho
16850 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles