Introduction to Dim Sum at Jing Fong Restaurant

Date March 9, 2009

NYC Food Guy’s first dim sum experience is complete and what an eating extravaganza it was! I’ll preview each of the 24 different dishes I tasted (in one sitting) and I’ll also provide you with some essential information to ensure you get the most out of your dim sum experience. If you’ve never eaten dim sum before pay close attention to the information I offer or you will be overwhelmed.

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Freshly Fried Chive & Shrimp Dumplings

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Deep Fried Taro Dumplings

If you’ve never eaten Dim Sum, you MUST read this….

If you have eaten dim sum before, in an authentic Cantonese dim sum house, skip ahead and just enjoy the food porn. In the following sections preceding the food I will try to prepare you for the unique cultural experience you will soon undertake.

There’s one thing you can do to GUARANTEE a thorough and authentic experience: bring one person with you who speaks Cantonese. It’s the language of the dim sum house and having someone with you who has mastered it will make the meal.

“Dim Sum” does not mean “dumplings.” It refers to the entire range of dishes offered at the dim sum house. Dim sum is served from breakfast through late afternoon every day but it draws big crowds on weekends. If you’re going on a Saturday or Sunday, get there early, preferably before noon, because there will most likely be a wait and they sometimes run out of certain dishes.

Jing Fong is a massive dim sum house, so much so that you have to take a very steep escalator up to the vast banquet hall.

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The Order Card & Pricing

Once you reach the summit, you’ll be unceremoniously ushered to a table and handed an order card (ask for two order cards, if possible, I’ll explain why later). This card is your key to food. Every time you take a steam basket or plate, this card is stamped. You can’t receive food without it. Don’t lose it and try not to spill on it. In case you still don’t comprehend the gravity of this card’s purpose, I’m going to borrow some lines from the film “Full Metal Jacket”:

“This is my order card! There are many like it, but this one is mine! My order card is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, like I master my life. Without me, my order cared is useless. Without my order card, I am useless.”

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The size of the dish determines price and where it’s stamped. During the week, every plate at Jing Fong, no matter the size , is $2.95. On weekends, prices vary depending on size from $2.95 to $3.95 to $4.95.

Seizing Your Food

Now the culinary onslaught begins. Carts filled with steam baskets and plates of food will be wheeled quickly past you by mainly Cantonese-speaking women who have little to no patience describing what they’re offering. This is where the “seizing” comes into play. Be adventurous, get out of your seat, card in hand, and take a peek at what’s on the cart. Don’t worry about price, nothing will break the bank, if it looks decent, hand over your card in exchange for some food.

The stream of carts moves very quickly and in turn so must you, as the carts pass you by, continue the card/food exchange until you have a nice base of dishes to work through on your table. Don’t stop investigating passing carts or you may miss some of the best dishes. My two favorite dishes didn’t roll past our table until the very end of the meal. Carts, however, are not the only place to get food.

Steam Table Food & Double Order Card Strategy

Here’s where the double order card strategy comes into play. The photo below depicts just the right half of the Jing Fong dining room when you first enter. At the left of the photo, in front of the stained glass wall and orange-clad employees, are the steam tables. Having a second card provides a major advantage because one person at can acquire food from the steam table area while someone else remains at the table acquiring food from the carts. Dumplings are cooked up fresh next to the steam tables, this is an area not to be overlooked.

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Let’s Eat, starting with the favorites…

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Char siu souPuff pastries filled, topped with honey and filled with sweet and savory roast pork. My favorite item of the entire meal was also the last to arrive at our table showing you how important it is to keep an eye out for the items you’re hoping to try.

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Chive & Shrimp Dumplings – These are some of the freshest and tastiest dumplings I’ve ever had, mainly due to the fact that they traveled directly from the frying pan to our plate over at the steam table section.

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Char siu baau – Pillowy steamed pork buns filled with the same sweet roast pork as the char siu sou above. The dough itself is pretty flavorless but filling.

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Deep fried taro dumplings – Beneath the delicate fried taro exterior lies a core of boiled and mashed taro mixed with slightly spicy ground pork. Delicious, it reminded me of a crispy, greasy knish.

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Bacon wrapped shrimpNot as tasty as it could have been because it wasn’t as fresh as I had hoped. The bacon was crisp and dry, the shrimp was juicy and meaty.

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Egg RollsThe crispy and greasy exterior was light and embodied a slightly sweet flavor that was almost dessert-like on its own. Much smaller than your typical egg roll.

Items that were tasty but not terrific…

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Steamed Vegetable DumplingOne of the first items to arrive on our table, the skin was a little gummy but the vegetable filling was fresh and crisp.

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Shrimp Har GowHar gow refers to wrappers that are steamed until you can see through them. When done right, they’re stickier and a tad chewier than regular dumplings. The shrimp filling was unimpressive.

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Siu Mai - Also called “shu mai”, a dish many people have had before at sushi or Chinese restaurants. The wrapper is a lot thinner than the standard dumpling or the har gow, making it easier to one-bite these. Due to the speed at which the siu mai was served and devoured, I can’t recall if there’s meat encased alongside the vegetable filling.

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Chicken feet in black bean sauceDespite being an unlikely source of sustenance, these chicken feet were actually quite tasty, covered in a sauce reminiscent of a sweet General Tso’s sauce. The tiny bit of meat on the feet was surrounded by fat or cartilage.

Disappointing Dishes

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Whole skin-on shrimpAs Yao Ming says in the T-Mobile Fave 5 commercial, “Eat the head.” You can eat this shrimp in its entirety, eyes, head, skin and tail but I wouldn’t recommend it. Peel the shrimp and save the trouble of working at the crispy skin. They weren’t very hot upon arrival and really didn’t have much flavor.

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Fried soft shell crabI’d rather return to East Buffet in Huntington, Long Island if I’m going to eat a plate of crab. These crispy soft shell crabs were dry, fishy and not very meaty.

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Rice noodle roll stuffed with fried dough topped with sweetened soy sauceThe fried dough within the rice noodle was flavorless and cool. The sweetened soy sauce provided the only detectable flavor. If you have a chance to eat these steaming hot, however, go for it.

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Soup dumplings – I was all prepared with my soup dumpling spoon as I punctured the thick, gummy skin and readied myself for the outpouring of soup to come. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much soup inside. If it did exist in these dumplings, soup would have been the defining and most memorable flavor.

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Pan fried pork dumplingsPicked from the steam table section, these dumplings were just a mediocre version of the typical pork dumpling.

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Rice noodle roll stuffed with shrimpLike their fried dough-filled family, these shrimp-stuffed rice noodles were equally mundane and lacked any real textural diversity.

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Turnip CakeThis pan fried, sweet cake is best when dipped in the accompanying sauce. The crisp outer edges gives way to a firm but slightly mushy interior.

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Sticky Rice in Lotus LeafPeel back the lotus leaf warpper to reveal a mushy concoction of rice and pork. I was unimpressed by the flavor and would not seek this dish out next time.

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Chinese BroccoliHead to the steam table for an order of watery and lightly-flavored Chinese broccoli.

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Curry meatballs – A strong curry flavor overtook these tough and tightly packed meatballs.

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Chinese sausage in steamed buns - How bad could this be right? Wrong. The sausages were a little tough and lacked any redeeming flavor. The steamed buns are similar to those of the char siu bauu.

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Shrimp and vegetable har gowA return to the translucent har gow dumpling was not very rewarding, the “pouch-like” construction forced most of the filling to fall out of the dumpling upon first bite.

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Fried smelt – Sticking with my goal of being adventurous, we bravely pulled this plate to our table and then proceeded to bite into maybe two of the entire plate’s worth of fish. These arrived crispy on the outside, tender and fishy on the inside, but unfortunately devoid of any heat.

Dishes I didn’t get a chance to try…

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Fish ballsAfter missing out on the first order of fish balls, I balked at the chance to try them again and was greeted with a smile. Apparently, this dish is an acquired taste.

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Spare ribs in black beans sauce over rice noodle rollsJust like the fish balls, I didn’t taste this dish because after trying it himself, King Of Ketchup was unimpressed. Fatty pork meets mushy rice noodles amidst a bland sauce.

Jing Fong

(Google map)

20 Elizabeth St b/t Canal St. & Bayard St. 2nd Floor

New York, NY 10002
212-964-5256

52 Responses to “Introduction to Dim Sum at Jing Fong Restaurant”

  1. Pooka said:

    Yess!!! The one on elizabeth street is the best!!! Its infront of the underground mall, I stuff my face whenev er I’m there!!! :)

  2. Pooka said:

    But not all the dishes are great, but yeah its cheap for a lot so I likey :)

  3. Intellectual eater said:

    I can’t believe you went to dim sum without me!!!!

    A few points of dissention:
    1) you don’t need to go with someone who speaks Chinese as long as you’re with someone familiar with dim sum that can explain what everything is
    2) My favorite dish is fun rolls, what you call “rice noodle stuffed with shrimp” but I admit it’s all about the texture of the noodle which I happen to love but some people find slimy and off putting.
    3) The sticky rice you got isn’t actually normal sticky rice. It’s a similar dish that also comes by steamed in the big leaf, but has corn mush mixed with the rice – it sucks. Normal sticky rice is heavenly and gets this slightly tea-ish flavor from the leaves.

    You’ll have to try MY dim sum place some time!

  4. Intellectual eater said:

    Also, your tastes above clearly show a preference for fried things, considering your favorites. Just pointing that out…

  5. Mike V. said:

    Love, love, love Dim Sum.
    We go to Lucky Star in San Diego. It’s most fun to go with at least 4 people so you can get a ton of things.
    Last time we were up in the Bay Area, we went with my family to Dim Sum King in Daly City right off the Great Highway (just south of San Francisco). That place is rad to the max.
    Great review, thanks!

  6. BBQ said:

    Who doesn’t prefer fried to steamed, grilled, boiled, baked, or any other way of cooking you can think of? It’s the most fattening, the least healthy and therefore, the obvious choice when dining out. Nice job, Foodguy, I was looking forward to your take on your trip to Chinatown and you came through with a thoroughly informative and entertaining review of the dim sum experience,

  7. BWC said:

    Where is this restaurant (Jing Fong)?

  8. Mona said:

    Hahahah this was one my favorite postings of yours. Great job keeping track of everything and being so food adventurous! I have actually never been to dim sum and now really want to go, if for nothing else, the experience of it and chasing down food carts!

  9. CD said:

    2 GREAT dim sum restaurants in Brooklyn are: 1)Pacificana on 55 Street and 8th Ave (try the baby clams in black bean sauce-OMG) and 2) the old Win Sing (renamed recently) on Avenue U and East 12th Street (on the North side of the street) where literally every dim sum is excellent! I have been eating dim sum since I was a little kid and at 37, these 2 are easily the best in Brooklyn.

  10. brainsurgeon said:

    Intellectual eater…ya think nycfg likes fried food?! What gave it away!

  11. wriskit said:

    Its hard to believe the food guy has never tried dim sum before. The longest journey begins with a single step and there are many dim sum restaurants in NYC for you yet to chomp through. A good rule is to never eat hot dim sum that has cooled off, especially soup buns. BTW, fishballs are delicious and never taste fishy at my local dim sum restaurant, East Ocean Palace, 113-09 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills (F train to 75th St station).

  12. AmandaB said:

    My friend mentions this place every time we have a conversation about dim sum and I can’t wait to try it, but, I have to admit (which I know people will groan when I say it) I really like the pork and crab soup dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai! *Sigh*, I miss those little buggards.

  13. MrArtTuro - Mr. Gluttony said:

    And the Food Guy says he doesn’t like the buffets? Sounds like a sit down buffet to me. Dang ! I am too hungry. Please strap me to a table and gimme some plates.

  14. Danny said:

    Those fishballs are not the best. They’re passable for fishballs, but most people would probably say they’re kind of bland. Definitely need hot sauce. I would skip something like that at most dim sum places.

  15. Kuj said:

    Hey, CD, I’m in Brooklyn and I love dim sum on Sundays. I’ve never tried that spot on Ave u. Can you give me more info? How’s the food outside of dim sum?

  16. Anna said:

    Lawrence

    I read your blog with great interest. The bacon wrapped shrimp doesn’t sound Cantonese. The fish ball are generally not dim sum items – more a street side snack. 24 dishes – woow, how many of you are there?

    Anna

  17. The Marchesa of Mustard said:

    A well rendered account of the LDSE, FoodGuy. The only thing missing is a strong recommendation of the two-ticket dining strategy: One ticket for the stationery diners and one for a mobile diner (i.e., someone who can follow the carts, wait online for freshly fried dumplings at the buffet, etc.). Such a strategy ensures that the team doesn’t miss out on the most coveted dishes (i.e., char siu tso). With this faithful account of a cultural dining experience, you may now rejoin the spring trek to Woodside, to revel in the joys of crispy whole fish at Sripraphai.

  18. wriskit said:

    The Cantonese usually prefer the natural taste of food augmented only lightly by spices and condiments. The omnivorous Chinese eat an enormous variety of perfectly edible food stuffs, many of which might repel a person not used to them. The Shanghai cuisine is highly flavorful with varied savory sauces. Szechuan and Hunam cuisine is often flavored with hot pepper. Hakka cuisine has some fantastic fish dishes and egg rolls … ooohhh …. they’re all here in NYC.

  19. HowfreshEats said:

    FG- you went in. Good shit. What was the total bill? I’ve only had dim sum at Golden Unicorn, but I’m going to have to give this spot a try.

  20. ntsc said:

    The dim-sum places I’ve been simply size, stack and count empty plates. You don’t even need somebody who knows what is what. You don’t want to know in many cases.

  21. Master said:

    lol @ another Full Metal Jacket reference. I’m lovin it, Foodguy.

  22. Phil said:

    wow man, i’m not sure i have the cohones to try this stuff…..

  23. Fresquire said:

    Great post, Foodguy. Sounds like dim sum will be a regular addition to the food rotation. Now you just need to get some good soup dumplings. Love those soup dumplings.

  24. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Pooka,
    What do you usually get when you go here?

    Intellectual,
    You know I love my fried food! What’s your place for dim sum?

    Mike V.,

    The more the merrier when it comes to dim sum and really any meal. Thanks for the San Diego tips. Feel free to give a shout if you’re headed to NY, I’ll return the favor.

    BBQ,
    A great complement from a great mind, thanks BBQ.

    Mona,
    Something tells me you’d be great at chasing the carts. It’s those cat-like reflexes!

    CD,
    That’s good to know, really appreciate the recs. Where are some other favorites of yours in Brooklyn?

    wriskit,
    Good philosophy. That first step is sometimes the hardest. Going to have to head out to Queens for the fish balls. What else do you recommend at Ocean palace? Any other places for other delicacies?

    AmandaB,
    I hear nothing but good things about Joe’s. I need to get over there.

    Danny,
    What would you go for instead of the fish balls?

    Anna,
    There were about 6 of us for 24 dishes which worked out well. Everyone was comfortably full.

    The Marchesa of Mustard,

    I did mention the 2 card strategy! Thanks for letting me back in for Woodside, I was getting worried.

    wriskit,
    Thanks for all that great information!

    HowfreshEats,

    You’re the third person to tell me Golden Unicorn. We should check it out man, a meal for the two of us is way overdue.

    ntsc,

    Point well taken.

    Master,
    What was my other reference?

    Phil,

    You only live once. Eat what you can. You never know what you’ll end up liking.

    Fresquire,

    All about Joe’s Shanghai, have you been?

  25. ntsc said:

    The best Chinese food I have ever had was with a group of fellow broadcast engineers who met Tuesday night at midnight in Manhattan. Our usual ordering method was to count heads, multiply by 10 and tell the waiter to bring us, as example with 8, $80 worth of food. Engineers Nocturnal Exchange of Mutual Admiration or ENEMA for short.

    Stuff would come out of the kitchen that was not on the menu. It was incredible.

    Midnight, because the guys on evenings at CBS could make that time.

  26. Fresquire said:

    Been there and loved the soup dumplings. That was about all that was special about the place though.

  27. Cherie said:

    Ive tried dimsum in America, thrice.. once at LA, once at NYC and once at SF.
    the one at SF was the better one..def more auth..

    but seriously..u want dimsum..the better ones are still at Asia

  28. Master said:

    Sir, Mary Jane Rottencrotch, SIR!

    By the way, I also noticed the East Buffet reference above…I’ll check it out again and announce any updates.

  29. The NYC Food Guy said:

    ntsc,
    Where did you guys used to go eat? Sounds like a solid deal minus the acronym. Lately I’ve been more into Thai food than Chinese.

    Here’s my favorite Pad Thai in Manhattan.

    The winner of this Drunken Noodle showdown is my favorite in Manhattan.

    Cherie,
    What were your favorite dishes when you ate dim sum?

    Master,

    As far as I know East is back in business. Where’s the best buffet you’ve ever eaten at?

  30. Michelle said:

    I certainly didn’t have the opportunity to eat as much food at Jing Fong as you did, but here’s my review of the food/restaurant:

    Dim Sum and Ice Cream in Chinatown

  31. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Michelle,
    Ha I can’t hold it against you, we had twice as many people as you. And when you think about it, it really equates. You did a nice write up though. Which was your favorite dish? Will you be going back to Jing Fong for dim sum? I’m trying to get out to Brooklyn or to Manhattan’s Golden Unicorn for the next round. Care to join?

  32. Master said:

    OMG! Foodguy, I just drove by East Buffet after work. Their grand opening is THIS Thursday, March 19th! Oh yeah, I am sooooo going there after snow crab leg withdrawl.

  33. My Taste Heaven said:

    I did not try this restaurant when I was in NYC 2 years ago. Well, we have dim sum here back home too but not as delicious as what I had before in Hong Kong. They are fantastic!!!But I believe the owner of this restaurant should be from Hong Kong too, so must serving typical hong kong dim sum.

  34. lauren said:

    Is it time to un-bookmark NYCFG again? 2 weeks between posts does not a blog make! So many food blogs, gotta stay on top of things to stay in the mix FG. Seems your interest has waned – say it ain’t so.

  35. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Lauren,
    Your cries will be answered. I will not disappoint. Things have been a little hechtic in the life of the Food Guy but I am by no means throwing in the towel. Stay tuned for a barrage of posts!

  36. Heidi said:

    Oh I miss NYC! The chive and shrimp dumplings look divine!

  37. Li said:

    From your description of each item it all sounds awful. Besides the chive dumplings, the cha sui sou, and the fried taro item, everything is described as tasteless, bland, “acquired taste”, thick, gummy, dry, unimpressive, not fresh, no flavor, tough meat, etc. Why would anyone go to Jing Fong after reading this article? Flushing has great dim sum.

  38. Phil said:

    Food Guy…. thoughts??

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=lukas/090323

  39. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Li,
    My dim sum experience was exciting and fun because it was new not because the food was amazingly delicious. So to respond to your statement, you’re correct, I would not go to Jing Fong for a the best dim.

    I would, however, be honored to join you in Flushing if you wanted to lead the way and if not, I’d love to hear your Flushing dim sum recommendations.

    Thanks.

  40. The NYC Food Guy said:

    Phil, great post….

    Ribs over porterhouse in the 2nd round??? No Way!

    I’m also gonna have to dispute Rib Roast over Pastrami in round 2. Pastrami’s a classic and the only sandwich meat left. It’s more of a cinderella, I don’t know how it got a 7 seed. I’m pegging it at a 3 at the lowest.

    Round of 16….Rib roast again?? Over chuck? Rib roast over burgers? Never.

    Onto pork… cracklins over prosciutto? Good prosciutto is good prosciutto? No freakin way. This guy has obvioulsy never had good prosciutto.

    Baby back ribs are much more tender than spare, spare are bigger but I may have to go with baby back for pure bliss.

    2nd round, rather have pulled pork than roast suckling. smokey deliciousness over lacquered meat.

    Bacon has to win. Look what it did for the turducken. I’m with it. Surprisingly no love for pork belly though, this guy hasn’t been following David Chang.

    On to sausage…

    I’m going links over patties in breakfast…. This guy hasn’t had Hill Country’s sausage….

    Never heard of boudin but they sound amazing.

    I love salami over chorizo.

    Meatscellaneous….

    I’m going to have to agree with everything in the 1st round although I’ve never had chicken tails. Where can I find those? What’s with the chicken tails moving forward? Better than wings? No way. He hasn’t had dinosaur.

    THE FINALS….

    This dude has way too much love for the standing rib roast, it beats out bacon, the porterhouse, his beloved chicken tails, and brats? NO FREAKING WAY….

    WHAT DOES EVERYONE ELSE THINK??

  41. Phil said:

    Bravo Food Guy.. that has to go down as one of the better posts i’ve read!

  42. wtf said:

    is this site dead? why havent there been any new posts?

  43. Anonymous said:

    I think the FG had a massive coronary from all the fried foods. RIP nycfoodguy.com

  44. Phil said:

    umm what is all this talk about??? Is that NYCFG pursuing other interests???? oh no :(

  45. The NYC Food Guy said:

    The Food Guy Lives! And his return will be triumphant. I’m sorry I’ve been MIA but I’m ready to return with a vengeance, things have been a little busy on the home front. I haven’t forgotten about my noble calling, the reviews are ready to rock. Stay tuned for a Mexican food tour, a Brooklyn sandwich tour, gourmet Big Macs and much more!

  46. Blaine said:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, right next to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Easier to get a table than at Joe’s (or even Joe’s Ginger down closer to Mott), the soup dumplings are comparable. I wouldn’t say better but definitely on the level, and I feel the food is tastier for a better price. Get a few things from the dim-sum menu and a couple plates and you can feed a crowd. Then hop next door for dessert. Sure the ice-cream factory is a touristy little place, and a bit overpriced, but homemade ice-cream with all the obscure flavors is worth a couple bucks. Definitely my choice for visiting friends.

    The Unicorn is good, as well.

  47. Li said:

    So to answer your question about Dim Sum in Flushig. Wish I could join you, but life’s been too busy : ). The best place is Ocean Jewel, located @ 133-30 39th Street. Take the 7 train to the last stop. The prices are a bit more expensive than Manhattan Chinatown, but worth it.

    Blaine is right, New Yeah Shanghai does have good food, along with NICE Green Bo across the street.

  48. Reilly Marie said:

    You can check out this link for Chicken feet recipe
    Chicken feet soup

  49. Stephen said:

    Nice, comprehensive review. Good practical advice. Sounds (and looks like) like most of the stuff that was not so great had been sitting around too long. Almost inherent in the nature of those massive places that serve zillions of dishes, mostly not to-order. You’d need a table at the kitchen door to get the best stuff in its prime. By the way Lawrence, thanks for your comments on my site (Eating China) in March.

  50. derf said:

    If you like Chinese and ever get to Philly or Hong Kong, check out this site for reviews of 2 outstanding Chinese spots:

    http://wheretogoandwhattodo.blogspot.com

  51. Jillian said:

    Jing Fong is good, but I prefer Golden Unicorn or the place a door or two south of Jing Fong. It’s much smaller, but everything there is super fresh and flavorful.

  52. DWeez said:

    Go places in Flushing, I would suggest Jade Asian Restaurant, easy to find off of Main St and also East Manor, which you need to drive to.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/jade-asian-restaurant-and-caterer-flushing
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/east-manor-flushing

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