We're going to try something different this week. As some of you know, I LOVE dim sum and my favorite dim sum place is Oriental East. And if you know Oriental East, you know that's it a mad house so...it is with some trepidation that I organize this. You can read endless horror stories here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/oriental-east-restaurant-silver-spring
Regardless, there is yummy dim sum to be had and yummy dim sum we WILL have. A few things to keep in mind:
1) Arrive promptly at 10:30am. The number of people arriving at this time will be the size of the party that I am informing the hostess. Because it gets busy very fast, if you arrive after I have informed the hostess, I'm afraid you may have to get your own table. :(
2) Dress warmly. We'll have our usual practice session while we're waiting in line. Topic of the week: dim sum
3) Bring cash to:
- split the bill evenly at the end of the meal, and
- make a donation to keep this group running so we can have more yummy dim sum events in the future. Suggested donation is $1.00. :)
And that's it! I'll leave you with some dim sum etiquette for those that have never had dim sum. I found this particularly amusing (but true). See everyone Sunday!
DIM SUM ETIQUETTE
In case you haven't been schooled on basic dim sum etiquette, I'll try to imitate my mother and give you a rundown:
1) Get to dim sum EARLY (in Oriental East's case, 10:30AM should suffice for the 11AM opening time) otherwise you'll be waiting for the first wave of people to finish their meals. Alternatively, roll the dice and come at 1:30PM and hope they still have stuff going around.
2) Dim sum is NOT a democracy. The person most familiar with dim sum should be the one ordering and sit in a seat that is either closest to where the carts pass, or they can see the carts coming. And they should be loud, polite and aggressive. They should also hold veto power (eg. no, do not get the large special dish that only one person wants).
There is nothing worse than over ordering a dish because you needed at least one piece for everyone. The second worst thing is having to wait for the carts to come out again because you didn't order enough. Typical dishes that need seconds are shrimp dumplings, shu mai, shrimp crepes, and those dessert sesame balls.
My biggest pet peeve is when somebody just points to something and you end up with some large special dish that is redundant, or not worth it. We already had lo mai gai, you don't need to try lo mai fan too, you idiot.
3) Pray that you will be seated close to the kitchen. Trust me.
4) I'm sorry vegetarians, but you'll have to special order stuff, unless you're a don't ask, don't tell kind of vegetarian. There's very few traditional dishes that will be out and about on the carts that are strictly veggie. Chive dumplings and gai lan might be it. Pescetarians will have better luck (shrimp crepes!). And sorry to say, turnip cakes are not vegetarian (i.e. pork lard).
5) Don't be that person that asks the cart ladies questions about food (eg. does this have pork in it? How is this made?). Odds are, their English isn't great, and if you have dietary restrictions, what are you doing at dim sum(there's pork or shrimp in virtually everything)??? They have no idea if something's gluten free or vegetarian. The only questions you should be asking the ladies with carts is what dishes they have, and to cut pieces in half for easier sharing. Period. They have a banquet hall full of people to get to besides you!
6) Know who and how to ask! Like American restaurants, there is a strict hierarchy for who you can ask for various things at dim sum. Don't ask a busboy to bring you anything besides water or tea, and make sure to flag down the maitr'd (hint: person wearing a jacket) if you need something special. Generally, busboys will bring you water, clear your finished serving plates, and refill your tea. If you want a special order(eg. pan fried noodles), you're going to have to flag down someone wearing a jacket. Also, to get your teapot refilled, simply leave the lid open.
In general, you can flag down somebody with either "jie-jie" for women, and "gaw gaw" (rhymes with "awe") for men.
7) Any good dim sum place worth their salt will have alternative tea options. Ask as soon as you sit down. I recommend trying chrysanthemum tea (guk fa cha) if you want less of a caffeine buzz. Or try the half chrysanthemum and half black tea(guk po)
8) Keep track of your order card. Some places use tally marks, others use stamps. The cart ladies will need to mark this and you will need this to get your bill at the end. If you lose this, you will buy all the foodz.
9) When you're done with you food, PAY AND LET THE OTHER POOR SAPS GET SOME FOOD. You know those idiots who showed up at 11 AM instead of 10:30? They're still waiting at noon for your seat, so you better get to it.
10) TIP! Fenny outlines this well, but there's a special circle in hell for people who tip lower at ethnic restaurants because they can "get away with it". Also, you didn't have one specific waiter, but you did have 10 cart ladies, 3 busboys, and 1 maitr'd do something for you. Tip please!