Happy Year of the Ox! For Chinese New Year we called upon Zach Brooks, the blogger behind Midtown Lunch and master of all things dim sum, to name the best place for shu mai, pork buns and soup dumplings in the city. Of course, it also happens to be in Brooklyn.
Picking one dim sum place and calling it the best is a silly exercise, especially when the most popular forms of this weekend Chinese staple come in so many shapes and sizes. There are the giant caverns, where you sacrifice quality for quantity, and your Sunday morning becomes an exercise in Darwinism (i.e. the weak don’t eat). There are the smaller places that don’t have too many items, but what little they do focus on is top notch. Then, of course, there are the places that forgo the carts in favor of made-to-order dim sum from a menu. (These places shouldn’t even be considered as far as I’m concerned. After all, half the enjoyment of dim sum is diving into the unknown waters of off-the-cart selections.)
Silly exercise or not, I’m still going to do it: World Tong is the best dim sum in New York City. And it’s not in Manhattan’s Chinatown, or Flushing or even in Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s under-appreciated Chinatown. It’s in Bensonhurst, and despite being an overly crowded, small-scale dim sum parlor, the quantity of food that flies out of their kitchen is more astounding then some places five times its size.
For those looking for quality, the standards are all out in full force and pretty good all around. You’ll see shu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), har gau (shrimp dumplings), pork buns, chicken’s feet, and a most excellent puff pastry stuffed with sweet pork. For those looking for variety, World Tong shines with things you don’t see at most dim sum places in NYC, like their sliced pork topped with thick strips of crunchy cracklin’, and big steamer baskets full of soup dumplings that fly off the trays they are carried around on. They also offer a good number of steamed dumplings for such a small space, probably a hold-over from when Joe Ng used to run the place (he left awhile back for Chinatown Brasserie in Manhattan).
Finally, whether you love durian or hate it, you have to try World Tong’s durian pastries. Green seashell-looking things, they come filled with custard made from the fruit that many have said smells like a combination of onions and dirty socks. What makes these pastries so great (and an excellent gateway durian for the timid) is the sweet custard that masks the stinkiness enough to make it edible, but not so much that you don’t realize what you’re eating. It’s funky, and shouldn’t be missed.
As with most dim sum, the weekend is the best time to go and depending on the timing you may not see everything described above. Just get there early (it’s usually packed by 11:30 a.m.) and hope for the best.
World Tong, 6202 18th Ave., Bensonhurst, 718-236-8118. Take the N to 18th Ave. It’s on the corner of 62nd St. & 18th Ave.
Sent by Annaliese, text and photos by Zach Brooks.