Mario Batali once said that there would be no losers when the Michelin New York guide came out—only winners. (His reasoning was that since this was the first guide, no one could “lose” by being de-listed or stripped of a star; there was only the upside of being listed, or getting starred.)
Well, one of the winners—for me, at least—was Dim Sum Go Go, which I tried tonight, mainly because it was the closest Chinatown restaurant in the guide to where I live.
Dim Sum Go Go (originally named that way, because it offered Dim Sum to go) has a funky, but obviously on-the-cheap, interior that’s a step above the usual Chinatown décor that comes out of a Hollywood backlot. Most of the people eating there are caucasian, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad sign. The restaurant was fairly crowded, but I was seated immediately.
Your server presents two menus, one for dim sum, and one for everything else. The “everything else” menu looks like a typical Chinese menu, while the dim sum menu is a loose sheet of paper. You place your order by checking a box next to the items you want, and a pencil is provided for this purpose. Prices are indicated by Chinese symbols, and you have to find a code at the bottom of the page to interpret them. Individual dim sum orders (3 pieces) are mostly $2.50 or $2.90 at lunch, $3.45 or $3.95 at dinner. You can have a dim sum platter or vegetarian dim sum platter (10 pieces) for $9.95/$10.95. Dumpling soup with Shark Fin is $6.00/$6.95.
I suspected that a dim sum platter wouldn’t be enough on its own, so I ordered that plus Duck Dumplings and Pumkin [sic] Cakes. The drawback of the dim sum platter is that you have no idea what you’re getting. I recognized shrimp, duck, and stuffed mushroom dumplings. The others were a wild fantasy of colors and shapes, and they were all at least interesting. Several were a bit slippery, and given my mediocre chopstick skills, did not easily make the trip from plate to mouth.
I wouldn’t recommend the pumkin cakes for a solo diner. You get three cakes about 4×2×½ inches. It’s basically like eating the filling of a pumpkin pie, without the crust. About one of these is enough, before the cloying sweetness of the dish becomes overwhelming. The main menu describes it as a dessert (which I think is more appropriate), but the dim sum menu doesn’t indicate this. I wasn’t quite full yet, so I ordered a real dessert: Tapioca with Egg Yolk, and this was wonderful.
Service was just adequate. You don’t have a server assigned to your table; you just need to flag down one of the “roving” servers. Water was offered only on request, and servers had trouble keeping water glasses full, both at my table and at others. The server who took my initial order was so busy that he didn’t even think to ask if I wanted a beverage.
William Grimes awarded one star to Dim Sum Go Go in 2001, and in his view the main menu—which I did not try—is actually superior to the dim sum. I can’t judge that, but I’ll say that a meal of just dim sum is a bit cloying. Next time, I think I’ll do dim sum as an appetizer, and then order another main course. At a total of $29.75 (incl. tax & tip) for nineteen pieces, Dim Sum Go Go was certainly kind to the wallet.
Dim Sum Go Go (5 East Broadway at Chatham Square, Chinatown)