I had never really eaten dim sum before I moved to New York. We had gone to a dim sum restaurant when we were in Hong Kong in 2007, but I was still a vegetarian then. Dim sum contains a lot of pork and seafood; there was very little that I would eat at that time. Now that I eat meat and live a short subway ride away from Chinatown, we have dim sum on a semi-frequent basis.
The most iconic of the Chinatown dim sum places are the palatial ones with neverending escalators and ostentatious chandeliers. At those, you sit at a large round table with other patrons and snag the dim sum as it passes by on the carts. Some, like Jing Fong, also have buffet tables.
Our favorite dim sum place was 9 Chatham Square. It was little more than a hole in the wall, and it was always crowded, but the dim sum was delicious and cheap. We were crushed this summer when we discovered that it was closed. The woman who translated the “lost our lease” sign for us recommended we try Chatham Square Restaurant next door. The atmosphere was a bit glitzier, but it was still a small establishment. The food was almost as good, but it was slightly more expensive. We mourned the loss of our favorite place.
On Saturday, we decided to try something completely new: vegetarian dim sum. We went to Buddha Bodai and were seated immediately. The dim sum there was made-to-order, and we realized that we didn’t know what most of our favorites were called. We finally just selected a few things that sounded good. We had two types of dumplings: “shrimp” and bamboo. Both were tasty, although the rice paper seemed awfully thick and they could have benefited from a dipping sauce. We also had the mixed mushroom congee, which was thick and warming. My favorite was item was the baked “meat” buns, which I thought were indistinguishable from actual meat buns. In fact, the only way I could tell a difference was that there weren’t any bits of gross fat inside. Win! Marc lamented the missing pork in our dim sum, but it was fun to have a (healthier) change.
After we left, we discovered something wonderful: work permits had appeared in the window of 9 Chatham Square! They referenced both the restaurant and “renovations” – could our favorite dim sum restaurant be opening again? Fingers are crossed!
photo credits: Jing Fong interior by Ginn C. on Yelp, “shrimp” dumplings at Buddha Bodai by Judy. K on Yelp