59 North 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
On a recent (and very quick - parking in a 30 minute loading zone) trip to RTM, and after having already eaten breakfast only 1 hour prior, I decided it might be a great idea to stop in to Dim Sum Garden to try their soup buns - I thought, "what the heck, a few delicious, porky dough balls can't be that bad for an already (almost) full stomach." I've never been here before, but have heard numerous rave reviews about their steamed buns.
Located under the Hilton Garden Inn's eastern overpass and just north of New Century Travel, it's a beacon of light in what's probably the most dank and dreary part of Chinatown.
Bustling and full of patrons at 11:30 on a Sunday morning, the restaurant is bright and colorful with green walls, servers in matching green tops and an open kitchen that doesn't seem to ever cease putting off steam. The windows are all fogged over and, buyer beware, there is no public restroom.
Fully furnished by IKEA products, we chose to sit at a high top near the entrance. Each table is outfitted with a small vase each of soy sauce and vinegar and a plastic jar & spoon that houses the standard hot pepper oil. These ones, however have a lid that doubles as a decorative snow globe, without the snow - instead there's a pair of plastic peaches set inside the empty (and filthy) dome. Although disturbing, this did not effect the flavor of the oil, only made its use slightly less appealing.
We decided to go with one order of the Shanghai Steamed Pork Juicy Buns (8) for the low price of $5.25. Upon telling this to our friendly server, she recommended we 'maybe try the fried buns, same but fried instead of steamed - today special, with 6 in order that are fried, not steam.' Who can resist fried anything? Certainly not me, and even more certainly, not my dining partner. It was an immediate and simultaneous, "okay" and so we waited for our snack. In the meantime, we were each served a hot cup of delicious rice green tea - of course that too was served in the standard IKEA ceramic ware.
The beautiful buns arrive, looking as lovely and innocent as ever, with their steamed tops and their secretly golden-brown pan-fried bottoms! What a pleasant surprise, here we were thinking they'd be deep-fried - fully submersed in canola oil, but gladly, we were wrong.
Our waitress told us to 'bite and then use the sauce' and pointed to the vinegar. Using a little of each of all 3 aforementioned sauces, we drizzled our buns before biting and then drizzled a bit more about halfway through. It took me about 3 bites to finish each one. Well, 3 heavenly bites, I should say. The buns were perfectly cooked through with the broth and pork/onion ball at just the right temperature. There was an initial hesitation to bite, in anticipation of what could have been scalding hot soup inside, but to our delight, every one was just hot enough to enjoy without fear of burning the insides of our mouths. Delicious.