Sunday, January 25, 2009

Restaurant Review: Dim Sum at Kwong Tung, Des Moines

Dim sum in Des Moines. It sounds like something to avoid, doesn’t it? In fact, my last foray into the world of little dishes (last year) was OK- below average, but whatever. The choice is important. It comforts me to be able to get dim sum.

However, I am now happy to say that there is a above average dim sum place in Des Moines now. I know- super exciting!

Kwong Tung first came to my attention when my friend Jim Duncan- who writes the excellent Cityview Food-dude column, as well as his own blog- reviewed them in his column. I immediately emailed him, to make sure that I wasn’t hallucinating as a result of Iowa water. He confirmed it, and we went today.

For those of you not familiar, dim sum is the traditional Chinese weekend morning meal, which is characterized by small dishes of various sorts of dumplings. In general, DS is only available on weekends. At Kwong Tung, it is only served Sundays.

I walked in to find the dining room pleasantly full. There were no carts, but all food was made to order, and always piping hot. I should mention they do an excellent job of showing you the food (through a pictographic menu), which takes some of the scariness out of ordering.

I will let the photo’s show you what I ate, rather than simply telling you.

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Above: Some shu mai- open dumplings filled with a mix of pork and shrimp. The filling was the strong point of these- I could clearly taste chunks of ginger, pork and shrimp, which was a pleasant reminder of what they are. It was obviously homemade, which is a good thing.

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Above: Next up, we had some har gow. These were OK- the shrimp was not particularly good (as could be expected in Des Moines). In a dumpling where the filling is only shrimp, that is a fairly serious issue however. I would not reccomend these, although the wrapper was good- a theme that held up throughout the meal.

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Above: Rice noodle roll with shrimp. I did not like these at all, even though they are my favorite at home. The wrapping on these was not very good, and the shrimp tasted like cotton swabs. The fact that the wrapping was no good is interesting, because later in the meal I had the same rice noodles with pork, and the wrapping was fantastic- I don't know why it skipped this dish.

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Above: Lo Mai Gai, which is sausage and chicken in dense sticky rice in a leaf. I was surprised by this dish, as I normally dislike it in LA- I find that rice too dry and overly starchy. However, here the dish was just superb- the rice, chicken and sausage were all very moist and well flavored- a far cry from the dish I dislike in LA. Very interesting.

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Above: Stuffed green peppers. This dish was a standout- the peppers were thick, crisp and perfectly cooked- tender, but still with a crunch. The filling was good as well- shrimp over rice, covered in a black bean sauce. It is rare when I say that the best part of a meat dish is the vegetable portion, but there you go. I should also say that I have never had anything like this. However, I am sure my friend Andy will tell me more about this than I ever needed to know. (Hi Andy! Don't kill me for the various issues in this article! I love you!)

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Above: Char Siu Bao. Oh bao, what a troubled relationship I have with you. You see, I used to love bao: they are sweet, fluffy and delicious. I'm bored of them now. However, my companions dug into these guys, which is unsurprising: they are delicious, if a little boring. However, Kwong Tung does a very good rendition of them, with some of the best bao that I have had. However, I was disappointed by the char siu (roast pork) inside: I thought there was too little, and what there was not very high quality. That is a fairly common issue. Because of the labor involved in making really good chinese roast pork, only the best dim sum places make their own- most buy it from somewhere else. In Des Moines, I could imagine sourcing good Char Siu is rather difficult, so I will let it slide.

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Above: Fried taro filled with meat. These were excellent- both the wrapper and the filling were superb. I had also never had these before, and would definitely order again. Andy- maybe you have had these before. They were new to me.

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Above: The same dim sum, but an interior shot. They were piping hot as well.

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Above: A dish of char siu (roast pork) over rice. As I said before, the char siu, which is used as a filling in a variety of dim sum, was merely OK. It wasn't bad, just not great.

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Above: The single best dish of the meal: beef tripe with ginger. It was absolutely superb. The trip was tender, cooked to perfection, an delicately flavored with ginger. I loved this. Plus, it get major points for being both weird AND delicious.
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Above: Jin Dai, or fried dumpling with a sweet filling. They are really good, but more of a desert. However, we devoured them. Kwong Tung's rendition was quite superb.

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Above: Rice noodles with pork. The wrapping on these stood out, and I very much enjoyed them.

Overall, I really enjoyed Kwong Tung. They did a great job of making some delicious dim sum subject to the ingredients they had. I look forward to visiting again and trying some more of their dishes. I should also mention this- dim sum is not like sushi. The prices are extremely reasonable- most dishes are in the 2-3 USD range. Go there!


OnigiriFB said...

Nice review. I'll be heading out there today to check out the spread and authenticity level. Since my usual experience of dim sum is at the Empress Pavilion in LA I know it's not going to live up but hopefully it will be decent.

Ben Gordon said...

I look forward to hearing what you thought of it- I am actually not the biggest fan of empresses pavillion- I prefer some of the smaller places in the San Gabriel Valley. However, I hope you enjoy the dim sum!

OnigiriFB said...

Great dim sum at Kwong Tung's this morning! If fact we were so happy with it that we decided it's going to be our new Sunday brunch place. Everything we tried (fung jeow, sui mai, haw gow, jai gow, char sui boa, lo mai, gai lan, and the steamed pork ribs) was delicious. The only thing I thought sucked was the tripe, which sadly is my second favorite yum cha dish. :( I think they forgot to scrub the tripe with baking soda this time cause it was a bit ripe. The mere fact they had fung jeow made up for it though. The jai gow was surprisingly delicious as was the lo mai, two things I generally do not like much. I'm still stuffed! I wasn't too thrilled with the sui mai but hey they got the haw gow spot on so I wouldn't even have ordered the sui mai but for my companion.

I know we'll be back. :)

Ben Gordon said...

I am so glad you enjoyed it! I am sorry the tripe wasn't good- last time I was amazed by its quality.