With all of the inventive food on the Lower East Side, it’s easy to forget about dim sum and opt for the newest restaurant with their latest ramp infusion. Sometimes, however, you’re looking for comfort. Some of those times, you might remember that you work all of four seconds from Chinatown and haven’t had dim sum in a while. (Or perhaps you’ve been eating out a liiiittle bit too much, and recall that dim sum’s super budget-friendly).
Typically, dim sum in Chinatown means a crowded space with lots of push carts, colorfully-rimed plates (indicating that dish’s price) and looks of mutual confusion as you eat beautifully wrapped things of which you can probably identify the contents of one; smiles abound. When I heard that my friend Bonnie had never had dim sum before, I figured I should ease her in before introducing her to the frenzy. Enter Min.
My co-worker Min is better than the The New Yorker’s Restaurant Guide because she’s a living, breathing, ball-busting New Yorker who has eaten just about everywhere. I typically tell her what kind of food I’m looking for, who I’ll be eating it with and where in the city we want to go, and within a minute she’s already sent me an e-mail with five links and her added commentary (things like: “But don’t get anything with eggplant. You know what I mean.”). Min also happens to be Chinese and can wade through the touristy Chinatown hoopla. She suggested we go to Nom Wah. She’s never pointed me in the wrong direction.
Nom Wah is old school in every sense of the word. Black-and-white pictures of celebrities who’ve eaten there cover the walls, their signature and a “thanks for the dim sum!” scribbled in the bottom right corner. Tea comes in pot-per-person format, and the only thing that might throw you off are the red-and-white checkered table cloths.
First up: the tea. Since it’s traditionally eaten in the morning, it’s hard to have dim sum without tea. Also, it was a Monday. I’m pro-cocktails any night of the week, but this seemed fitting. We both ordered chrysanthemum, and the flower’s leaves floated around in our ceramic tea cups with each pour.
For dinner we went for the Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce, Turnip Cake (top left), House Special Pan Fried Dumpling (top right), Vegetarian Rice Roll and Shrimp Sui Mai. The last two came later. Too much oyster sauce to take photos. The Chinese Broccoli was our favorite part; crunchy, oyster-y and bright, bright green. Everything, though, was so good.
The food came quickly, the atmosphere was laid back and nothing was overly salty or greasy (although neither of those are bad things…). They’ve also got almond cookies the size of your head, great for splitting on a walk through Chinatown. Or maybe on your way to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, because who says you can’t have dessert twice? Tucked away on Doyers St., Nom Wah’s a little hard to locate, but be persistant. It’ll be worth it.