Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review
Dim sum without carts?
Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., Aug. 7, 2009
Get Sum Dim Sum4400 N. Lamar #102, 458-9000
The first time you enter Get Sum Dim Sum, a new dim sum house on North Lamar, you might wonder whether you've just stepped into a fast-food restaurant. The answer is yes ... and no. The steel counter at the front, the glowing menu above it, and the impersonal, light-filled space all scream fast food. But contrary to appearances, Get Sum Dim Sum is not a franchise operation. Rather, it represents the partnership between Foo Swasdee, owner of Satay, and Chi Keung Chan. Swasdee provided financial backing and operational know-how; Chan, formerly the executive chef of San Francisco's legendary Yank Sing, and his son Jacky, who manages the restaurant, provide the culinary talent and enthusiasm.
The format here is different from most dim sum houses. Unlike most dim sum, which is served only for brunch and usually only on weekends, Get Sum Dim Sum serves it all day, every day. And rather than choosing small dishes from carts as they go by, here customers order from a paper list resembling a sushi menu at the counter. It's dim sum, fast-food style. But while the Get Sum Dim Sum format is fast and certainly convenient, the quality of the food here far exceeds any fast food I've ever encountered.
In fact, Get Sum Dim Sum is not just a restaurant that serves good dim sum quickly; it serves great dim sum. Take the law bak go ($2.50), typically known to non-Chinese-speakers as turnip cake. Like miniature savory puddings, these little cakes made from rice flour, mashed turnips, and Chinese sausage can be limp and glutinous at other dim sum restaurants, especially after sitting on a cart for more than half an hour. But at Get Sum Dim Sum, the law bak go is crisp on the outside, with a satiny interior that comes apart in little layers and melts in the mouth like butter. The dumplings here are sturdy and tender – not chewy – with clean, fresh flavors. You can taste the morsels of shrimp in the Har Gao (shrimp dumplings, $3) and the ground pork and mushrooms inside the Siu Mai (pork dumplings, $2.50). I drool just thinking about the Cha Siu bun ($1.95), a barbecue-pork-filled pastry, flaky and buttery enough to make a pâtissier weep with envy. The Chinese eggplant, stuffed with minced shrimp ($2.50) and fried and dressed with a sticky sweet-and-savory sauce, is a graceful dance of taste and texture. Even the bok choy, simply halved, lightly steamed, and drizzled with salty oyster sauce, was a work of art ($3.50). Chef Chen adds no MSG to his food. He insists on freshness and sees no reason for additional flavor enhancement.
Though the menu here is more limited than a traditional dim sum house, Get Sum Dim Sum offers most of the popular dumplings, baos (buns), sticky rice, and rice noodle dishes, as well as my personal favorite, fried taro dumplings (woo gok, $3.50). And while the fast-food format takes some mental adjustment, I love the fact that dim sum can now be found in Austin outside of weekends and brunch hours. The genial staff of bussers and cashiers is patient and helpful. Everyone there seems to be genuinely excited about the food, and they impart that excitement to their customers. When I asked one of the servers if everything is made there, she rolled her eyes good-naturedly, as if discussing a willful child, "Gosh yes, the chefs just sit back there and roll out dim sum all day." It shows.