Dim Sum. It’s like tapas on steroids. But Chinese. And a tenth of the price.
Forget the trendy D.C. spots; authentic, amazing, classic dim sum is clustered in far-flung places like Falls Church and Rockville. And D.C. residents are fleeing the city on Sundays to brunch there. Which, to me, isn’t surprising. After all, some say that dim sum inspired the whole idea of brunch.
Fortune restaurant in the Seven Corners neighborhood of Falls Church isn’t a pretty place. Wedged in a Home Depot parking lot on the side of the highway, the restaurant has an interior that would worry most foodies. Dirty lobster tank, broken ceiling tiles, icky bathroom? Mmhmm.
But the food is good. So good. And the service is undeniably attentive. And so, my dim sum love is blind. The only thing I see is that traffic jam of rolling metal carts, stacked up with unidentifiable plates of delicious food, weaving through the crowded, noisy restaurant.
There is a certain chaotic order to dim sum. The lighter, steamed dishes should come first. Then, exotic things such as chicken’s feet are next. That’s followed by deep-fried dishes. And finally, there is dessert. I was told that beginning dim sum with heavier, deep-fried food is a little like serving rice for the first course of dinner. Stick to the order, people. Or create your own order.
The great thing about Fortune is that, while the carts are rolling by fast, if you ask, the staff is quick to stop them and explain what everything is. And our huge group asked a lot, and ordered a lot, and filled up our lazy Susan with dozens of little dishes and baskets of deliciousness.
There was Cantonese barbecue pork, which was tasty enough on its own, but was also used as a filling on some of the other treats, like the Cha siu baau buns. Those come baked or steamed and topped with a light sugar glaze. In fact, most things were topped with some sort of magical sauce or glaze.
There were rice noodle rolls filled with shrimp, which looked like burritos, but were basically flour made into a long, fat, rolled-up noodles. The roasted chicken was chopped in thick slices and covered with a delicious glaze. Even the string beans were drizzled with hot spice.
For vegetarians, there were lots of options. There was taro cake, which is made from a vegetable not unlike radish. The fried tofu was filling and drizzled with sauce (of course). And the bok choy, or Chinese cabbage, was full of flavor. Plus, there were sesame seed balls with a red bean paste as a sweet filling. Steamed egg custard buns, too.
But our favorite dish was the pork Siu Mai dumplings. Think delicious meatball wrapped in starch. Doesn’t sound appetizing? It is. Also, the shrimp dumplings have a wheat wrapping that is equally tasty.
Our big group ate for hours. People came and went. And at the end of this epic brunch, the bill turned out to be jaw-droppingly inexpensive. And while it was a bit out of the way for most of our brunch party, it was well worth the trip out to Virginia (it was even worth the painful process of figuring out how to navigate our way through jumbled Seven Corners).
If you don’t have a car, or don’t want to venture that far out for the classic dim sum, you could also brunch at Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown (they’re expanding to a second location in Dupont later this year). But it’s not the authentic Chinese experience.
If you’re in Maryland, Chinese friends recommend Good Fortune or Hollywood East Cafe in Wheaton. But expect a wait at those hot spots.
The Bitches say: A. Go dim sum cart-diving with a huge group of friends at this delicious, laid-back, inexpensive spot.
6249 Arlington Blvd
Falls Church, VA 22044