Mei Li Wah – A Cha Siu Bao Institution; Amazing Cha Siu Bao? No…The Best In Chinatown? Probably

Mei Li Wah is a Chinatown institution and my blog would not be complete if I didn’t cover it.  It’s a cha chaan teng / cha can ting (literally means tea restaurant), which is a type of old school Cantonese restaurant that is common in Hong Kong serving tea, coffee and various cheap foods.  In particular Mei Li Wah is known for its various buns.

Originally, Mei Li Wah was a rundown super old school Toisonese run place, but a few years ago they changed ownership, renovated the restaurant and hired a much younger staff.  Now it’s a much brighter, cleaner and new looking restaurant.  The service is still fairly quick and brisk although it’s nicer than before when the old guys had little patience if you didn’t know what you wanted right away although some people liked that as part of the character of the place.  I’m not one for nostalgia, but I do miss the old school feel of the old Mei Li Wah a bit.

Generally, I stick to their buns, which are all displayed up front as I find a lot of their other food to be pretty mediocre.

Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao):

This is their most famous item.  It’s a fluffy steamed white bun filled with diced cha siu (BBQ pork) in a brown sauce.  One of the major differences between MLW’s and others’ versions is that the sauce is much more savory and brown than the normal sweeter red sauce.  The sauce is the best thing about this bun as I really like that savory flavor.  The cha siu itself is decent although sometimes it can a bit too much fat in it.  The bun has a nice slight sweetness to it, but I’ve noticed over the last year or so that it’s become noticeably less fluffy than it used to be.  I still think this is the best cha siu bao in Chinatown, but because of the decline in quality of the bun I’d say it’s good, but no longer great.  7.75/10 or 8/10 on a good day (a few years ago I’d have probably given it an 8.25 rating)  

Baked Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao):

This is baked white bun filled with diced cha siu (BBQ pork) in a brown sauce.  Same exact filling as the steamed version.  While I normally much prefer steamed cha siu bao, MLW’s baked version is actually quite good and maybe better than its steamed version as the bread is quite good with a nice honey glaze on the outside.  8/10

Big Bun (Dai Bao / Da Bao):

This is another famous offering.  It is similar to a cha siu bao except it’s bigger and filled with chicken, Chinese sausage, half boiled egg and shitake mushrooms.  They used to make these quite well, but I’ve noticed that the bun has gotten way too dry since they switched ownership.  The filling tastes like it sounds and is reasonably tasty.  Overall, it’s decent version, but not great.  7.25/10

Cocktail Bun (Gai Mei Bao / Ji Wei Bao):

This is the sleeper for me here.  This is a baked bun with sugar on top and a minced buttery and sweet coconut filling.  The bread is nicely moist and the sugar on top adds nice textural contrast.  The filling is good and not too buttery like most places.  I’m not sure everyone will like this as much as I do because I really like gai mei bao, but they make this really well.  8.25/10

Overall, they are pretty decent cha siu bao and certainly better than the vast majority in Chinatown which are quite mediocre.  I’d recommend coming to try out the cha siu bao and the cocktail bun.

64 Bayard St (between Mott St & Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-7866

Nom Wah Tea Parlor – Surprisingly Good Dim Sum at One of Chinatown’s Oldest Restaurants

Nom Wah is one of Chinatown’s oldest restaurants; in fact it may be the oldest restaurant in Chinatown as it opened in 1920 (91 years old!!). This was the first time I’ve eaten here as I’d always heard it was more of a nostalgia type of place and the food was just so so.  I’m not much for nostalgia if the food isn’t good, but I recently read this article that discusses how the nephew of the owner had taken over the restaurant and revamped it.  A friend had also recently told me that the food is now good, so I decided it was time to try it out.

The décor is literally a throwback to a different time.  It’s got old school red booths, red and white checkered table clothes, really old school looking counters and pictures on the wall from ages ago.  It doesn’t look like a Chinatown place at all, but I liked the décor and it is nice and clean.  It also happens to be on Doyers Street, which is one of the cooler looking streets in Chinatown.  The service was very good and the owner was a nice guy.  They do speak English very well here and it’s probably among the most English friendly places in Chinatown.

One thing that I really liked about the place is that everything is cooked to order as opposed to having carts.  Very few good dim sum places in Hong Kong have carts anymore as the dim sum is just so much fresher when you cook to order.  They also kept their menu pretty short, which I think is great because the downfall of so many restaurants in Chinatown is that they try to offer everything under the sun, which is something you rarely see in Asia, but for some reason is very prevalent in NY.

Here’s what we got:


They’ve got an interesting tea list, we got the chrysanthemum tea and it was standard, but good.

Parsley and Scallion Rice Roll:

This was regular cheung fan (steamed Chinese rice crepe) with chopped parsley and scallions then covered in a lighter sweet soy sauce.  The rice crepe was fresh and had good texture.  The flavor of the parsley (tastes like cilantro, I think they’re basically the same thing) and scallion with the soy sauce were great.  Overall, this was quite good.  7.5/10

Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao):

There are four items on the menu that are circled in red and these are the house specialties.  The cha siu bao is one of those specialties.  The bun was excellent, very fluffy with a nice slightly sweet flavor, definitely among the best buns in Chinatown. The filling was pretty decent as it wasn’t too sweet and I don’t like the really sweet filling that is common among Chinatown places.  However, the bun to filling ratio was way off as there was way too much bun and barely any filling.  If they changed that this could be one of the better cha siu bao in the city.  7.25/10

Shrimp and Snow Pea Dumplings:

These were steamed dumplings with chopped shrimp and snow pea leaves. The skins were nice as they weren’t too thick, were freshly steamed and had good texture. The shrimp was very fresh and the snow pea leaves were a nice addition.  Overall, these were surprisingly good.  7.5/10

Stuffed Green Peppers:

These were green bell peppers stuffed with a minced shrimp cake and covered in a black bean sauce.  The shrimp cake was quite good, nice fresh minced shrimp.  The green bell pepper was good, but the slight downfall of the dish was the black bean sauce while not gloppy was quite bland flavor-wise. I also prefer it in the spicy green peppers.  Decent, but not amazing. 6.75/10

Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce:

This was a very standard, but well prepared version of this dish.  Simple boiled Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, not much more to it than that.  The vegetables were cooked well, so they retained their crunch without being over cooked.  7.5/10

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at Nom Wah, it probably has some of the better dim sum in Chinatown right now and the environment is definitely very unique in Chinatown.  I’d recommend checking it out.

13 Doyers St (between Bowery & Chatham Sq)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 962-6047

Sea Harbour – Still the Best Dim Sum in LA

To caveat the title of this post, Elite maybe of similar quality, but it’s been a while since I’ve been there.

Sea Harbour 海港 has been my favorite dim sum place in LA for a long time and it is probably the best dim sum I’ve had in the US.  For reference in Hong Kong I think it would be considered a pretty decent dim sum place.  Sea Harbour’s dim sum is similar in style to what you find in Hong Kong these days in that you order off the menu so the dim sum is much fresher than the old school carts, the preparation tastes much lighter and less oily than old school places and there are a lot of new types of dim sum that you won’t see in old school cart type places.  I much prefer Sea Harbour’s more modern dim sum to old school cart type places.

The restaurant is a large open room with a few smaller more private rooms along the sides.  It has tanks in the back with various live fish and seafood in them.  It is actually very clean and nicely laid out.  We sat in the small room in the back left.  I’m not used to nice and clean Chinese restaurants because I’ve been living in NY for so long where most restaurants are generally rundown and old looking, so it was a nice change of pace.  The service was good and attentive especially considering it was for dim sum when the service is normally non-existent.

Here’s what we got:

Pork Dumplings with Shrimp and Roe (Yu Zi Shao Mai Huang):

These were good, they were steamed perfectly, the pork was tender and flavorful, the shrimps tasted fresh and they were just generally of good quality.  8.25/10

Crystal Chive Dumplings (Xian Xia Jiu Cai Jiao):

These are generally not my favorite type of dumplings as I’m not a huge fan of the gelatinous skins, but some of my family likes these, so I ordered them.  The skins were good and the filling was nice with the chives and shrimp.  They’re still not my thing, but these were a good rendition.  7.5/10

Beef Rice Noodle (Niu Rou Shou La Chang): 

This is a classic dim sum dish done well.  The rice noodles was thin and cooked perfectly, the beef was perfectly minced and well spiced and the soy sauce was light.  It wasn’t remotely oily or heavy and was very good.  8.5/10

Shrimp Rice Noodle (Xian Xia Shou La Chang):

Ditto my review for the beef rice noodle except with perfectly cooked shrimp.  8.25/10

Lotus Paste Bun (Feng Huang Jin Sha Bao):

These were very good.  The buns were steamed perfectly, the ratio of filling to bun was good and the lotus paste was smooth and not too sweet.  8/10

Snow Buns (Hai Gang Xue Shan Bao):

Wow I haven’t had these in a long time and these were so good.  The outside is a bit salty and the inside has an egg white custard that is light and sweet, but too sweet.  I really liked these, they were so good I actually tried to order some to go, but the guy told me they are the most popular dish and they had run out by the time I had ordered them. This was my favorite dish of the day. 8.75/10

Steamed Pork Bun (Hao Huang Cha Shao Bao):

These were good, the bun was fresh, the bun to meat ratio was good and the pork (cha shao) itself was good, no weird parts and not overly fatty.  The only thing is that they use the sweeter red sauce and I prefer the more savory brown sauce, but it was still good.  8/10

Beef Tendon and Tripe Rice Noodle Bowl (Niu Nan Chang Fen Bao): 

I hadn’t tried this before.  It was stewed beef tendon and tripe over rolled up rice noodle in a metal pot.  The beef tendon and tripe has been stewed in a broth with star anise and five spice powder.  The meat was very tender and flavorful.  The rice noodle was cooked well as well.  I liked the flavor although I thought it could’ve used a little more sauce, but it was good.  7.75/10

Fried Tofu in Abalone Sauce (Bao Shi Pa Dou Fu):

This was silky tofu that had been fried and they covered in a light brown abalone sauce.  The tofu was fried nicely and the sauce was very light and also pretty light in flavor.  I liked this although I think it’s pretty Chinese, so I’m not sure everyone would appreciate it as it’s quite subtle.  7.75/10

Fried Taro Cake (Jian Jiao Yu Tou Gao): 

This is the one dish I thought was just decent.  It was fried on the outside nicely, but I thought the inside was a little dry and a bit bland.  Oyster sauce made it a lot better.  7/10

Radish Cake with XO Sauce (XO Jiang Luo Bo Gao):

This was interesting as I hadn’t had this before.  It was cubes of pan fried minced radish cake tossed in an XO sauce then covered in scallions and bean sprouts.  I liked it although I thought it could have used more XO sauce as it was a bit on the plain side. 7.5/10

Egg Custard (Su Pi Dan Ta):

These were quite good.  The custard had a good egg-y flavor and it had a nice crust.  I just wish they had the Portuguese version which is burnt on top, but these were still good nonetheless. 7.75/10

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (Chu Zhuo Jie Lan):

This was standard, but good.  The broccoli was cooked well and tasted good with the oyster sauce.  7.75/10

Baked Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao):

They were bringing these around and asking if we wanted them.  My family really likes these although I prefer the steamed version.  However, these turned out to be really good.  The bread was great, the sweet stuff they brush on the top wasn’t overly sweet and the meat inside tasted great. 8.25/10

Overall, I was really pleased the quality of the food, it was so much better than any place in NY.  I also really want to try it for dinner after reading Exilekiss’s review of dinner there, alas it will probably have to wait until my next trip back home as I’m back in NY now.

3939 Rosemead Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 288-3939

New J&B (formerly King’s Seafood) – Potentially The Worst Dim Sum I Have Ever Had


I generally think I’m pretty good at filtering restaurants. I’ve usually researched a restaurant enough to figure out whether there is a reasonable chance that it’s good or if it’s something like Chinese food where reviews can be unreliable you can usually scout it out to see if there are tell tale signs that could be good.  In the case of New J&B there were a lot of signs that it should be good: hidden, crowded and not a single non-Chinese patron (nothing wrong with non-Chinese, but generally if I don’t see a lot of the given ethnicity in a restaurant I immediately get skeptical).  Unfortunately, they all these signs were very wrong.

I noticed this place a while ago when it was called King’s Seafood (it is also called New J&B on the check).  The state of dim sum in Manhattan is quite bad, so I’m always trying to find a new good dim sum restaurant.   So my GF and I walked in on a Saturday around 11am to check it out.

New J&B located on the 2nd floor of a commercial building on East Broadway in Chinatown.  When you walk in, it looks like a typical Chinese banquet hall.  It was quite crowded and so I was hoping maybe I’d found a new gem.  However, that was not the case.

Here’s what we got:

Steamed Shrimp Rice Crepe (Ha Cheung Fan / Xia Chang Fen):

This was the only dish that was even passable.  It was okay, the rice noodle was a bit thicker than it should be, the shrimps were okay and the soy sauce was fine.  It wasn’t terrible, but just okay.  6.5/10

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (Ha Gao / Xia Jiao):

Wow, these were so bad.  They were way oversteamed, so they all stuck to each other and paper at the bottom of the steamer, they’d completely fall apart by the time you got done un-sticking them from the paper and the other dumplings.  The skins were really thick and gooey.  The shrimp filling was bland and just generally mediocre.  One of the worst renditions I’ve ever had. 4/10

Pork and Thousand Year Egg Congee (Pi Dan Zhu Rou Zhou):

I don’t normally get this at dim sum because I usually find congee at dim sum places tends to be sort of mediocre.  However, we were sort of craving it so we tried it out.  The congee was flavorless, there was barely any pork or thousand year egg in it and I think it had been sitting around too long because it was luke warm.  Another bad dish.  5.5/10

Zha Liang (Fried Crueller Wrapped in Rice Crepe):

This is one of my favorite dim sum dishes.  However, again it was a travesty here.  The rice dough was too thick and had clearly been sitting around for a while as it was sort of cold and stiff.  The fried crueller (you tiao) in the middle was mushy and had also been sitting around too long.  We barely ate any of this.  3.5/10

Clams in Black Bean Sauce (Dou Chi Jiang Ge Li):

I really like clams in black bean sauce.  In an attempt to salvage the meal, I went over to the station where they were cooking fresh food hoping that it would be better than the garbage we had eaten so far.  However, this was probably the worst renditions of the dish I’ve ever had.  The black bean sauce was a flavorless gloppy mess.  The clams were overcooked and rubbery.  This was awful.  3/10

This is my first really bad review I’ve written in a really long time.  Oriental Garden served me one of my worst dim sum experiences ever and this was worse than that.  I couldn’t believe that place had any patrons even places like Golden Unicorn which I do not like at all are better.  I definitely recommend not going here.

39-41 E Broadway
New York, NY 10079
(212) 233-3359

Tsui Hang Village /翠亨邨 – Not the Greatest Dim Sum in Hong Kong

Every time I visit Hong Kong I always get dim sum as it’s so good in HK.  Last time I was there a friend’s friend mentioned that he knew the “best place for dim sum”. Unfortunately, this was definitely not the best in HK.  It wasn’t bad, but was among the weaker dim sum I’ve had in HK.

Tsui Hang Village is a reasonably nice dim sum restaurant in Central in a small shopping center. We got there pretty early on a weekday, so it was fairly empty when we got there.  The service was fine and pretty efficient.

On to the food:

Siu Yau Gai (Soy Sauce Chicken / Jiang You Ji):

I’m a big fan of this dish and this was the only dish I ordered as someone else ordered everything. This was actually very good, tender chicken, great flavor and just generally good. This was one of two winner’s here (unfortunately, neither of them were dim sum dishes). 8.5/10

Spring Rolls (Chun Juan):

I never order these as I don’t really like them, but these were a good rendition. Not greasy at all, nice and crispy exterior and good flavorful insides. 8.25/10

Rice with Chicken Sauce (I have no idea what this was called in Chinese or English):

This was the other dish that was a winner and the one dish that was outstanding here.  It comes in a wide glass bowl.  It’s steamed rice with a brown sauce that consists of diced chicken, mushrooms, broccoli stems and few other vegetables. It’s sort of hard to explain, but it was really good. 8.5/10

Scallop Siu Mai (Gan Bei Shao Mai / Steamed Pork Dumplings):

These were just decent.  They were steamed okay, but I wasn’t wow’d by the filling.  I’ve had much better siu mai than this and these were definitely below average for HK. 7.25/10

Meatballs (always forget what these are called):

These are those steamed meatballs that you put Worcester sauce on. This is not one of my favorite dim sum items and the version here is just okay. 7/10

Cha Siu Bao (Cha Shao Bao / Steamed Pork Buns):

This is one of my all time favorite foods (not just dim sum, but food in general). However, the version here was just okay.  The bread was fine, reasonably soft although not as soft as it should be, filling was decent, but sweeter than I like. Fine but nothing mind blowing. 7.25/10

Ha Gow (Xia Jiao / Steamed Shrimp Dumplings):

My relatives once told me that these are what you are supposed to judge a dim sum place on.  However, these were just decent. Skins weren’t as delicate as I like them, filling was fine, but just nothing to write home about. I know places in the US that do a better job than here. 7.25/10

Pai Guat (Pai Gu / Spare Ribs):

Another one of my favorite dim sum dishes, but again just another okay rendition. 7.25/10

Now it wasn’t bad and if it was in the US it would be considered good / above average, but I’ve had way better dim sum in HK and this place just didn’t cut it for me. If you’re in HK, this place is not worth going to.

2/F, New World Tower, 16-18 Queen’s Road Central, Central
Phone: 2524 2012

Fu Sing Shark Fin Restaurant /富聲魚翅海鮮酒家 – One Of My Favorite Restaurants In HK

Fu Sing (富聲魚翅海鮮酒家) was originally recommended to me on by “FourSeasons”, which you can see here.  I’ve since eaten there three times and it has become one of my favorite restaurants in HK.

Originally I came here specifically for cha siu (Cantonese roast pork).  Fu Sing is sort of an odd place because I don’t associate cha siu with nice restaurants; I grew up eating it out of little Cantonese BBQ joints in LA where my grandparents would pick it up as an addition to our home cooked meals, so I associate it with hole in the wall places. However, Fu Sing is a reasonably upscale restaurant on the 2nd floor of a commercial building in Wan Chai that has a couple of other restaurants in it. The décor is reasonably upscale semi-modern, but still Chinese décor.  The service is fine and very prompt.  I’ve generally found the waitresses to be pretty nice and helpful.


Cha siu (BBQ Pork / Cha Shao):

This was the best cha siu I’ve ever had.  Feel free to correct me if there is better in HK because there likely is since its HK, but wow I was blown away by how good this was. The meat was so tender and flavorful. It was sweet, but perfectly sweet not overly sweet. The fat was just perfect, no chewy pieces, just melt in your mouth goodness. Even my GF who doesn’t really like fatty meats including cha siu (she’s Korean and thinks a lot of Chinese BBQ is too fatty) was like this is amazing. 9.5/10

Lettuce with Shrimp Paste in a Sizzling Clay Pot (蝦醬生菜煲 / Xia Jiang Sheng Cai Bao):

I don’t see this dish very often in the US and I haven’t had it in a very long time. Pretty self explanatory dish; it was very good though, the shrimp paste is fermented so it has a strong flavor, but I liked the flavor a lot. 8/10

Da Zha Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings with Hairy Crab Roe):

This was the surprise of the night, I was somewhat skeptical because XLB are Shanghainese and I wasn’t sure how this would turn out as this is a Cantonese restaurant. Luckily I was very wrong, these were unbelievable. I had Din Tai Fung in Taipei a few days later, which I consider very good, so I’ve got a good comparison. The skins were very light and delicate, they aren’t as quite as good as DTF skins, but still very good. However, the filling was the best I’ve ever had. The hairy crab roe gave them an unbelievable semi creamy flavor that is hard to explain, but was really good. The soup was so light and flavorful not the overly fattiness you can get with some XLB. I think these may have been the best XLB I’ve ever had. The crab roe really takes it to another level. 9/10 (9.5/10 for the filling, 8.5/10 for the skins)

Soy Sauce Chicken (See Yao Gai / Jiang You Ji):

Just a simple soy sauce chicken, but another winner, very light soy sauce and very tender meat. It’s a simple dish, but really good. I would’ve liked a little more meat, but overall very good. 8.5/10

Shrimp and Egg Vermicelli in a Sizzling Clay Pot (干燒粉絲煲 / Gan Shao Fen Si Bao):

This came out in a sizzling clay pot with clear vermicelli noodles, small dried shrimp, small pieces of yellow egg, diced green onions, bean sprouts and diced mushrooms. Another good dish, pretty simple, but well executed. Everyone liked it. 8.25/10

Tang Yuan (Boiled Rice Dough Balls with Black Sesame Paste):

I got this for dessert, fairly standard dessert, but one of my favorites. It came in a hot ginger soup, the rice dough was melt in your mouth soft and the sesame paste was great. 8.5/10

Dim sum: probably the best dim sum I’ve had, more expensive than other places, but well worth it in my opinion

Ha Gow (Xia Jiao / Steamed Shrimp Dumplings):

A lot of people think this is how you should judge a dim sum restaurant.  The version here was excellent.  The skins were light and delicate and the interior was really good.  The shrimp tasted very fresh.  Overall, these were excellent. 8.75/10

Siu Mai (Shao Mai / Steamed Pork Dumplings):

The skins were perfect not overly thick like most places, the interiors were tender, flavorful and perfectly minced (i.e. they had no “stops”).  Another winner. 8.75/10

Cha Siu Bao (Cha Shao Bao / Roast Pork Bun):

The best cha siu bao I’ve ever had.  They use the amazing cha siu that they make along with perfectly buns that are so fluffy.  Just amazing. 9/10

Lo Bat Go (Luo Bo Gao / Pan Fried Turnip Cake):

The best luo bo gao I’ve ever had as well.  The version is different than most I’ve had as the exterior has this crispy exterior that sort of looks like something that is fried with panko mix on the outside.  The interior is perfectly minced, no strands of turnips (I hate that) and there are small pieces of ham in that are very good.  This was really several steps ahead of any version I’ve ever had. 9/10

Chun Juan (Spring Rolls):

I don’t normally order these, but I was with my friend’s younger brother, who likes them, so I ordered them.  These were surprisingly good, not oily or heavy at all with a flavorful filling. 8.5/10

Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings):

I had these during the summer, so the hairy crab version was no longer in season.  These were still quite good except the interiors weren’t as good as the hairy crab version which really just takes it to another level. 8.5/10

Cha Siu (Cha Shao / Roast Pork):

Same as the other times I’ve been, simply amazing. 9.5/10

Overall, I really like this place, it’s become one of my favorite places in HK and I highly recommend coming here.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more dishes, I’m curious about their abalone as they are known for it.  Also, you should definitely make a reservation especially for dim sum.

1/F, Sunshine Plaza, No. 353 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
Phone: 2893 0881