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
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