I admit it. I’m a dim sum snob. I seem to enjoy dim sum only when there are many carts filled with all sort of little dishes. Dim sum is the only thing I haven’t had in Taiwan that is better than New York. I’ve heard great things about the dim sum in Toronto and Vancouver, but I have yet to experience it. I’m sure it’s awesome in Hong Kong as well. Anyhow, for those who don’t know what dim sum is, it literally translates into “snack” in Chinese. In Cantonese, most people say “yum cha”, which means “drink tea”. I think that the main reason I am a big fan of dim sum is that most dishes max out at 4 portions and this allows you to order many little dishes. Also, I love that I can see the dishes before I order. For a Taiwanese-American, I’m quite a picky eater. I only eat certain seafoods (no sea cucumber, abalone, clams, shark fin, bird’s nest, geoduck, etc.) and I despise mushrooms. This eliminates many Chinese/Taiwanese dishes for me. I like having the opportunity to ask the cart pushers what is in their dishes. Most of the time I have trouble understanding them because they always answer me back in Cantonese when I asked in Mandarin. If I knew Cantonese, wouldn’t I be asking in Cantonese?
Okay, I’ve been to many dim sum places in Flushing. I have distinct memories of spending my Saturday mornings at dim sum in Flushing or Boston. Once I moved out to Manhattan, Flushing became quite a trek, so I resorted to Chinatown. I was surprised to find that the dim sum in Chinatown pales to Flushing. I thought with Chinatown’s huge Cantonese population, I’d find superior dim sum, but I was soon disappointed. Not to say there isn’t “good” dim sum in Chinatown, it just can’t compare to all the creative dishes I’ve seen and had in Flushing. When I was a kid, my favorite dim sum place was called “KB Garden”. It was right by the huge municipal parking place on 39th Avenue. Their name and management has changed quite a few times and currently they are called Jade Asian, which I still think is a great Cantonese/Dim Sum restaurant. In fact, I was there twice last week.
On the day after Christmas, I convinced my parents and younger sister to brave the crowds to get dim sum at Ocean Jewel. I had only been to Ocean Jewel twice before in my life. My first experience was very disappointing. I found the shrimp dumplings (har gow) were lacking real shrimp and had too much filler. Also, the prices were more than my usual go-to dim sum place (KB Garden). To me, if a restaurant couldn’t get the basic shrimp dumpling right, then they must be a really bad place. However, years later, I kept reading raving reviews on Chowhound, so I wanted to know what was so good about this place? A year ago, my uncle and aunt took my little sister and I out for dim sum. Since they were paying, they picked Ocean Jewel. Being the polite niece that I am, I did not comment about their selection. Good thing I didn’t, I had a great meal!
In order to have dim sum on the weekend, one must arrive before 11am. This will minimize the time you’re waiting in the front area with all the other hungry guests. Once you arrive at any restaurant, you must fight your way to the front where the hostess is and inform your party size. You will receive a number (most of time it’s handwritten). Sometimes, they will be nice and tell you the estimated wait time. This is not always accurate, so I highly recommend that someone from your party stays and waits while others go elsewhere to kill time. Since this was my outing, I waited while my family walked around Flushing. Also, the hostess does not go in number order. Instead, they go by group size, so even though you might be 99 and they are only up to 75, don’t be discouraged! I was impressed with the accuracy of the wait time at Ocean Jewel. We arrived around 10:51am and were seated in our OWN table at 11:25 or so. If you do not want to share a table with strangers, it’s best to let the hostess know at the beginning.
My parents and I ordered a myriad of dishes: chicken feet, pork spare ribs, shrimp wrapped in rice skin, fried crueller wrapped in rice skin, sticky rice in a bowl, shrimp dumplings, shumai, Chinese broccoli, fried shrimp egg rolls w/mayo, baked roasted pork buns, etc. At most dim sum halls, it’s very difficult to get a plate of the delicious baked roasted pork buns. There are plenty of the steam versions, but my older sister D and I prefer the baked buns. I think it’s because it’s the perfect size for me. The real sized baked roasted pork buns found at local Chinese bakeries have too much fat in them and I can’t finish a whole bun. This sadly includes the famous Mei Li Wah Bakery in Chinatown. I just order the plain buns there because the bread is just so tasty. I was surprised to find the baked roasted pork buns on multiple carts at Ocean Jewel. I snagged three dishes early on in fear that I’d never see the cart again. Throughout our meal, I kept seeing more and more baked roasted pork buns. I was happy. No longer do I have to place a special order with the waiter to get this super popular dish. Overall, the quality of the dishes were good. I did find the shrimp dumpling skins to be a bit over steamed. They were sticky and hard to separate from each other. However, the filling was good. There was a good shrimp to filling ratio.
All in all, I would be more than happy to return to Ocean Jewel in the near future. They will definitely be added to my dim sum rotation in Flushing.