Oriental Garden: dim sum in NYC

I love New York City during the summer time. Sure, the smell of various stranger’s body odors seems to get a little stronger, and I immediately start sweating as soon as I take my first step down into the subway station, but I forget about all of that as soon as I realize I am surrounded the most amazing, constant sensory stimulation (ah! noise! colors! attractive people! delicious food!) in this incredible, bustling city. My friend and her roommate (who has never been to NYC), and I decided to head up for a visit at the beginning of August to see a bunch of our college girlfriends. I always get a little stressed because I usually end up running all over the place trying to squeeze in time to see as many friends as possible, even though it is always worth it in the end. This trip was not much different. Between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, I managed to fit in dinner in Hoboken, a day trip to Long Beach (who knew there were beaches outside of Manhattan??), a visit to my friend’s beautiful $3,800/month one bedroom apartment (HOW DO PEOPLE AFFORD TO FUNCTION ON A DAILY BASIS IN NYC?), an evening out in Meatpacking, falling in love with a French man during a 45 minute conversation in a basement bar, and a dim sum lunch on Sunday with my sister before heading back to DC.

This particular Sunday morning was beautiful, so I decided to walk the 2 miles from my friend’s East Village apartment to Chinatown, where I was meeting my sister at Oriental Garden. As I walked down Elizabeth Street towards the restaurant, I was terrified to see the massive crowd outside, but I realized that it was for Jing Fong’s dim sum next door. I was extremely relieved to see that Oriental Garden was much more low key, especially since I was extremely sweaty, dehydrated and starving by this point. My sister arrived shortly and we immediately started to dive into our meal. To start, we got some shark fin dumplings, beef tripe, shrimp dumplings, and shrimp & pork shumai dumplings. 

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Now, I recognize that I was ravenously hungry when I sat down, but I found each of these dishes to be absolutely delicious. The shark fin dumplings were bursting with salty, flavorful meat. The beef trip was incredibly tender, chewy and slightly sweet. Oh god, I love beef tripe so much. The steamed shrimp dumpling wrappers were thin and delicate, encasing large, crisp and fresh pieces of shrimp. The shumai was dense, chewy, and bursting with ground pork, shrimp and fat. Each bite oozed flavor into my cheeks and down my throat. We inhaled our first round relatively quickly and eagerly flipped open the menu to find our next victims.

I appreciate that you can also order from the dim sum menu at Oriental Garden, instead of chasing carts and being limited to what’s leftover by the time a server arrives at your table. We perused the menu and also ordered the fried taro dumplings , which were perfectly light and crispy. The Crispy Crullers Rice Noodle was an interesting dish: consisting of a salty fried Chinese “cruller” (or dầu cháo quẩy in Vietnamese), wrapped in a tender rice noodles and doused with sweetened soy sauce. Definitely a delicious crispy/slippery/tender contrast! We also got the Shanghai buns, which were plump buns stuffed with pork and delicious garlicky chives that had been steamed, then pan fried. They were similar to potstickers, but about 10x tastier. My absolute favorite part of lunch were the Hong Kong style dumplings. I can best describe these as savory pork-filled Asian doughnuts. The outside is crispy, light, slightly sweet, and the inside is full of savory, juicy, minced meat. I could feel myself filling up, but pushed past the point of pleasantness in order to consume an additional few bites.

I usually don’t like doing dim sum with a small crowd because I feel as though I do not get to try as much, but my sister and I definitely did good work here. The only additional dish I would have ordered was the custard buns (the crunchy skin on top looked spectacular), but by the end of the meal, my stomach had expanded pretty much as far as my skin would allow. After we paid our bill ($37 total, for a massive amount of food), I stood up and felt slightly ill when I realized just how full I was. We decided to walk around a little bit, in the direction of my bus stop, so that my stomach could start the long, slow process of digesting the mountain of food inside of me.

My sister suggested getting some bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea, which at first I turned down because I was a little lightheaded after our intense lunch. All of my blood was churning through my stomach, which meant my brain was functioning at a very low well. But, I figured since I had heard so much about this bubble tea stop, I should should at least see if it lived up to the hype. To be honest, I was skeptical about because, really how much better can bubble tea get? I’ve had plenty of bubble tea in Eden Center, and they have all been relatively refreshing and yummy. I realized my misjudgment when I took a sip of the taro milk tea with tapioca pearls and black grass jelly that my sister and I decided to split. Guys, it was the best bubble tea I have ever head. The tea is so creamy and perfectly sweet, while the tapioca bubbles are chewy without an ounce of toughness. We had no problem finishing off this drink, but my stomach was hating me for it. By the end of the drink, I was completely stuffed and ready to pass out on the bus ride back to DC. It was a great way to end another wonderful trip to NYC.

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