Disappointed at Dim Sum King

Categories: On the Menu

har gow.jpg
Shrimp har gow at Dim Sum King
Whenever there are discussions about dim sum in Houston, I inevitably hear references to Dim Sum King, the tiny little restaurant tucked way in the hard-to-find corner behind a police station on Bellaire and Ranchester. I love eating dim sum, and while I've been to many other restaurants for dim sum -- Fung's Kitchen, Ocean Palace, Kim Son, HK Dim Sum -- Dim Sum King was either always closed or too busy whenever I tried to eat there.

What I'd heard about Dim Sum King gave me high expectations. They serve dim sum all day. The prices are extremely affordable. Asians love to eat there, and it's always packed. So when I finally found myself there after at least a year's worth of failed attempts, I had high hopes for a satisfying dim sum experience.

Dim Sum King doesn't do the traditional push-cart dim sum, but rather, you order by marking a paper menu, which is split up into different size categories by different prices. The prices were definitely cheaper than elsewhere, with small dishes at $2.08, medium for $3.28, and $4.18 for large.

server dim sum.jpg
Dim Sum King doesn't use push-carts. You order from the menu & items are brought out on a tray
I ordered everything I would typically order - xiu mai dumplings, har gow shrimp dumplings, Chinese broccoli, shrimp gee cheong fun, turnip cakes, stuffed bean curd sheets, and pork spareribs. The meal started auspiciously enough. Service seemed fast and efficient, and before long we had our tea and our water, our order was taken, and I sat back to watch the servers whiz back and forth carrying trays of steaming hot food, waiting expectantly for mine. The dining room was fairly full but not packed with mostly Asian patrons.
xiu mai.jpg
Xiu mai dumplings didn't taste much better than they looked
We received our xiu mai dumplings and spareribs first. The xiu mai -- my favorite of all the dumplings, were a plain cardboard paper-color, small and dry, the flavors just okay. Less than remarkable. The spareribs were flavored well but very greasy. Not a great start, but I still had hope. Next came the Chinese broccoli, which turned out to be the best dish of the afternoon. They were obviously very fresh and perfectly rendered with a good al dente bite in the stalk, just the way I like them. Our pan-fried turnip cake was less impressive, the cake batter too mushy, and the outside sear, which is supposed to give it almost a crispy shell, not quite there.

kai lan.jpg
This was the only dish I liked, the chinese brocolli
The shrimp har gow, the signature dim sum dish at pretty much every dim sum restaurant, was the biggest disappointment. I could tell before eating it that it was overcooked from the way it looked, and biting into it confirmed it. The dumpling wrapper had no texture and broke apart immediately, and the filling was loosely packed, the shrimp bits falling out of the dumpling and overcooked as well.

I looked at my dining companion, and he just shook his head in disappointment. "This is just poor quality stuff," he said in an an almost disgusted tone. I looked at him apologetically, embarrassed. "Sorry...I had no idea it would be this bad," I said.

shrimp gee cheong.jpg
Shrimp gee cheong fun was overcooked through and through
The stuffed bean curd wrappers, my companion's favorite dish, were also poorly done. Again, the filling was loosely packed, the flavors not quite there, the freshness suspect. It tasted like reheated, microwaved dim sum. And my favorite dim sum dish, the shrimp gee cheong fun, was no better. As with the har gow, the wrapper, which is supposed to have a slightly chewy glutinous texture, broke apart from being overcooked, while the shrimp inside were small and tasted like they had been frozen, too.
dim sum restaurant.jpg
The restaurant's interior
All in all, it was one of the most disappointing dim sum experiences I've ever had, period. And before you ask, I've had dim sum in San Francisco, LA, Orange County, NYC, Vancouver and Hong Kong, among other places. While the meal was fairly inexpensive, ringing in at less than $30 for two, this is obviously one of those places where people overlook the quality in favor of price, because the quality was simply not there.

If you want good dim sum served daily, the HK Dim Sum a few blocks down in the Dun Huang center is far superior, and the other places I mentioned in Houston are better as well. For cheap dim sum, another option is the to-go section at the Welcome Supermarket just a few doors down in the same shopping center. It's sad to say, but true: the dim sum dumplings at the supermarket to-go counter are just $1.85 and taste better microwaved than the ones I had from the Dim Sum King kitchen.



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Location Info

Dim Sum King

9160 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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17 comments
VTS
VTS

Ok, whoever can tell me where the dim sum places are that still have the lazy susans on their tables wins my eternal gratitude!!! Kim Son in Stafford took theirs off and it makes it so inconvenient now.

Matt Chow
Matt Chow

Arco Seafood next to the Golden Supermarket behind Sinh Sinh on Bellaire is the best I've had lately.

Theo Shu
Theo Shu

Finally, someone who agrees with me. Mai, I totally agree with your assessment: HK Dim Sum is far superior.

However, the Ranch 99 dim sum is really only good in a pinch. Go with the Chinese barbecue instead.

bitch
bitch

golden palace and fung's kitchen are both good. of course, I also LIKE DS King. What time did you go? Not that it should be, but could have been a factor. Looks crowded.

Christine Ha
Christine Ha

I usually think this place is decent but will have to try HK next time. Have you tried Golden Palace?

Mag
Mag

So, in your opinion, which is best?  I wonder about the dim sum at the 99 ranch market but have never tried it. I tend to head straight for the vietnamese sandwiches since I know those are always good.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I'm pretty sure Ocean Palace has them. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks, Matt. @Tastybitz is of the same mind. I'm definitely going to try it. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Theo, have you tried Dim Sum King more than once? Was your experience poor every time? I had HK Dim Sum on a slow weekday afternoon, and in contrast, everything came out of the kitchen very tasty and freshly steamed. Dumpling wrappers had a slight chewiness/bite to it, fillings were ample. Fried stuffed tofu was crispy molten goodness. I hear the dim sum at Arco Seafood is good, too, and they also serve daily. I plan to try it.

bitch
bitch

 I meant Ocean Palace. (where's Golden Palace?)

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I think I tried Golden Palace a loooong time ago. Definitely haven't been recently. HK Dim Sum is light years better, seriously.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I really liked the 99 Ranch dim sum the one time I tried it. Even my 85-year-old grandmother, who'd never had dim sum before, loved the chicken feet and shrimp har gow. Heh.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

@Mag - Don't knock the grocery store dim sum! I haven't had the Ranch 99 dim sum, but chances are it's pretty good.  I'm not overly fond of dim sum in general here in Houston, but if I'd have to rank what I've tried (based on numerous visits over the years): Fung's Kitchen, HK Dim sum, Ocean Palace - Kim Son (tied).

Matt Chow
Matt Chow

I believe I'm the one that told him to try Arco =)

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I went on a Wednesday afternoon. It wasn't overly crowded; there were empty tables. There was no weekend rush. The dim sum tasted/looked like it had been steamed the day before and resteamed. It may have been a one-off, but it really was bad. Golden Palace is at 8520 Bellaire Boulevard near Gessner

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Like I said, everyone talks about Dim Sum King. I almost always hear good things. I wonder if weekends are better because it's more busy/they expect a rush of people? 

bitch
bitch

interesting. I've gone early on Saturday and Sunday and it's been pretty good.

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