proudly displaying that B grade
A commenter recently asked me to check out Grand Harmony in Chinatown after seeing it on Top Chef (which I DO NOT watch). I asked the FBM’ers if they wanted to go, and wound up with a group of 11 on my hands. I was worried about how crowded the place might be, so I told everyone to meet there at 9:30… which might have been the big misstep of the day.
I wound up arriving at 9:05 and snagged a big empty table for everyone… while the restaurant remained only 1/3 full. I took the above picture because I was trying not to fall asleep; I’d not slept much the night before and had really panicked about being late, so I got there super early (my subway wasn’t running, so I had to resort to other trains and didn’t want to screw that up too). The prices aren’t on the super low side, though judging by our final bill, they weren’t on the high side either.
Please excuse my horrible transliterated Cantonese. I was born here. My Cantonese is far and away better than most ABCs, but horrible compared to anyone else.
CT, TT and TC (sigh, yes, that’s a tongue twister) arrived first, and as soon as it hit 9:30, we started ordering food. I was about to pass out and apparently gave CT a nasty look when she walked up to the table because I didn’t recognize her and was upset that the manager wanted to put people at my table. Sorry CT! This cleared up quickly enough and we descended on CT & my favorite dim sum dish, har cheung or shrimp wrapped in rice noodles. I was really groggy and apparently didn’t have full control over my body parts so I wound up mauling two pieces and taking two entire pieces off the plate. Ummm… yeah. And the shrimp all fell out while I was trying to pick it up, which really annoyed me – they should be wrapped securely within layers of pillowy soft rice noodle – so I had to eat them separately. The rice noodles were alright, but the shrimp were a bit… tough… and on the small side for this dish.
Crystal shrimp dumplings, or har gow: I didn’t try these, but watching other people pick them up, they looked dry and like they’d been sitting for a while.
Shark’s fin dumplings, or yue chee gow: I had one and thought they were okay, but nothing to get excited over. Also on the dry side and the flavor was fairly muted.
Piping hot ‘pai gwut’ or ribs. Fatty, and the flavor was OK, but they were hard to pick up, and someone commented that there were too many bones (I thought there was the standard number of bones, though I don’t often order this dish).
Pork&shrimp dumpling, or shumai: I didn’t try these as I don’t prefer this dish, but it seemed well received.
Phoenix claws (chicken feet) or fung jhao: I only had one piece before I gave up. They were chopped horribly and slightly skimpy in portion, and I had trouble tearing the skin – because that’s what you’re eating mostly, skin with sauce – from the bones. I didn’t like what they’d done.
Tripe/intestines, or ngau jhap: TT remarked to me how tender the tripe was; indeed, it was very, very soft and easily bitten through. Perhaps because they cut it in such long strips – easily 6″ long? – that it was necessary to be that tender. I had to stuff the whole thing in my mouth in order to eat it, and it would have been completely horrible if it was even the slightest bit chewy. As it was, the taste and texture were spot on, I really enjoyed this, but I didn’t enjoy the unwieldy length.
Chive dumplings, or gow choi gao: I didn’t eat these, but they disappeared pretty quickly, so I think they were tasty.
Deep fried mochi filled with ground pork, or ham sui gok: I snagged a half, but the filling was unevenly distributed within so I had a bit less pork than I’d have liked. Aside from that, though, it was properly fried, and would have been really good if it hadn’t been cold.
Egg rolls or chuen guen, and stuffed eggplant: I didn’t eat either of these, but I didn’t hear any complaints (at this point, writing this, I am hoping someone pipes up and fills in the blanks for the dishes I didn’t eat!).
Sesame crusted mochi filled with sweet bean paste, or jeen dooey: (I expected it to be the usual red bean, but it was filled with lotus seed paste) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try one, but it’s just as well. 😉
Lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice, or jhun jue lau mai gai. These are for sharing.
This is CT’s unwrapped one. At the end of the meal, I decided I wanted one, and ordered another tray, which I sort of split with with TC. He saw me eating my half so happily that he stopped eating and let me eat the rest, haha (thanks!!!). I really liked this and found it very flavorful, with a lot of fatty pork inside – I didn’t eat the lap cheung (Chinese sausage) because I’m not a fan, but the rice was well balanced with the ground pork already. YUM.
Steamed roast pork buns, or char sui bao: another item I didn’t eat. Are you wondering what I DID eat? Because I’m starting to wonder, too. But I don’t like steamed char sui bao and never order it when I go to dim sum, so I don’t feel I missed out. I heard someone say that there wasn’t a lot of roast pork and they were a bit dry, though.
Peppered short ribs. I don’t know how these were because, you guessed it, I didn’t eat this. Partially because I couldn’t reach them, and partially because I asked if they were good and was told they were only alright.
Fried cruellers wrapped in rice noodle, or jha leung: it was served to us barely lukewarm, and the cruellers inside were a little stale. Not that good, though I normally adore this dish, with crisp fried dough inside, the pillowy soft rice noodle wrapping, savory soy sauce… yum. Not the case here. Sad.
I’ve actually never seen this dish before, so I don’t know the name, but Hungry ordered it: the bottom was rolled up rice noodles (with nothing in them), cut and standing on one end, then topped with the pork spare ribs so all the juices are absorbed by the rice noodles. I tried some of the rice noodles and appreciate the concept, but I can say honestly that this wasn’t a very good execution because there wasn’t enough flavor being absorbed by the rice noodles. I would love to see this dish again so I can order it and try a good version…
Turnip cake, or lau bok go: freshly pan fried and it showed; the exterior was perfectly crisp, while the interior was still hot and creamy. Unfortunately, the problem here was lack of ‘liew’ or ingredients: the inside should be speckled generously with diced ham, dried shrimp and the like, but this one was very sparse. Aside from that, though, the piece I had was very tasty… just lacking.
The last dish! A big plate of shrimp, which, if you look closely, you can tell is just at the edge of being overcooked; the shells are starting to pull away from the flesh. A couple of people seemed to enjoy the shrimp, though I didn’t parktake: I don’t like shrimp in general all that much, and I didn’t want to get my hands dirty. If they had been outright awful, I know my friends would have spoken up and said so, so I imagine they were OK.
Everything pictured, plus a few duplicate dishes here and there (and I missed taking pictures of wu-gok [fried taro dumpling]… and maybe a small handful of other dishes, actually), came out to $110, including tip and tax. Yes, that’s right, 11 people ate a hearty brunch for almost two hours and paid $10 each. Our bill didn’t break $100 before tip. Ridiculous, right? Too bad the food was only alright, and part of me thinks that it was my fault because the early hour meant lower turnover on dishes, so the early stuff may have suffered from sitting out a bit too long. Even so, however, the end dishes were markedly better, but not enough so that I fully believe the early stuff only was bad because of sitting out. (Like the turnip cake: that was pretty good, except it didn’t have stuff in it, and that wouldn’t change from 10am to 11am!)
Yvo says: Service was average for dim sum, nothing special nor atrocious. It didn’t get really busy until 10:30a or so on a Sunday, which is unusual in my experience for dim sum places. Unfortunately, the real failing here was the food: most dishes were sufficient, with a few FAILs, but nothing was so good that I could justify wanting to go back. With an overwhelmingly mediocre cast of dishes here, there’s no reason to return to seek out one or two that MIGHT be excellent. Meh.
not really recommended but I guess if you can’t get a table at the other dim sum places, this might be a good shot to try, ha