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Best Dim Sum in Town?

I go through dim sum phases -- for about a year, Jasmine was at the top of my list. But, after so many sloppy shells in my shrimp dumplings, the smell of mildew emanating from the old carpet, the rickety chairs, it just seemed more and more dingy. So I went back to Emerald, and I couldn't remember why I'd stopped going there in the first place. Before I start talking about why this is my current favorite dim sum joint, I'll admit that I have yet to try China Max, though I'm not sure it would feel like dim sum without the carts.

The best time to go to Emerald is 11 a.m. on a Saturday -- that's when you still get the best selection of the early serving options (many of which disappear after a while), and the items that take longer to prepare (such as the dry, stir-fried noodles), which are just starting to come out of the kitchen. Also, Saturday is not nearly as crowded as Sunday, so you won't have to wait long, if at all for a table.

Image

The fun starts the moment you sit. A server in a vest (remember this, as it's only the vests who can get you refills on beverages and bring your check when you're finished) delivers a hot pot of jasmine tea and the standard dim sum condiments: chili oil and hot mustard, the soy sauce (a small vessel with a seemingly endless supply of soy sauce -- it must be bigger on the inside) will already be on the table.

Image

I like to begin by chopsticking (that's right, I made a verb) some chili oil onto my plate and adding a small pour of soy sauce.

Image

Once seated, the carts appear, almost always pushed by women, most of whom speak very limited English.

Image

Here you can see with a glance what is on offer, and select by pointing (or asking, if you know the right name for your item) to small plates or tins that you want added to your table.

Image

Some items require cutting, to make things more sharable, or simply easier to manage with those slippery oversized plastic chopsticks.

Image

Here's an overview of some of my preferred dim sum plates. Of course, anything shrimp -- these are shrimp shumai and har gow, or shrimp dumpling.

Image

Image

On my last visit, I tried (and liked) the jiaozi, or pot stickers. These ones were pork.

Image

David loves the barbecue pork buns.

Image

I'm a sucker for the fried glutinous rice dumplings, filled with minced mushroom, shrimp, and pork. They're sweet (almost like a donut) on the outside, and savory on the inside.

Image

These breaded shrimp balls are wrapped around sticks of sugar cane.

Image

These are called "shark fins," but not because there's any shark meat in there -- rather, they're named for their shape. These have minced pork, prawn, and cilantro inside.

Image

Finally, we recently discovered these fried scallop and shrimp gems, served with a side of sweet and sour sauce.

Image

Weekend dim sum is great for large groups -- it's fast, easy, inexpensive, and lately at Emerald, always tasty.

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I go through dim sum phases -- for about a year, Jasmine was at the top of my list. But, after so many sloppy shells in my shrimp dumplings, the smell of mildew emanating from the old carpet, the rickety chairs, it just seemed more and more dingy. So I went back to Emerald, and I couldn't remember why I'd stopped going there in the first place. Before I start talking about why this is my current favorite dim sum joint, I'll admit that I have yet to try China Max, though I'm not sure it would feel like dim sum without the carts.

The best time to go to Emerald is 11 a.m. on a Saturday -- that's when you still get the best selection of the early serving options (many of which disappear after a while), and the items that take longer to prepare (such as the dry, stir-fried noodles), which are just starting to come out of the kitchen. Also, Saturday is not nearly as crowded as Sunday, so you won't have to wait long, if at all for a table.

Image

The fun starts the moment you sit. A server in a vest (remember this, as it's only the vests who can get you refills on beverages and bring your check when you're finished) delivers a hot pot of jasmine tea and the standard dim sum condiments: chili oil and hot mustard, the soy sauce (a small vessel with a seemingly endless supply of soy sauce -- it must be bigger on the inside) will already be on the table.

Image

I like to begin by chopsticking (that's right, I made a verb) some chili oil onto my plate and adding a small pour of soy sauce.

Image

Once seated, the carts appear, almost always pushed by women, most of whom speak very limited English.

Image

Here you can see with a glance what is on offer, and select by pointing (or asking, if you know the right name for your item) to small plates or tins that you want added to your table.

Image

Some items require cutting, to make things more sharable, or simply easier to manage with those slippery oversized plastic chopsticks.

Image

Here's an overview of some of my preferred dim sum plates. Of course, anything shrimp -- these are shrimp shumai and har gow, or shrimp dumpling.

Image

Image

On my last visit, I tried (and liked) the jiaozi, or pot stickers. These ones were pork.

Image

David loves the barbecue pork buns.

Image

I'm a sucker for the fried glutinous rice dumplings, filled with minced mushroom, shrimp, and pork. They're sweet (almost like a donut) on the outside, and savory on the inside.

Image

These breaded shrimp balls are wrapped around sticks of sugar cane.

Image

These are called "shark fins," but not because there's any shark meat in there -- rather, they're named for their shape. These have minced pork, prawn, and cilantro inside.

Image

Finally, we recently discovered these fried scallop and shrimp gems, served with a side of sweet and sour sauce.

Image

Weekend dim sum is great for large groups -- it's fast, easy, inexpensive, and lately at Emerald, always tasty.

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Comments
3

Thanks Babs, Can't wait to try this place. Might run down there today. Jasmine too expensive now. China Max is great but service is horrible if you don't speak the language. Once you get your order, that's it, they never return to your table to get a second coke or order more food, they always run by you never making eye contact, unless your Asian. I still wish we had some kind of Hong Kong style Asian place in North County - dim sum and roasted ducks hanging in the window.

Dec. 10, 2012

Expensive, and more shoddy, at least as of late. Other people are recommending China Max, but I can't stand being ignored at a restaurant, so thanks for the tip!

Dec. 10, 2012

Teresa JC says: WOW! I know where I'm going for lunch next Saturday!!!

Dec. 10, 2012

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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