I usually go to Star Kitchen for dim sum. And I'm not the only one. At lunch time — especially lunch time on the weekends — the restaurant is a chaotic sea of people, with families huddled around tables, the adults passing dishes back and forth on a lazy Susan while kids dart in and out of aisles, bumping into staffers pushing carts loaded with steamers and platters.
Star Kitchen, which Jong Ng opened with his wife in 2008, does great dim sum, the town's best, and I can eat dumpling after dumpling and bun after bun until I'm about to explode. But the restaurant also has a huge menu of other Chinese dishes, which range from traditional fare — including jellyfish salad, congee and leek with pork blood — to more Americanized specialties, such as lo mein and kung pao everything.
I recently stopped there on an off-hour one afternoon to sample some dishes from the actual menu, when the dim sum carts weren't around to distract me.
2917 West Mississippi Avenue
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My order of spicy jellyfish arrived quickly, the cold, cloudy strips of seafood glistening with chili oil and vinegar. The fish had a springy, firm texture, similar to octopus, but smooth, and the tart, light sauce carried just a hint of heat, allowing the delicate flavor of the jellyfish to come through. It was a refreshing dish on a summer day.
Star Kitchen's beef noodle soup was not. The morsels of beef were gristly, lined with hard fat, and they swam alongside a nest of thin, limp noodles in a watered-down beef broth devoid of flavor. I took about three bites and then pushed the bowl aside in favor of steamed Chinese broccoli in a thick, sweet-salty oyster sauce.
Even though that was enough for a full meal, I couldn't resist finishing up with a dim sum siu mai: balls of pork and shrimp flecked with garlic and encased in slick, doughy wrappers. And even as I paid my check, I pondered asking for barbecue pork buns or sweet pastry stuffed with red bean curd to go.
Because at Star Kitchen, the dim sum really does shine the brightest. — Shunk