Second Helpings

Reading Tea Leaves

The dim-sum experience varies from restaurant to restaurant, but I know I can usually count on the tea. Always green, almost always served in squat white pots with loose leaves steeping in hot water, inevitably accompanied by small, plain-white cups nicked and tinted the color of bone by long use. During any dim-sum meal, I will always drink four cups: one while I peruse the menu, one after I've ordered and am waiting for the first flight to arrive, a third while I eat, a fourth after I am done. Every cup is different, each darker and stronger than the last as the leaves continue to steep in the cooling liquid. My last cup will be almost-but-not-quite cold, and it is through this dissipation of heat that I'm able to calculate how long my meal has taken. At Dragon Garden, which does dim sum all day and on into the night, six days a week, a pot of tea costs forty cents. For ten dollars, you can eat well. For twenty, you could eat here most of the day. And while almost everything served in this small, welcoming, ten-table dining room is good, perhaps the best deal (other than the tea) is the Hong Kong-style dumpling soup. For $5.75, you get a bowl big enough to wear as a helmet, filled with broth as smooth and strong as a bear hug, packed with large dumplings that float around like languid jellyfish (the restaurant serves those, too), bumping into the thick tangle of greens on one side and plowing a wake through the slivered green onions floating on the surface. Unlike my once-in-a-lifetime $46 bowl of shark's fin soup at Super Star Asian, I could eat this stuff every day.
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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan