I moved to Colorado 19 years, seven months and 26 days ago — and the one thing I have missed was Sunday morning dim sum in New York’s Chinatown. When I lived back East, a group of us would make the occasional dim sum
pilgrimage to lower Manhattan. It was a trip of a few miles that took us half-way around the world. Until I actually went to China, I didn’t appreciate how authentic New York’s Chinatown actually looked and felt.
Sunday after Sunday, the large restaurants that specialized in dim sum were crowded and noisy. Every table was filled with hungry diners — mostly Chinese guests, often in family groups of three or four generations. Waitresses maneuvered clattering metal carts among the tables, stopping long enough for patrons to point to dishes they wanted: steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, steamed buns, spare ribs, roast pork, roast duck, spring rolls, rice, vegetables, shrimp, mollusks of various sorts and sometimes, mysterious dishes. Occasionally, when we said we wanted something, a waitress would say, in minimal but very accurate English, something like, “You no want. Duck feet.”
Everything came on small plates or bowls or steamer baskets in just a few si
zes. Every vessel cost a certain amount: small round plates, slightly larger round plates, small oval plates, small shallow bowls, deeper soup bowls, metal steamer baskets and so forth each size and style cost a certain amount, no matter what had been served in it. The servers would let all the vessels pile up, and at the end of the meal, one waitress counted them and calculated the cost, which was always modest.
Denver has no Chinatown, and for years, I’d heard about the fine dim sum at Super Star and King’s Land, facing each other across the parking lot of a shopping center dominating the 2200 block of West Alameda. I could never drum up enough enthusiasts to make a Sunday morning excursion — either because I didn’t try hard enough or because a lot of Boulderites seem to think that Denver, especially south of downtown, is on another continent. Denver isn’t, but like Chinatown in New York, King’s Land feels as if it is.
A friend who blogs as Denveater
finally led to the fulfillment of my long-running Denver dim sum
dream. She organized the Denver/Boulder subchapter of the Southwest board chapter of chowhound.com dim sum
excursion to King’s Land this morning — eight hungry souls in search of good dim sum
. We found it. For the first time in this time zone, I ate in a busy restaurant where waiters and waitresses piloted metal carts filled with a variety of wonderful tastes. The most obvious difference between New York and Denver was that the tables at King’s Land are spaced farther apart than in Chinatown.
But the fleet of metal carts laden with temptations were there. In most cases, a table by the kitchen is not the most desirable in the house, but it is for dim sum
, because tables by the kitchen door get the food at its hottest.
I can’t begin to remember everything we had, but here’s a go: steamed shrimp dumplings in an envelope of very soft noodle dough, firmer shrimp dumplings, steamed buns, congee, fried sesame dumplings, steamed mushroom packets, roast duck, sticky rice with salt egg and Chinese sausage, steamed shrimp in their shells, turnip cake made on the spot with a special stove on wheels and tripe, all acompanied by tea from a bottomless pot.
And then, we happily accepted four desserts (bottom right), small custard tarts, coconut custard, a sweet that resembled pineapple strudel and small pumpkin or squash tarts. Amazingly, we ate ourselves into a happy stupor for about $15 per person. I promise it will not two more decades until the next dim sum feast.
Kings Land is at 2200 W Alameda Avenue, # 44 (on the west side of the parking lot), Denver; 303-975-2399.
After we rolled out of the restaurant, my husband and I continued across the parking lot to Pacific Ocean International Supemarket, a wonderful Asian grocery store particularly specializing in Chinese and Southeast Asian products. We bought a few things and of course, cruised the aisles. As I gazed at the cases of prepared foods, I did briefly wonder whether places like King’s Land and Super Star make all of their dim sum in-house or whether they buy some. Whatever the answer, our feast was fab. Pacific Ocean is also at 2200 West Alameda Avenue but in uni # 2B, Denver; 303-936-4845.
P.S. After our feast, I posted a brief report on the chowhound.com. What I remembered was supplemented by a couple of fellow Hounds who added “There was also salt-and-pepper shrimp, Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, pork rib on the bone…Those rice-stuffed fried-taro shells…” and “And let’s not forget the sweets: little custard pies (don tots), coconut jello/block and those little custard-stuffed turnovers.”