Category Archives: Asian

Dim Sum and Then Some at King’s Land

Sunday morning feast was a nostalgic return to Chinatown-style experience.

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 sizes. 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.”

King's Land Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch — not Dim Sum — at Jing

Chic Jing is no place to go for Sunday dim sum, because they don’t really have any.

A group of us who frequent the chowhound.com on-line discussion group wanted to get together for an in-person feast. Dim sum seemed like a great idea for a Sunday afternoon. We initially thought we’d try King’s Land or Super Star, but there were going to be roughly a dozen of us, these places don’t take reservations and most of us hadn’t met yet. The idea of milling around trying to identify each other in a crowded restaurant in unpredictable winter weather made little sense. So we opted for Jing, a modern Chinese restaurant serving updated Chinese and pan-Asian cuisine in a sterile new shopping center in Greenwood Village.

First the good news: The food was very tasty and prettily presented. The restaurant decor is hip (black/white plus purple in the even hipper lounge). One of my companions likened it toa restaurant in a W Hotel. The waitress was knowledgeable about the food, and the service was attentive (maybe because hardly anyone else was there). Then the bad news: I called a month ago and was told that Jing does dim sum on weekends, offering quite a few dishes — eight or so is my recollection. In truth, there were just two traditional styles of dim sum dishes (dumplings and wontons), and even those are ordered a la carte from the kitchen rather than being offered from a cart (but then, a clanking cart and hawker waitress wouldn’t go with the high-style surroundings). The other bad news is the high prices when compared with traditional Chinese restaurants with less decor and more realistic atmosphere. Personally, I can do without hip, stylish, trendy, etc. and would rather have closer-to-authentic cuisine.

My feelings have a lot to do with my formative dim sum experiences in New York’s Chinatown, specifically at a now defunct 900-seat behemoth on East Broadway called the Silver Palace. The restaurant was subsequently embroiled in a scandal over labor-law violations and is a different place from the less well-regarded New Silver Palace on The Bowery, but none of that dims my fond memories of the original Silver Palace. Patrons were seated at huge round tables as they came in. If your party filled a whole table, great. If not, you were seated with strangers, which was also great. Chinese faces far outnumbered Caucasian ones, and I learned a lot about Chinese food and customs from my tablemates.

Carts wheeled through crowded aisles bore bamboo steamers, metal steamers, small round plates, small oval plates, small rimmed bowls and so on. When a cart rolled by, you’d point to something that looked good. The waitstaff spoke little English but knew what was over-the-top for most non-Chinese guests. When we once pointed to something that appeared intriguing, one waitress shook her head and said, “You no want. Duck feet.” She was right, but everything else was exciting, exotic and cheap. The empty dishes — each shape and size representing a different price — piled up, and when you were ready to pay, the server would count the different shapes and come up with your total. It really felt like China. Jing, by contrast, feels like Cherry Creek North.

As I wrote above, however, the food at Jing was tasty, despite my disappointment at not having a dim sum chow-down. Much of the meal was gringo-ized and yuppified, in keeping with the decor. The waitress said the dishes were served family-style so we could share, which must be a revelation of some sort in Denver’s shiny new southern ‘burbs. The tea came in a choice of yuppie flavors, served in a Western-style tea cup — and tea bags. Tea bags! Several dishes marked on the menu as spicy were detuned. Nothing we ate had a real kick, even when it was supposed to. Steamed broccoli flowerettes and bits of red or green bell pepper garnished several dishes, and a slice of tomato graced at least one.

I do want to thank Denveater for sharing these images, because we forgot our camera. Denveater isn’t just good with a camera but with words too, and that blog contains a great desciption of the decor and the ambiance.

Here’s what we ordered: Crispy Shanghai Duck Rolls were made of flavorful and moist pulled Peking duck in a truly crisp wrapper with hoisin-plum sauce (two rolls, $8.) A quartet of Dragon Dumplings (right) in a bamboo steamer were delicate Shanghai pork dumplings with sweet ginger-soy vinaigrette (four dumplings, $8). Even though the portion was modest, it was the most Chinese-looking dish of them all served as it would be at a dim sum restaurant.

The Cool Lettuce Wraps consisted of four leaves of butter lettuce and a small bowl with a tasty mix of minced chicken, finely chopped pine nuts and finely chopped shiitake mushrooms ($9). My husband also ordered a bowl of Wild Mushroom Sweet and Sour soup ($3), his favorite even without the wild mushrooms, that he said was very good.

Because it is close to Chinese New Year, a Chinese-American in our group reminded us that we
had to have whole fish for good luck. We ordered two. Both were sea bass, served headless in deference to gringo sensibilities and very small for $30 each. The crispy fish with sweet and sour sauce (right) was surprisingly rubbery and not all that crisp. The flesh of steamed fish with ginger-soy sauce and scallions had a nice flaky texture and a pleasant, slightly nutty taste. We were told that we also had to have noodles, another New Year’s tradition. The Chicken Lo Mein ($12) was delicious and included al dente green beans and substantial chunks of tender chicken.

The Peppercorn Tenderloin ($25) comprised a very modest portion of tender, large-cubed beef that had been stir-fried medium-rare and was served with onion and red bell pepper slivers. Ma’s Po Tofu ($13) was a tower of eight brick-shaped pieces of firm tofu encircled by steamed vegetables and topped with a shiny red, sweetish sauce that claimed to be Sichuan but wasn’t. We had a bowl of white rice and a bowl of brown rice. I didn’t look at the bill, so I don’t know whether they came with the meal or were extra.

The manager apologized for the dim sum misunderstanding and listened to our comments that $30 was a high price for such small fish, so she sent out one of each of three tasty desserts: a Strawberry-Banana Spring Roll with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, a Poached Asian Pear with a ginger crust and plum wine reduction, and Green Tea Fried Ice Cream. There were no fortune cookies.

Jing’s menu offers Soups and Greens ($3-$13), Small Plates ($5-$14), Charlie’s Favorites ($14-$32), Classic Chinese ($13-$18), Sides ($6-$9) and Grains and Noodles ($12-$15). Wines are available by the glass ($7-$15) or by the bottle from the regular menu ($26-$395, the latter for Louis Roederer Crystal Brut). The desserts are recited. Since the hostess provided them as an apology, I have no idea how much they cost.

Jing Restaurant is in a spanking new shopping center called the Village Shops in the Landmark. 5370 Greenwood Village Boulevard, Greenwood Village; 303-779-6888.

Jing on Urbanspoon

Boulder Weekly’s "Best Of" Picks

The current Boulder Weekly offers up its annual “Best of Boulder County” issue. Here is the long list of the paper’s staff and readers’ picks — and mine too (sometimes instead of an sometimes in addition to the Weekly‘s selections):

Appetizers/Tapas
Staff and Readers: The Mediterranean Restaurant (“The Med”)
Runner-Up: The Kitchen
Honorable Mention: DeGabi Cucina
Claire’s Pick: Zolo Grill, Tahona Tequila Bistro

Bagel
Staff and Readers: Moe’s Broadway Bagel
Runner-Up: Einstein Brothers Bagels
Honorable Mention: Big Daddy’s Bagels
Claire’s Pick: No contender this side of the Hudson River; Moe’s all the way

Breakfast
Staff and Readers: Lucile’s
Runner-Up: Walnut Cafe and Walnut Cafe/South Side
Honorable Mention: Dot’s Diner, Turley’s
Claire’s Pick: Foolish Craig’s

Bakery
Staff and Readers: Breadworks
Runner-Up: Great Harvest Bread Company
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: Breadworks and Whole Foods for breads; Spruce Confections and Breadworks for pastries

Burger
Staff and Readers: Mountain Sun and Southern Sun
Runner-Up: Tom’s Tavern
Honorable Mention: Dark Horse; V.G. Burgers
Claire’s Pick: Jill’s at the St. Julien

Burrito
Staff and Readers: Illegal Pete’s
Runner-Up: Chipotle
Honorable Mention: Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
Claire’s Pick: Mina’s Latin Restaurant (Erie)

Business Lunch
Staff and Readers: The Kitchen
Runner-Up: Brasserie Ten Ten
Honorable Mention: Prima Ristorante
Claire’s Pick: Jill’s at the St. Julien, Q’s at the Boulderado, The Boulder Cork

Dessert*
Staff and Readers: Glacier Home-Made Ice Cream
Runner-Up: Spruce Confections
Honorable Mention: Belvedere Belgian Chocolate Shop
Claire’s Pick: The Flagstaff House, Q’s at the Boulderado
*In my opinion, the paper combined “Dessert” and ” Miscellaneous Sweet Stuff” here. “Dessert” in this context should have been limited to the dessert course in a restaurant. An ice cream dipping store, a bakery and a chocolate retail shop — no matter how worthy — do not fit into this category. Anyone editing this newspaper?

Happy Hour
Staff and Readers: The Mediterranean
Runner-Up: Triology Wine Bar & Lounge
Honorable Mention: Mountain Sun/Southern Sun
Claire’s Pick: Tahona Tequila Bistro, Redfish, El Centro

Fine Dining
Staff and Readers: The Flagstaff House
Runner-Up: Frasca Food and Wine
Honorable Mention: Sunflower
Claire’s Pick: The F-team, Flagstaff and Frasca, get high votes from me too. So do The Kitchen, Q’s at the Boulderado, L’Atelier

Chinese
Staff and Readers: The Golden Lotus
Runner-Up: Moongate Asian Bistro
Honorable Mention: Orchid Pavilion
Claire’s Pick: China Gourmet (casual), Spice China (Louisville, fancier)

Ice Cream
Staff and Readers: Glacier Homemade Ice Cream
Runner-Up: Ben & Jerry’s
Honorable Mention: Boulder Ice Cream, Bliss Organic Ice Cream
Claire’s Pick: Hatton Creamery

Coffee
Readers: Trident Booksellers and Cafe
Staff: Laughing Goat Coffee House
Runner-Up: Vic’s Coffee
Honorable Mention: Amante Coffee, Bookend Cafe
Claire’s Pick: Bookend Cafe

Indian
Staff and Readers: Taj Restaurant
Runner-Up: Tandoori Grill
Honorable Mention: Sherpa’s
Claire’s Pick: Same three

Juice/Smoothie
Staff and Readers: Jambo Juice
Runner-Up: Berry Best
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: Juices Wild, Anjou, Cafe M

Catering
Staff and Readers: A Spice of Life
Runner-Up: Whole Foods
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: No opinion; I cook

Margarita
Staff and Readers: The Rio Grande (“The Rio”)
Runner-Up: Zolo Grille
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: The Rio for the wallop, Tahona Tequila Bistro for variety and taste

Mexican
Staff and Readers: Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant
Runner-Up: Zolo Grill
Honorable Mention: Rio Grande, Juanita’s Mexican Food and Casa Alvarez
Claire’s Pick: Mina’s Latin Restaurant (Erie)

Pizza
Staff and Readers: Nick-n-Willy’s Take-and-Bake Pizza
Runner-Up: Abo’s Pizza
Honorable Mention: Proto’s Pizzeria Napoletana
Claire’s Pick: Proto’s, O-Pizza

Place to Bring Kids
Staff and Readers: Red Robin
Runner-Up: Noodles & Company
Honorable Mention: Mountain Sun/Southern Sun
Claire’s Pick: Cafe Gondolier

Place to Eat Outdoors
Staff and Readers: Chautauqua Dining Hall
Runner-Up: Boulder Farmers’ Market
Honorable Mention: Mediterranean Restaurant
Claire’s Pick: All of the above, plus El Centro (which continues the patio from the location’s Rhumba incarnation) and anyplace on the Pearl Street Mall

Late Night
Staff and Readers: Abo’s Pizza
Runner-Up: Hapa Sushi
Honorable Mention: Cosmo’s Pizza, Dark Horse Bar
Claire’s Pick: The Reef (new owners introducing late food service)

New Restaurant
Staff and Readers: V.G. Burgers
Runner-Up: Panera Bread**
Honorable Mention: California Pizza Kitchen, 7 Eurobar***
Claire’s Pick: Black Cat Bistro
**The one on 29th is new, but Panera is not new to Boulder. The former Panera location on the Pearl Steet Mall (and also the one in Louisville) closed in 2004. Paradise Bakery now occupies the Pearl Street Mall space.
***This is now simply called Seven and has been reborn as a Latin/Asian fusion place and no longer is European-influenced.

Overall Restaurant
Staff and Readers: The Kitchen
Runner-Up: Frasca Food and Wine
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: Both of those, plus the Flagstaff House and L’Altelier

Microbrewery
Staff and Readers: Mountain Sun/Southern Sun
Runner-Up: Walnut Brewery
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: Oskar Blue’s (Lyons)

Sushi
Staff: Japango
Readers: Sushi Zanmai
Runner-Up: Hapa Sushi
Honorable Mention: Sushi Tora
Claire’s Pick: Hapa Sushi

Vegetarian Friendly
Staff and Readers: Sunflower
Runner-Up: Whole Foods
Honorable Mention: V.G. Burgers
Claire’s Pick: Cafe Prasad in the Boulder Cooperative Market for vegans

Sandwich
Staff and Readers: Snarf’s
Runner-Up: Salvaggio’s
Honorable Mention: Deli Zone
Claire’s Pick: Salvaggio’s

Take Out
Staff and Readers: Siamese Plate
Runner-Up: China Gourmet, Jimmy & Drew’s 28th Street Deli
Honorable Mention: Khow Thai
Claire’s Pick: Whole Foods, Nick-n-Willy’s

Thai
Staff and Readers: Know Thai Cafe
Runner-Up: Siamese Plate
Honorable Mention: Thai Basil, Chy Thai
Claire’s Pick: Yummy Yummy Tasty Thai Food (Louisville), though I understand that it recently closed. Sad.

Martini
Staff and Readers: Purple Martini
Runner-Up: Trilogy Lounge & Wine Bar
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: The Flagstaff House

Teahouse
Staff and Readers: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Runner-Up: Pekoe Sip House
Honorable Mention: Celestial Seasonings, Tea Spot
Claire’s Pick: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Vietnamese
Staff and Readers: Chez Thuy
Runner-Up: May Wah
Honorable Mention: None
Claire’s Pick: Kim Food to Go

Wine Selection
Staff and Readers: Frasca Food and Wine
Runner-Up: The Flagstaff House
Honorable Mention: Trilogy Wine Bar and Lounge
Claire’s Pick: Those are my top three too

Italian
Staff and Readers: Laudisio Ristorante
Runner-Up: Carelli’s
Honorable Mention: DaGabi Cucina
Claire’s Pick: Trattoria on Pearl