A trip home to Las Vegas in mid-October reminded me of one thing that I miss in Southern Nevada that I haven’t found in Spokane: dim sum. I’ve asked my new colleagues at The Spokesman-Review and new chef friends in Spokane if there is dim sum in the area, and the answer has been a simple and resounding “no.” Perhaps we’re all in the dark about dim sum spots in Spokane?
For the uninitiated, dim sum is the Chinese version of American appetizers, Spanish tapas and Japanese izakaya. Just like with the other cuisines, the small plates of dim sum are great for sharing. The best-case scenario is that you’ll discover something new and delicious. But if you don’t like something, thankfully there isn’t a lot of it. This makes dim sum a possibly ideal situation for adventures and open-mined adults and children with developing palates.
I enjoyed dim sum for the first time in the San Francisco Bay Area after college, then Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, dim sum wasn’t available while growing up in Helena from ages 2 to 18. I immediately enjoyed the small-plate experience of dim sum, and it was a great way to have a meal with new and longtime friends.
Early on, the common-occurring pork dumplings (siu mai), shrimp dumplings (har gow), deep fried shrimp (with head and tail) and chow mein were complemented by more adventurous fare such as pickled jellyfish, steamed tendon soup, sticky rice in lotus leaves, chicken feet and steamed tripe, some of which have become must-orders at dim sum.
Which brings us to the new dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, which opened on Sept. 29 and serves award-winning Cantonese-style dim sum at more than 50 global locations. The 5,055-square-foot restaurant by head chef Ray Kwong sits on the west side of the Palms, and the meal I shared last month with my brother, Charles Chareunsy, who also serves as guest photographer this week, was a bounty and truly the best of the best that dim sum has to offer.
It included baked barbecue pork buns (a house specialty); steamed Wagyu bundle with green apples and mushrooms; braised chicken feet with abalone sauce and peanuts (THW’s version substitutes black bean sauce with abalone, and it’s finger-licking good); and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves (a personal favorite at every dim sum meal).
Also (yes, it was just the two of us, and, yes, there were a lot of leftovers): braised beef brisket with noodles; deep fried shrimp toast with black truffle and foie gras sauce (an early favorite of customers, including the Chareunsy brothers); beef rice topped with a fried egg; steamed rice rolls (rice noodles) with beef and scallions; and steamed rice rolls with shrimp and Chinese chives.
The two desserts were sweet taro cream with coconut and sago (an edible starch) and deep fried sweet pumpkin balls with custard – even Asian cuisines aren’t immune to the Great Pumpkin Takeover that occurs ever autumn. Two cocktails – a Japanese Old Fashioned and Clem Bow Thai – were unexpected surprises and excellent. Dim sum is usually enjoyed with hot tea, water and maybe a soda, not cocktails. Tim Ho Wan is the place to make this exception.
It might be difficult to believe, but Tim Ho Wan’s dim sum menu is fairly streamlined. Dim sum staples such as deep fried shrimp, pickled jellyfish and Peking duck – an all-time favorite – aren’t on the menu. Fortunately, there are other excellent options for dim sum in Las Vegas, including Ping Pang Pong at Gold Coast and the new, elegant and fine-dining Mott 32 at the Venetian, alongside Tim Ho Wan. But not in Spokane.
Dim sum is definitely among my favorite foods along with seafood and steak (and specifically prime rib). It’s about different flavors – a lot of salty and savory. It’s about sharing new experiences with family and friends and that nephew who is an especially picky eater.
Dim sum isn’t for everyone – especially those chicken feet, bock, bock! – and, really, what cuisine is, but it should be available in Spokane. The Lilac City has given me so much to be thankful for culinary-wise in my first sixth months here. I would be really thankful for a great dim sum restaurant in town. How about Tim Ho Wan? Let’s please make dim sum happen in Spokane.
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