A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Jul. 9.

Lunch -

World Tong Seafood Restaurant - 6202 18th Av., Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Vegetable-stuffed fried bean curd skin, pork-stuffed fried dough, fish and seaweed balls, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, cheung fun (wide white noodles), shrimp cheung fun, shrimp and vegetable dumplings, siu mai, fried fish, coconut custard squares, pistachio cream pastry, mango custard fish

I might as well move to Hong Kong. Last Saturday dim sum (see Jul. 2) , this Saturday dim sum. But I'm nothing if not resilient and after my semi-disappointing excursion to Gum Fung, I decided to give it another go. This time, instead of Queens, the destination would be Brooklyn, where the burgeoning Asian presences in neighborhoods like Sunset Park get less attention but are doing just as much to change those communities.

Heading southeast to Bensonhurst, a few avenues from where I lived until the ripe age of three-and-a-half, Vince and I paid a visit to World Tong. From my wisps of recollection, I remember Bensonhurst being predominantly Italian, with the stench of fish markets and the aroma of cannolis and cream-laden pastries ripe in the air. The Italian influence was still there but seemingly not as strong, as immigrants from other cultures moved in.

World Tong was a case in point. Although only a fourth of the size of the usually monstrous banquet halls, the room was still lively and continuously packed with Asians of all ages. All the way up to dessert, Vince and I were the only non-Asians in the restaurant. It seems completely natural now but ten years ago, a dim sum feast would have been more of an anomaly than an opportunity. Of course, it also helps that World Tong is so well-regarded, frequently cited as Brooklyn's best and even as another contender for New York's best.

After a five minute wait, a harried host seated us at a banquet table with a Chinese family. A constant flow of women were circulating with carts and almost immediately, we were pointing, nodding and doing whatever else we could to bridge the language barrier. Here, the women seemed friendlier and less aggressive, as if they knew their assortments of dumplings, meats and seafood was good enough to speak for themselves.

If that's the case, they were by and large right. Not only did they serve up very good versions of the classics (the shrimp-stuffed eggplant embarrassed Gum Fung's), World Tong was most impressive in its more novel and creative offerings. From the pork-stuffed fried dough, which looked like tuna maki, to the fish and seaweed balls, vaguely reminiscent of matzoh balls, I had dishes I'd never seen let alone tried. It was nice to see a dim sum place, such a refuge for tradition and comfort, branch out in subtle but interesting directions.

The desserts, while still not incredible, also benefitted from the higher level of creativity. Along with the boring standards, I found a mango custard in the shape of a fish. For some reason, I found this infinitely charming, and since then, I've declared that I'll only eat desserts in the shape of seafood. (These should help me with that mission.)

Still, as good as options like the shrimp cheung fun or vegetable-stuffed bean curd proved to be, I also had my usual complaints. A lot of the fried food was too greasy and heavy and the shrimp and meat were too heavily salted. Worse, some servings on the same plate were more seasoned than others. I realize dim sum isn't a meal that emphasizes delicate flavors or cautious preparations, but World Tong is good enough to be better in these regards. But even with these flavor flaws, my lunch was easily my favorite dim sum experience yet. It demonstrated even if one meal is a little underwhelming, there's another one just waiting to impress you. Next stop: Hong Kong. 7/10


Blogger tara said...

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11:30 AM  
Anonymous reiya said...

if you're still in the mood for dim sum, try east buffet on main st. in flushing. dim sum is on the second floor, but you can also get dishes a la carte on the first floor- the mango and shrimp dish w/ cashews is one of my favorites.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

Thanks. Yeah, I just recently heard that East Buffet is supposed to be great. Maybe that should be my next stop.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dim Sum and then some:
This place is what dim sum is all about. The food was great!!! Fresh,hot,colorful, good size portion and price is not bad. Unlike east buffet & manor in flushing who adds 15% tip(which they do not deserve), tax & tea cover charge.

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