thanks for all of your responses to my query about where to get dim sum. i ended up trying shui wah, as recommended by bexx and i was not disappointed!
my pal and i ordered about 10 dishes and we also sampled the congee with pork and egg. we totally pigged out, but felt it was necessary as we wanted to try all of our favorites plus some new things we'd never had before.
har gow, siu mai, cheung fun, had to get those classics out of the way, and they were all good. as were the chive dumplings.
the spareribs were interesting. the meat was very tender which i'm not quite used to and bexx was right, there was not a lot of sauce, but there was a strong garlic flavor which was interesting as well as what looked like some diced bbq pork on top which i've never had before. generally though, i like my spareribs to have that strong black bean flavor which these were lacking, but they were flavorful due to the garlic and i enjoyed them.
the standouts for me were the minced beef balls, bean curd rolls and the wu gok (fried taro balls). interestingly, the beef balls didn't come with worcheister sauce, which is customary, but they were still excellent with great texture and subtle flavor. also, the bean curd rolls (the bean curd skin wrapped around a meat filling and steamed in sauce) were fantastic. i've had these before and sometimes they can be too saucy, too bland, too soggy from sitting in a cart all day, but these were fantastic. the wu gok were amazing as well. not as much taro as i'm used to, but the fried shell had a really nice crunch which nicely contrasted with the savory meat filling inside. excellent, and one of my favorite dim sum dishes, so i can be very picky about these.
even though we managed to finish nearly everything we ordered, my friend and i decided to order the seaweed rolls that bexx mentioned. we saw another table try them and they looked very interesting. they were in fact, quite unusual, but a nice treat. try them if you get a chance.
the menu was pretty extensive and there were many more dishes we didn't get to try, but which looked intriguing. even the fact that there were no egg custard tarts or black sesame rolls on the menu for a sweet dessert did not dissuade our opinion that shui wah is a pretty good joint for dim sum. we were seated within about ten minutes, and the staff was very polite and accomodating. refilled our tea and water plenty of times and brought chili sauce when i asked for it.
an added treat after stuffing our faces on such a hot day was strolling over to saint anna bakery next door for lychee ices with tapioca pearls.
thanks everyone for all of your advice! my eating tour of chicago is now complete.