Two parts to this post: a brief whine, then a bunch of questions on freshness and dim sum dining tactics.
I went to Empress Pavilion last Saturday morning for dim sum. Arrived at about 10:30, before the crowds, and was seated promptly. I was confident that I'd be able to get fresh dim sum...
I'll spare you the details of each disappointing dish, but the stuff I ate tasted as though it'd been sitting around for a while...a loooooong while, but it was only 10:30!? For example, the pork and shrimp dumplings in translucent rice flour skin were so tough and leaden, they could've been used to take out a hardened bunker; not a sensation I'm looking for in a dumpling. Most other items were soggy and falling apart.
Moreover, it seemed like the quality had slipped. The shrimp dumplings (and one or two other items), usually my fave at EP, tasted like they'd used smaller, lower-quality shrimp rather than the chunks of big, flavorful shrimp they usually do.
Freshness Questions: Is EP going downhill? Are they cutting back on quality 'cause of tough times (SARS scare)? Why did the dim sum seem old and soggy so early in the day? Were they using day-old stuff and dumpling it on the early birds? Or do they stock up early in the morning and slowly work through the "buffer" inventory as the morning progresses? Any ideas?
Dim Sum Dining Tactics: Okay, what are some methods that people have used to get fresher dim sum, or just make the dim sum experience better? Like, getting the table next to the kitchen, chasing down carts rather than waiting, going at a certain time for optimal selection and freshness, and so on. I've read a few on the board, like standing on the inside wall to get the hostess to seat you earlier. Anything else?