Prompted by Mike G, I recently re-read my old Mountain View report (getting a taste for my superior proof-reading skills). Then, an ouchy foot kept me from the basketball court, so I decided to use the time normally spent playing ball to eat Moutain View dim sum. Great idea!
I honestly cannot state with absolute certainty that Mountain View is the best dim sum in town. I think I would have to eat at all the major dim sum places in a short period to really compare. Otherwise, I tend to like the dim sum eaten last. Still, Mountain View really seemed better today.
One of the things I have always like about Phoenix, is that plates will come out of the kitchen with dim sum that I have never seen before and things I might never see again. In other words, dim sum at Phoenix is never quite the same. You do not expect such fluctuation with menu places. Yet today's Mountain View offered a selection different from last year. (I say this because I have the old menu.) I do not know if the menu changes seasonally, changes to keep regulars interested or changes to reflect what sells best. The new menu was a lot of fun, and we took the opportunity to try many new things as well as few things we liked before. See the previous review for comments on the house special pancake and seasoned salt flavored tofu.
It was three of us, ordered for six, but paid less than $30 (before tip). Our food came in waves. We started with a turnip cake amuse ordered by Joan whose hunger preceded our arrival. The second phase included jade dumplings, chaozhou steamed dumplings, the tofu and pancake and chive dumpling in broth. The second wave consisted of mostly sweet things including fried rice dough fritters crepe, puffy egg tart and a series of precious dumplings I'll describe in a momemnt.
Like I commented before on Mountain View, each order comes out made to order. Aside from a bit of beak left on a curry baby octopus, I had no complaints with the dim sum preparation. The donut stick in rice crepe looked good on other tables, but they lacked the greasy greatness of those found in the International mall. And, the rice crepe over the donut stick kind of distracted from the enterprise. Nothing wrong with the other dishes. Each plate bursted with the the clean, natural flavor the steaming provides. Two things however, made the dim sum stand out. First, the creations were visually stimulating in a way that other dim sum tends not to be. Second, we ate some unique creations (that also tended to be visually stimulating).
Our first indication that this was not cookie-cutter dim sum was the jade dumpling. I had no idea what the jade dumpling would be, but I am a sucker for ordering dim sum with mysterious names. The shapes of these items were like small hamontashen, with the same kind of triangular peaks. They were colored like spinanch tortellini. They tasted like neither with fish and chives mixture. Chives played a strong role in another winner, the chive dumplings in broth. This was a special price dish, but the special price was still less that $4 for a large bowl of chive dumplings in a thicker yet soft wrapping. If the jade dumplings looked like hamontashen, these dumplings had a wrapping like kreplach. Several buds of baby bok choy added to this dish as did the broth sprinkled with fried garlic chips.
Really what made the place so special and even fun beyond the way that dim sum is "fun" (you know ordering many dishes, tasting different things, eating with your hands, etc.) was the special little creations that came out under the headings peach bun, pumpkin dumpling cake and rabit shaped dumpling. I ordered the pumpkin thing because Ms. VI is a really pumpkin fan. I ordered the other two things out of curiosity, especially the peach bun--I never heard of peaches being used in Chinese cooking.
Both the pumpkin cake and the peach bun arrived looking like their ingredient, the way marzipan looks like ingedients. You know real but not really real. The pumpkin cakes were tiny round pumpkins, complete with ribs and handle, all in authentic orange. Inside was a egg custard with a hint of pumpkin, think thanksgiving dim sum. The peach bun was the standard white rice flour pastry used typically for bbq pork buns. The white pastry resembled just enough a peach the way it was shaped oval, but additional pastry colored grean and turned like a leaf made it work. The inside was bean paste with no peach taste. The bunny dumpling were the most precious. The wrapper for this dumpling was the clear rice wrapper used in the har gow shrimp dumplings. The wrapper was folded just so to appear like rabbit ears, and a little red dot of food coloring "eyes" completed the illusion. The inside was another variation on the bean theme. Ms. VI said they tasted like mooncakes. These were the kind of goodies that would drive gourmets crazy apre dessert at Trotters or Trio.
Again, I am not willing to go out on a limb and say Mountain View is the best dim sum. If there is better dim sum, it will be pretty good dim sum. I cannot imagine any place offering dim sum of this quality for the price. Nearly all our dishes were $1.50. The highest price item was $3.88. As I said above, the entire meal, before tip was like $29.50