Those who know and love this place - both in its' previous incarnation and its' renewed one - already know about the buns. This post is not about the buns (although I did have what was arguably the best coconut ever this past weekend - right out of the oven, chewy with a gooey filling). The new MLW happens to have what I consider to be the most underrated, and certainly the cheapest, dim sum in the city.
Here's a list of items we've enjoyed during recent visits:
- Congee: Much better than average here. The consistency, not too thick, not too watery, and flavoring is just right here. For a while, we were hooked on the Gingko and Scallion congee, but, in our past few visits, we've been getting the Calimari congee, which contains generous portions of seafood chunks, some of which my wife suspects as being pork. No matter. This stuff more than hits the spot.
- Ha Gaau (shrimp dumplings): Currently my favorite in the city, and, judging from their presence on every table, a popular item here. The skins are the right balance between thin and firm, and the shrimp are juicy and fresh-tasting, far better than what we've had at most dim sum places. We now get this every time, and sometimes order a second steamer's worth.
- Bitter melon and beef rice roll: Wrapped in a thick sheet of what looks like mee fun, this is a nice combination. The bitter melon doesn't dominate, but compliments, which is nice. This dish is surprisingly un-greasy.
- "Spare rib roll": In quotes because, unlike the item mentioned above, this dish is not really a roll so much as it is pork chunks piled on top of glutenous mini-rolls. It's a meal unto itself, very hefty and - no surprise here - greasy.
- The "Big Combination bun" . Or what I used to call the "Chinese Big Mac". Yeah, I know, I said I wasn't going to talk about the buns. Sue me. The big bun, clocking in about $1.60 now, along with the coconut bun and coffee, was always a mainstay item for me at the old place. A big, stuffed greasy pleasure. I have to say, it's much better now. Better ingredients, including mushrooms in there now amidst the usual suspects: chicken, beef, egg, pork. The thing is, dare I say it, downright healthy these days.
- Cold herbal tea: Wish I knew exactly what this was. I just asked the waitress for a chilled tea, and she brought me this amazing and refreshing concoction, with beautiful, earthy, flower-like
bits shimmering at the bottom.
- The above-mentioned DEEP FRIED BANANA: We saw this at other tables, gawked inpolitely, and correctly pegged it off the menu. Now, I'll just take a guess here and say that this isn't one of your, say, traditional dim sum items - it's more along the lines of Elvis meets Hong Kong. The banana is encased, first in a thin layer of breading, and then a thin, crispy shell of batter, and retains all its' banana goodness while becoming ever-so-slightly mushy. It's served with a tiny smattering of thick peanut butter sauce, which is okay but not really needed. Outstanding. I haven't had as satisfying a fried dessert as this since A Salt and Battery's Mars bars, and this, in my book, is better.
If y'all go for nothing else, partake of the deep-fried banana.
We've run our course of dim sum lately, especially the cart places. Although Mei Li Wah's offerings might not be world class, they're made to order and damned good. Cheap as well. We've ordered all this stuff, coffees and buns and paid just over twenty for the lot. For those who, like us, went in year's past and had the perfunctory dumpling or two here, there's no comparison; the non-bun items here have improved 100 percent.
As much as I loved the old Mei Lei Wah, I've found the food at the new Mei Li Wah to be much improved, or, thankfully, in the case of the buns, just as good as ever. Give the deep-fried banana a shot, and let me know what you think. I'll be sitting in the last booth at the back - the guy with big, fake sideburns, glittery vegas suit, guitar, and a Chinese newspaper.