I had an unexpectedly free morning this weekend and naturally my thoughts turned to breakfast. Drove by Soundbites but the crowd was already lined up 20-strong and it was COLD outside so that was out of the question. Remembered Striperguy's recommendations about the weekend dim sum at Shangri la and decided to head over to check it out.
My friend and I arrived at 11 and were sad to see they don't open until 11:30 but we just wandered up Belmont Ave to the donut shop for a cup of coffee. By the time we wandered back, there was a line of folks waiting. The first promising sign was the line was almost all Asian families looking excited to get inside.
The second promising sign was the precision with which this staff runs this tiny little place. A party of 20 showed up for some kind of birthday party and they were quickly sequestered in one end of the restaurant. By 11:35 every table had a menu, tea, water, and orders were being taken. Despite the fact it was chock full o people, I didn't have that anxious feeling like we were going to be vying for attention or passed over by the staff. Like a good bartender, each waitress would visually acknowledge your presence and you knew they'd get to you as soon as they could. It was orderly and organized and I was at ease.
On to the food. This is where I wish I was with 5 friends. So much to order, and the dishes being brought to other tables (congee, crullers, noodles) looked so tempting. In the end we got a few special dishes and a dud.
Five spice beef in crispy sesame pancake: the pancake on this was outstanding. A lovely flaky pastry crust for the beefy filling. I wished the filling was better, though, it was just kinda meh. Take the filling from the beef with leek pancake at Mulan and stuff it into this pastry and you would be in heaven.
Xiao Long Bao: a solid rendition of the dish. Soup dumpling aficionados would say the skins are too thick and lacked the desirable sag. But the filling was great, the broth nice and more flavorful than others I've tried around town and I managed to eat mine without spraying hot soup all over my DC, so that's a bonus. I think I slightly favor the XLB at Taiwan Cafe.
Pan fried turnip cake: This was delicious. Little triangles of turnip cake perfectly fried and served with a spicy ketchupy dipping sauce. Kinda like Taiwanese tater tots. What's not to love? I might prefer the turnip cake at Winsor by a hair, but it would be close.
Steamed preserved mustard with pork bun: this was the only dish I regretted. It's a large fluffy doughy bun filled with pork belly and supposedly preserved mustard. But I couldn't really detect the mustard in the mix, and the heaviness of the belly combined with the doughiness of the bun almost put me into a coma. Split it in half and the paper stuck to the bottom. Just not great.
Also had pan fried pork buns: 4 largish pork buns fried on one side and filled with chunky pork filling.
I was feeling celebratory so enjoyed a cold Tsingtao too. We managed to eat all the XLB and the sesame beef sandwiches, and much of the steamed bun. I got to take the turnip cakes and pan fried dumplings home for later, and both reheated nicely. All in all a really pleasant way to start the day. Highly recommend.