It’s not just something you eat with your grandparents anymore. Today’s dim sum is likely to be served to you by a fast train, at a modern lounge with a DJ, and in irresistible Instagrammable shapes. Here’s where to get your fix anytime, anywhere, in Singapore.
Modern Style Dim Sum
Dim sum no longer looks the way it did in Hong Kong movies from the 1980s. And Mod- Chinese restaurants are sleeker and sexier following the likes of Hakkasan in London. Check out Mitzo (Level 4 Grand Park Orchard, 270 Orchard Road. Tel: 6603 8855), which breaks the mould of what Chinese restaurants look like with its mirrored surfaces, mixology bar and lounge vibes. The menu stays close to the familiarity of Cantonese cuisine, while bringing luxe ingredients to the fore. It’s all about presentation in the steamed dim sum platter ($28), comprising baby abalone with shrimp and pork dumpling; chicken and shrimp dumpling; and royal shrimp dumpling.
VLV (#01-02, 3A Merchant’s Court, River Valley Road. Tel: 6661 0197) takes on a large heritage mansion and turns it into a glossy lifestyle venue—read: restaurant, bar, club and lounge. The cuisine under former Lei Garden chef Martin Foo is fine but not experimental, and includes Kurobuta siew mai, Kurobuta pork bun and Canton roast duck. These are available on the a la carte menu, or in the highly recommended all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch ($58). With a DJ spinning house tunes then, the restaurant serves up nine live stations and over 40 menu items, which have been chosen to pair with free- flow of Bauget Jouette Champagne (additional $40 per person).
Tip: Dinner can be a pricey affair, so go for the weekday lunch sets for best value. You’ll also catch some natural light, which make it easier to take good pics!
Friends will groan as the morsels on your table grow cold and soggy, but you could argue that these creations were made for Instagram fame. Here’s where some of the most creative dim sum can be found.
Tip: Order two of each dish so your friends can tuck in first and you can snap photos to your heart’s content.
What: Miniature panda with red bean paste ($3/piece, minimum 3 pieces), Created by master dim sum chef Peng Yi Chun in 2012 to celebrate the arrival of Jia Jia and Kai Kai pandas in Singapore.
Where: Three days’ notice required. Si Chuan Dou Hua, PARKROYAL on Beach Road, 7500 Beach Road. Tel: 6505 5722
What: Signature dim sum platter ($10.80), comprising prawn and carrot dumpling with black truffle, assorted mushroom dumpling, osmanthus dumpling with prawn and celery and water chestnut dumpling with olive and parsley.
Where: A la carte menu, Crystal Jade Prestige, #02-01 Ground Plaza, Marina Bay Financial Centre, 8A Marina Boulevard. Tel: 6509 9493
What: Hong Kong style baked pork belly bun with taro ($2).
Where: A la carte menu and Nostalgic Dim Sum Buffet at Si Chuan Dou Hua, PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road, 181 Kitchener Road. Tel: 6428 3170
WHAT: Golden Phoenix ($6.90/3 pieces), a crisp deep-fried glutinous pastry containing Japanese curry chicken.
WHERE: Lunch only at East Ocean Teochew Restaurant, #05-08/09 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road. Tel: 6235 9088
What: Goldfish dumplings ($$6/3 pieces), specially created for the kids, with fish meat and egg white filling.
Where: Peach Garden @ Orchid Country Club, #02-35 Social Club House, 1 Orchid Club Road. Tel: 6759 3833
What: Baby Snail ($6.90/3 pieces), a combination shortcrust and puff pastry pineapple confection.
Where: Lunch only at East Ocean Teochew Restaurant, #05-08/09 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road. Tel: 6235 9088
What: Mini piglet BBQ buns ($6/3 pieces) with savoury char siew and onion filling.
Where: At both outlets of TungLok Teahouse, #01-73 Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive. Tel: 6893 1123
Your folks probably grew up with the old school dim sum trolleys at Red Star (#07-2354, Block 54 Chin Swee Road. Tel: 6532 5266) and Swatow (#02-602, Block 81 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh. Tel: 6363 1717), complete with gruff matrons pushing their wares.
But there’s a new shinkansen in town, and it’s at TungLok Teahouse (#01-73 Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive. Tel: 6893 1123). The dual- delivery delivery track serves up orders via trays holding up to 10kg of dim sum, roast meats, soups and noodles—right to your table. Using the iPad installed at the table, load up your ‘train’ on the menu screen with up to four dishes, which will then be despatched speedily to your tableside. Xiao long bao ($5.30), signature Teahouse rice rolls ($7.80) and har gow ($5.30) are reliable and still warm on arrival. It’s fun and easy enough, though real waiters are still needed to clear the plates once you’re done.
For the club kids
Tip: At night, harsh florescent lighting can throw off your pics. use an auto white light balance or incandescent setting on your phone/camera if possible.
Since 1985, 126 Eating House (126 Sims Avenue. Tel: 6746 4757) has been dishing out its Hong Kong style dian xin to breakfast and supper hunters alike. It’s open 24 hours (occasional Tuesday off), and has since spawned a Serangoon outlet with shorter hours (till 2am). Over the years, the somewhat dingy and no frills restaurant has added some cooked dishes as well, but the endearingly handwritten menu is still a thick tome of mainly dim sum items with helpful pictures. There’s lightly curried xiao long bao ($4) alongside the usual soupy version— both with extreme thin skins prone to leaks. Scallop siew mai ($6) and signature bean curd with mango salad ($6) are comfort food gone upmarket, but the real winners here are the hearty porridge, from century and minced pork ($3) to topshell ($6). It does live up to its informal name, derived from 126—wan dou sek, or found something to eat, so expect a constant queue.
Also open 24 hours is Mongkok Dim Sum (214 Geylang Road). Just 3 blocks away from 126 Eating House, it serves up a more economical range of dim sum in a bright yellow, clean and airy kopitiam, with a lady out front making fresh cheong fun rolls (a feature that’s repeated at its East Coast restaurant). A picture menu and order form makes for easy ordering of steamed rice rolls ($4 with fritters), house special prawn dumpling ($4.20) and signature pork dumpling ($4.20). The siew mai is stuffed so generously that it can’t stand up, and the har gow is similarly endowed.
Although it also cooks up noodles and tze char style dishes, Tang Tea House (357/359 Bedok Road. Tel: 6445 9100) offers 40 varieties of dim sum items from baos to dumplings to steamed and fried dishes. As this is a halal-certified establishment, chicken is used in place of pork. When in doubt, go for the flluffy favourite BBQ chicken pau ($3.80/3 pieces), pan-fried carrot cake ($3) and Golden Sand Bun ($4.80/3 pieces). Opening hours: Sun-Thu 11am-2am, Fri-Sat & PH 11am-3am
A name that needs no introduction, Tim Ho Wan opened its fifth outlet at Kallang (#01-01/02/03 Aperia, 12 Kallang Avenue. Tel: 6684 2000) to serve up its much-hyped dim sum. It’s still a reliable spot to munch on signature pan-fried carrot cake and the supper specials of congee, such as the Hong Kong styled boat congee. Opening hours: daily 9am-3am
A favourite of late-night dim sum diners is Swee Choon Tim- Sum Restaurant (183-191 Jalan Besar. Tel: 6225 7788) that specialises in both Shanghai and Hong Kong-style dim sum as well as cooked dishes. Diners often spill out of its airconditioned shophouse premises onto its atmospheric, gritty back alley. Signatures include Shanghai xiao long bao, Sichuan oil chilli wanton, Shanghai pork chop la mian, while other more unique offerings include mee suah kueh, a deep-fried savory cake made of thin wheat noodles, and layer pancake with egg and meat floss. Opening hours: Mon, Wed-Sat 11-2.30pm, 6pm-6am; Sun and PH 10am-3pm. 6pm-6am