Strangely situated in the middle of West Bloomfield, Michigan is one very authentic Chinese restaurant. It’s called Shangri-La and has the endorsement of not one, but two Chinese/Taiwanese people I know that have been there. It also has the endorsement of all the other people that show up on the weekends for their dim sum.
In my mind, no trip to Sin City is worth it without committing the sin of gluttony. There are many outlets for said gluttony, but none better than one of the city’s amazing buffets. And perhaps there is no better buffet than the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace. As an added bonus, for brunch they throw bottomless mimosas on top of their mess of food. And what a beautiful mess of food it is. The place is simply huge, with each station being big enough to house an entire buffet at any lesser establishment.
You know how some restaurants don’t seem to have an identity? You know, like Jack in the Box but in full restaurant form. Well, Sun Penang in Squirrel Hill is one of those restaurants. The only identity it really has is “Asian,” but Asian covers a lot of groups and so does Sun Penang. From Thai to Dim Sum to Malaysian, it is a hard place to choose a meal, but choose I did.
Chinatowns are an interesting phenomenon. And not so much in the fact that a group of people from a country showed up to a new country and settled in one area, but in the way that they no longer really seem to be representative of China. Case in point: while in Vancouver, I knew there was good Chinese to be found, and rather than point me to Chinatown, my hotel pointed me to Richmond, which he called real Chinatown. By real, he meant that the Chinatown on the map was simply no longer authentic, if it ever was. By recommendation, we went to a place called Rainflower to devour dim sum before undertaking the long drive to Jasper.
Anyone who lives in LA knows that Chinatown isn’t really Chinatown. Sure, there are many Chinese people to be found there, but the most authentic Chinese experience is further east in the San Gabriel Valley. Yet, the Torrance and Gardena area is often overlooked when it comes to Asian food, despite the fact that it sports the Toyota and Honda headquarters. And I don’t just mean Japanese food, it also has its fair share of Chinese. One of these is Sea Empress (you must check out their amazing website from 1966), which is all about dim sum.
It seems like going to China without eating dim sum is on par with going to Italy and not eating pasta. But in truth, dim sum is really a specialty of Hong Kong and Guangdong (formerly known as Canton). Fortunately, in this day and age, you can find Cantonese restaurants all over China. In Xi’an, we found a place called Star Ferry near the Bell Tower. The interior of the restaurant was decorated like a boat, and I later found out that it was named for a ferry company operating in Hong Kong.
In the mornings, the room becomes packed with hundreds of Chinese and westerners alike, all clamoring for a taste of the dim sum. Chinese women (whose command of the English language varies from non-existent to mediocre) push carts of plates around with varying dishes. If something on the cart looks good, you stop the lady, point to the food and she sets it on your table. Afterward, she takes out a stamp and presses it somewhere on the card on your table. You look to see where she stamped, but can’t really tell what anything means because it is all written in Chinese. Luckily, I can read some Chinese, and
determined that the stamps go in different sections, meaning small, medium and large. There are more complex symbols, but at least those make some sense to me. Through this mysterious stamping system, they are able to determine how much you owe.