Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kim Son - Dim Sum - Houston

As long as I can remember, a trip to Houston meant dim sum. This trip was no exception as we made our way to Kim Son on Bellaire Blvd. The first thing you notice about Kim Son is its size.

It looks big in this picture but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The building for Kim Son is nearly a block long and includes a grand buffet section, a ballroom, and a dim sum room. You make your way up the stairs and to the left towards the dim sum section.

Due to its sheer size, I’ve never had to wait at Kim Son and this time was no exception. We were quickly seated in the dim sum room, which really does look like a Holiday Inn ballroom, complete with bland carpet and walls.

To give the place a more Chinese look to it, there are the obligatory dragon and phoenix statues and a giant projector showing Chinese television.



The banality of the décor is of little concern; we came here for the food. As soon as we were seated, our drink orders were taken and the first cart came our way.



Zha hi keem, or stuffed crab claws were our first dish of the meal. This is a simple little dish made by wrapping a crab claw with minced shrimp and then frying it. This version was a little on the greasy side, but find me one that isn’t.



I still can’t find the name for this dish, but it’s nothing more than tofu topped with minced shrimp and fried to a crisp. This is a great mixture of textures, with the softness of the tofu being shielded by the crisp exterior.



Zha ha gao or crispy shrimp ball keeps up the fried seafood trend of this dim sum. You can see how the oil of the wanton strips glistens under the flash, a definite sign that this is health food. Regardless of the health benefits, zha ha gao are always a crowd pleaser, though they are messy. You can tell when someone has ordered this shrimp balls because there are wonton strips everywhere.



Why stop eating fried food when you can have this? These are fried seafood dumplings or sa lad hoisin guen, although I believe this particular dumplings are just shrimp. These dumplings feature a slightly thick wrapper, making sure that you have a audible crunch on your way to the juicy, delicious shrimp inside.




The gold standard of dim sum, the infamous har gao, (or ha gao, or ar gau,har kau, har gao, ha gao, ha gow, ha gau, har gaw, ha gaw, har kaw, ha gaau, har cow, or har gaau) A little ridiculous isn’t it? Nevertheless, these inconspicuous little dumplings are my litmus test for a dim sum experience. These examples were full of plump shrimp, and very little bamboo shoot, a definite plus. Unfortunately, these har gao were too doughy, and weren’t translucent enough to let the delicate pink of the shrimp shine through.



Another dim sum standard, steamed siu mai; these fine examples were entirely shrimp, and had a slightly sweet flavor.



Even though we were gorging on an assortment of fried dishes, I always like to throw in a little greenery. Gai lan or Chinese broccoli is boiled and then served drizzled with oyster sauce. To me, Chinese broccoli has a much more pronounced flavor than traditional broccoli, and is something I look forward to at a Chinese restaurant. Even if these were served without the oyster sauce, they’re better than those annoying little florets will ever be.



We never come back from Houston without a couple of Chinese ducks. I guess we started early by getting an order of siu ngap. This example didn’t have the crispy skin that so many people associate with Chinese (Peking) duck, but you really can’t find a juicier fowl.



Really nothing more than a bowl of greasy rice noodles, I’m not sure why we ordered this.



My uncle loves to order chicken feet, or fung jao. I usually refrain, but I decided to join in this time. These chicken feet are fried and then steamed, usually in a black bean sauce. This particular order of fung jao was sweet and a little spicy from the jalapenos. I can see how people enjoy them, but I think they’re a little too much work.



Our last dish was a real treat. These pai guat ( pork spareribs) were fresh from the steamer, and were bursting with the flavor of black beans and peppers. I love these ribs if only for the entertainment value. You can’t beat watching a first timer try to manage these little ribs with chopsticks.



Even though I always enjoy our trips to Kim Son, it tries too hard to be all things to all men. Simultaneously operating a dim sum ballroom and a 150+ item buffet really does show in the flavor. Some dishes are just lacking, and they try to replace the missing flavor with sheer quantity. If Houston were a one horse town, Kim Son would be king, but with the number of dim sum restaurants available, it will always be playing for quantity over quality.



For Kim Son - Dim Sum - part 2, please click here

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