Dim Sum At Oriental Pearl

How do I love dim sum? Let me count the ways: I love the depth and breadth and speed of it. I love the excitement and hustle and low cost of it. But most of all, of course, when it is done well, I love the taste of it.

The myriad varieties of these heart-warming little Chinese morsels (dim sum means “touch the heart”) range from steamed, fried, roasted and boiled, from savory meats, seafood and vegetables to toothache-sweet desserts. Many are encased in translucent layers of steamed rice or egg pasta. It’s made for impatient gluttons like me: Forget the niceties of perusing a menu, and waiting patiently for your food. If your timing is right, you can slide into a seat and put a delectable tidbit into your mouth before you’ve shed your jacket.

Good dim sum requires a critical mass of energy and people: You need a big roomful of hungry folk, preferably with lots of families and kids, to get the best variety of goodies. And you definitely want it from little steam wagons pushed around the restaurant (rather than from a menu checklist), so servers can lift the lids and let you inspect before you decide to take a plate. (You’ll be charged by the plate, with cost according to size and content.)

Atlanta’s Oriental Pearl certainly fits the bill – its large dining room at noon on Sunday (dim sum is typically served from 11 am-3 pm) is a fascinating, calamitous mix of Asian families, college kids, local chefs, big-screen TVs, decorative dragons and billowing clouds of fragrant steam from the pushcarts’ treasures.

Dim sum is a proud specialty here, and you’ll find all the standards – scrumptious shu mai, with gently steamed, chopped shrimp and scallion in a neatly wrapped egg pasta “skin”; “treasure rice” – lotus-leaf wrapped packages of rice, pork, egg and other goodies; fluffy steamed pork buns, with a moist barbecue center; beef in rice pasta, doused with a soy-vinegar sauce.

But Oriental Pearl also has the stuff you won’t always find elsewhere – platters of rapini in brown sauce; gelatinous, addictive radish cakes; fist-sized fried shrimp balls, clinging to sugar-cane sticks, which you chew after finishing the shrimp.

On a recent visit, we tried all this and more, including tiny, crisp-fried baby squid, which we ate like potato chips, and delectable steamed clams in black bean sauce. Around us, we watched as one Asian family chose crabs from the brimming tanks, and the toddlers happily ate chicken feet. (One dish I’ve never been brave enough to try.)

My only disappointment: No platters of sliced roast pork, or steamed ribs with black bean sauce, came through during our visit.

With hot tea, and even one beer (the excellent Chinese brand, Tsing Tao), our total came to less than $40. It was an incredible feast of the eyes, ears, stomach. And heart.

Oriental Pearl

5399 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee


Credit Cards: All major.

Parking: In attached lot (although it can be chaotic or completely filled on crowded weekends).

Dress code: Casual.

Categories: Art of the Meal