New York / February 14, 2010 / dim sum

Winederlust Rating for Ocean Jewels Seafood (details below): 6.5 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes & Golden Unicorn (details below): 6.3 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes

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Jay and I have never been that happy with Manhattan
Chinatown dim sum. In our experience, it tends to be greasy, heavy on the fried
items and not as fresh tasting as meals we’ve had in San Francisco, Vancouver
and Hong Kong. (Plus I’m not a huge fan of having to sit at tables with
strangers when only the two of us go out.) One exception to the rule is Dim Sum Go Go, and though we love their nice selection of steamed (not fried) dishes,
we miss the fun of being able to point at what we want from the carts rather
than ordering from a boring menu.

On Christmas day, we joined some of our other friends
stuck in the city for their annual dim sum brunch. We ate at Golden Unicorn,
a huge Chinatown restaurant where you take an elevator up to your dining floor
when your number is called. The place was crazy, and we had to track down some
of the carts to get the food we wanted. That said, the pleasure here was much
more in the experience of eating with our friends than with the food, anyway:
We found the dim sum extremely greasy and heavy, with many of the predictable
offerings (dumplings, pork buns, pot stickers). The standouts were probably the
grilled prawns and the corn and shrimp dumplings, still greasy but pretty good.

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We’d heard the dim sum out in Queens (Flushing, to be
specific) was the real deal – served from carts and fresher
– but it always seemed so far away. Since we’ve eaten dim sum to celebrate the
start of Chinese New Year’s for the last few years, we decided to make the long
trek out to Queens this year to give it a try.

After nearly an hour and a half, and having to change
trains, we finally made it to Flushing. Emerging from the train station was
truly like entering a different country. The buildings seemed squat, gray and
dreary, almost like a Moscow suburb. We walked the two long blocks over to Ocean Jewels Seafood Restaurant, a large nondescript building across from the
Flushing Mall (which we visited after our dim sum – a sad little place except
for the cool Chinese food court with all manner of noodles and animal parts.
We’ll need to return someday, maybe with a car next time!).

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The wait for a table was only about 15 minutes, since we
arrived on the late side, around 2:30pm. Though the place was cavernous, we
still had to eat at a table with a family of four since we weren’t successful
in recruiting anyone else to join us this time around. The restaurant was
mainly filled with Chinese families with a smattering of other families and
couples along for the culinary ride.

Right away, the carts started coming fast and furious. First
we chose the pan-fried stuffed hot green pepper, a tasty and not-overly greasy
dish filled with a shrimp mixture.

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Pan-fried stuffed hot green pepper.

Next we had the pan-fried chives cake, stuffed with a yummy
mixture of crispy greens.

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Pan-fried chives cake.

 

One of the best things we tried were the coconut mochi
filled with black sesame. They arrived warm and soft with a delicious gooey
texture.

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Coconut mochi with black sesame.

Everyone seemed to be choosing this next dish, so we
followed suit, figuring it was some sort of steamed rice roll, perhaps stuffed
with shrimp. Little did we realize it was actually stuffed with “twisted
cruller,” basically fried doughnut. We each ate half of one and left the
rest.

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Rice roll with twisted cruller.

 

We’d also thought the baked sweet buns would be filled with
something (perhaps lotus, which I love), but alas, they were empty inside.
Still tasty, though.

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Sweet buns.

One of Jay’s favorite dishes is always the shrimp-stuffed
eggplant. Ocean Jewel’s version was pretty good, but still couldn’t compare to
the version we love on the west coast.

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Shrimp-stuffed eggplant.

The rice roll stuffed with mushrooms was also pretty good
and flavorful. The rice roll was on the thick side, almost like a blintz.

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Rice rolls with mushrooms.

Another favorite was the fish balls, a dish we’d never had
before but very tasty with a soft, moist texture. The shrimp dumplings with
watercress were also very good, the watercress giving a nice crunch. Less
satisfying were the steamed chicken buns – the dough on the bun seemed too
doughy and undercooked. Better was the sticky rice with chicken and shrimp in
lotus leaves (not pictured); in the past, we’d only had the version with plain
old chicken, and the shrimp added some nice flavor.

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(l to r, back row) Steamed chicken buns, shrimp dumplings with watercress, fish balls.

Overall, we enjoyed the food more than any of the dim sum
joints in Manhattan (still excepting Dim Sum Go Go) – it was lighter, fresher
and had more variety – but it still can’t compare to the west coast. One other
positive thing going for Ocean Jewels is that we didn’t recognize a number of
the dishes. That said, we also weren’t brave enough to sample some of them,
which we guessed were things like duck feet and variations on beef tripe. (But
maybe we should have gone for it in preparation for our China trip in May?)

Near the end of the meal, we heard the sound of drums being
played, and people in dragon costumes started dancing around the restaurant –
it was a true New Year’s celebration, a fun way to end our first Queens dim sum
adventure.

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– by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief

Winederlust Rating for Ocean Jewels Details (out of 10):

Food: 5.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Service: 7.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 7.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)

Price Range: $ (So Cheap)

 

Winederlust Rating for Golden Unicorn Details (out of 10):

Food: 5.0 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Service7.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 7.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)

Price Range: $ (So Cheap)

 

Essential Information: 

Ocean Jewels Seafood Restaurant / 133-30 39th Ave., Flushing, New York [map]
Direct Line: (718) 359-8600
Open
daily 10am-12am. No reservations.

Golden Unicorn / 18 East Broadway, New York, New York [map]
Direct Line: (212) 941-0911 / (212) 941-0912
Website: http://www.goldenunicornrestaurant.com/
Dim sum hours: Monday-Friday 10am-3:30pm, Saturday-Sunday 9:30am-4pm. Reservations only for groups.

Dim Sum Go Go / 5 East Broadway, New York, New York [map]

Direct Line: (212) 732-0797
Open daily 10:30am-10pm. No reservations.

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