• Local site (review)
  • Location: Downtown/Chinatown (Pearl)
  • Price to fill up two people for dinner: About $30

The signs outside (and in) said “Best dim sum in Portland.” The waitress, however, seemed puzzled. “You want dim sum?”

Yes, we said firmly. Dim sum.

She shook her head, went back to the kitchen (which, for some reason, was loaded with boxes of Smart Start cereal), and came back pushing a metal cart filled with little metal cans.

“Here’s the dim sum,” she shrugged, “You pick what you want. Ten minutes to cook it.” We smiled yes at some cans, no at others, asked her to add an order of Chinese broccoli, steamed, and she pushed off to the back to cook it. As she did, an older gentleman in t-shirt and apron popped out, hands on hips, looked at us, and shook his head sadly.

I got the feeling we were committing the dim sum gaffe of the century but had no idea why.

I’ve eaten a fair amount of dim sum back east and in the Bay area. I like it–I have no idea what I’m eating, and it’s a tossup whether the next bit will lead to rapture or retching. That’s what makes it an adventure.

Wong Kee’s, however, was bucking for the most unusual dim sum experience to date. The restaurant is behind the gorgeous-big Chinese arch on Burnside and 4th, around the corner from the 24-hour Church of Elvis and a couple of rave joints. The neighborhood is loaded with the bewildered homeless, spiky haired leatherettes, cops on horseback and, as one of my favorite authors would say, ladies of negotiable affection, so after dinner Robyn and I indulged in an hour or so of well-rewarded people-watching.

Inside the restaurant, though, all was quiet. Too quiet. After the people at the other table left, we had the place to ourselves. But it did indeed take ten minutes for our food to arrive. For the most part it was as tasty as reheated dim sum will ever get. There were the usual UMPs (Unidentified Meat Products), some shrimp cup thingees that were quite good, and the broccoli was al dente, just the way I like it.

We ate up, with the restaurant staff watching us closely. Nice people, even if they obviously thought the two females in their restaurant belonged outside with the mentally vacant.

All in all, the food wasn’t bad, but I can’t say we were all that impressed. At least that’s what I said today in the office, where some of my colleagues are following these restaurant forays.

“But I thought,” said one, “that Wong Kee’s only served dim sum at lunch? I didn’t even know they were open for dinner.”

A light slowly began to dawn.

“Well, most of my Chinese friends,” said another, “eat dim sum for breakfast or lunch. I don’t think it’s normally served at dinner, is it?”

Hmmmm. Now that I think of it, it’s possible that most of the dim sum I’ve eaten has been for, er, lunch…

Oh well. At some point we’ll head over there for lunch, and see if it makes a difference. Assuming they let the crazy women back in. 😉