Alibi V.28 No.22 • May 30-June 5, 2019 

Restaurant Review

You Dim Sum, You Lose Sum

It Dim Sum is your new favorite snack stop

dim sum
Have you ever seen something look this perfect in your life?
Dan Pennington

With Burger Week behind us, it’s time to move on to something lighter and more fun. That’s why I was so excited to go check out It Dim Sum, located up at 7900 Carmel Ave. NE. Dim sum is something that most people tend to be familiar with, but in case you’re one of the ones who missed out, here’s the rundown.

Traditionally, dim sum (Chinese for “heart’s delight”) are small meals, typically dumplings, rolls or buns of some kind, made to be bite-sized and snackable. In some capacity, you’ve probably had some form of dim sum if you’ve ever eaten spring rolls or chicken dumplings at a Chinese restaurant. Technically, fried squid is considered a dim sum meal, so while not 100 percent correct, fried calamari is similar to a dim sum style dish.

All this is to say that the idea of a restaurant built around Chinese comfort foods was right up my alley. After a weeklong run at eating essentially nothing but gigantic burgers, I was ready for something that wasn’t going to weigh me down and leave me sluggish. With It Dim Sum recommended highly by a few folks in the office, I was ready and set to go.

When I walked in, the first thing to catch my eye was how modern the entire place is. A clean aesthetic was built into the room, with dark wood reaching up halfway to the ceiling, matching the tables and dish sets across the room. For all the dark pieces that work together, the interior is balanced out with lightness, in soft colors above the wood and gentle but bright bulbs that hang above every table. The whole room emanates a sense of calm and serenity.

Ordering is simple. You’re given a laminate menu with pictures, names and prices along with a dry erase marker, and the rest is self-explanatory. You’ve got four sections to choose from for dim sum offerings, (they offer full meals of soup, fried rice and other options, but we focused on the dim sum offerings for this review) featuring small, medium, large and extra-large options. The trick here is variety, opting to try a wide range of things rather than a small, focused area. What I mean is, usually, when you’re out with friends, you all order your own main entrée plus an appetizer to share. The goal here is very different, where you should plan on no main entrées and ordering a ton of appetizers to share. Can you order a whole side of steamed pork dumplings for yourself? Absolutely but the goal here is food as a community. Splitting 7 or 8 dishes between 3 or 4 people infuses a sense of gathering and camaraderie to the meal, which may be the “heart” part of dim sum’s meaning.

So how is everything? Nothing short of extraordinary. Not only is it super-cheap (I did 4 orders for $20) but it is also gorgeous. I don’t typically recommend places based on the ability to Instagram it, but you can take some incredibly cool pictures of the food here, because it is all presented beautifully. On top of that, you have an immense variety to choose from, including a pretty big swathe of vegetarian offerings ranging from sweet to savory.

For example, the red bean sesame ball ($3.50) was 3 bite-sized doughy dumplings rolled in sesame seeds and filled with a steamed red bean paste. I had never tried red bean paste, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was super surprised to find out it was sweet and creamy. The dough was perfectly cooked with just enough strength to it to feel solid but with the right give when you bite into it to reveal the delicious red bean. Steam rises up from opening, and you get a look inside that shows you the amount of consideration that goes into making this dish look and taste great.

The potstickers ($5.95) were a no-brainer. Traditional and iconic, these steamed dumplings filled with pork are a must-have. These were chock full of flavor and filled with what I suspect was chives to give extra heft to the pork and elevate the taste. I powered down half the plate before I even realized it, because they were so wonderful.

I tried the squid with salt and pepper ($5.95), which looked just like calamari. In some ways it is, and in other ways, it’s far from it. Yes, it is a lightly seasoned fried squid with breading, so in that sense, it is similar. But the breading used here is much thicker, crispier and helps to add a little something that tends to be missing from calamari. Whereas calamari relies on the squid to be the dish itself, this dish finds a balance between squid and breading to make it exceed expectations of fried squid.

Finally, there was the baked BBQ pork bun ($4.15). Anyone who has watched a Studio Ghibli film will recognize these in some capacity, their glistening tops and warm smell lines rising, enticing you to lean closer and let the aroma overcome you. The bun itself was sweet and gooey and practically melted on your tongue, while the pork inside was warm with a hint of fire to it but mostly just jam-packed full of flavor with a great consistency. Had I not promised to bring some back for the office, I would have eaten all three straight-up at the table.

It Dim Sum wants to provide a setting for friends and family to congregate and eat together. This isn’t selfish eatin—your own entrée that you hoard like Smaug within a mountain—but a collective meal, much like dwarves sitting together and telling stories and stealing from each other’s plates. It Dim Sum brings community to the meal, with an immense variety of choices and the opportunity to discover new things with every bite.

It Dim Sum

7900 Carmel Ave. NE, Ste. F
856-3328
Hours: Mon, Tue, Thu: 11am to 9pm, Fri-Sun 10:30am-9pm, Closed Wed
Alibi recommends: Baked BBQ pork bun, red bean sesame ball
Vibe: Modern look with traditional dishes, meant to be enjoyed communally