Nom Wah Tea Parlor Review: Nom Wah Tea Parlor has some good dim sum
Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown is the restaurant version of the retro basketball jersey. If you’re not familiar with retro jerseys, they’re basically wearable antique road shows for sports fanatics. Essentially it’s out-of-style basketball fashion that’s back in style because being old is chic again. I used to walk by Nom Wah Tea Parlor for one reason and one reason only, to go visit Excellent Pork Chop House. There would be older folks playing mahjong in there and stuff. I never ever even felt an inkling to visit the place because it looked dingy back then, and I had never really seen anyone eat there when I used to live in Chinatown. But then the NYTimes showed up and said they got revamped and there’s new food in there. This old place had become cool again! Steph and I decided to go check it out.
One thing they didn’t change much in the new place is the decor. They added a website, redid the menu, and somehow attracted a whole new crowd to the oldest dim sum parlor in NY. Sure, there are bigger dim sum places in New York. But they’re not the oldest and they don’t have the charm of Nom Wah Tea Parlor! Another thing that Nom Wah has going for it is that the food is not pushed around on carts, so the food is always warm and fresh when it arrives to your table. We started off with a steamed pork bun. Char siu bao ($1.25), which, on the menu, is described as, a ‘Steamed wheat flour bun filled with pork and caramelized onions.’ This was a miss. I don’t know why some restaurants make char siu baos one way, and some restaurants make them another way. Check out the opening pictures of this post on Royal Seafood. See how the bun there kinda shows you a peak of of innards? That’s a tasty pork tease. It’s more Adele than Lady Gaga, but I still don’t get the point of doing up a bun like Amy Grant. Show me something! I say like this, but the different looking buns also taste different, so it’s not all looks.
There are some good stuff at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, but I gotta run through the things to skip first. The scallion pancakes ($3.50) are passable but probably not a thing to get here unless you’re stomach makes demands that your brain can’t deny. They’re crispy enough, although not full of layers and could help from a more salt right when it came off of the frying pan.
The spring rolls ($3.50) were touted as gluten. It’s the horned rimmed glasses of the Chinese food world. The version at Nom Wah Tea Parlor is devastatingly crispy on the outside, however the innards remain just as average as any other spring roll you might have elsewhere in Chinatown. While adequate, it’s also something I would pass on unless you’re just really really craving spring rolls. Now let’s get to the good stuff! And there’s lots of good stuff…
The turnip cake or lou bo gao ($3.50) is one of the better items at Nom Wah. Here’s where the strength of a freshly made turnip cake will trump turnip cake that might get pushed around a cart. Even at a place like Jing Fong, where it’s made in front of you, they lack the execution compared to Nom Wah. What you want with good turnip cake is crispy edges. The all time best I’ve had in NY still belongs to Chinatown Brasserie, however the ones at Nom Wah can probably beat out most places in Chinatown.
The har gow or Xiā jiǎo ($3.50) as also a winner. The shrimp didn’t taste tired the way it can sometimes when you get it from a push cart. I wanted to steal one of Steph’s pieces by convincing her that we had all this food and that I was just trying to help. It didn’t work.
The shumai at Nom Wah comes in two varieties, shrimp and pork; both are $3.50. Just being able to have a choice is a plus in my book, because at most dim sum restaurants in NYC, they really only feature one kind. Just like the har gow, the shrimp shined through, and I have to guess that the shrimp version beats the pork version just because shrimp comes from the sea and pigs are pigs. The end.
The sticky rice with chicken wrapped in bamboo leaf ($4.95) is a must get item. The first reason I like this is because sticky rice is pretty awesome. The second reason is that they give you two of these things per order, and one is enough to fill up an averaged sized human being. Being that my stomach is about three times the size of a normal human, I was able to consume just half of it because I pussied out after eaten the rest of the other stuff.
What’s bad about Nom Wah is that you might have to wait for your food since they steam/fry them to order. However, that’s also what’s good about it because the food is not as old as some other dim sum places with push carts. Yes, the experience is different without a pushcart, I ain’t gonna lie. But the ambiance at Nom Wah more than makes up for that. Plus you don’t have ladies trying to push stale food on you if you go later in the day, which happens a lot at bigger dim sum places. Overall, definitely give Nom Wah Tea Parlor a chance.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor13 Doyer Street.New York, NY 10013212-962-6047