Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dim Sum at Emperor's Palace, the Sequel

Last weekend included two visits to Cleveland's new Emperor's Palace, on Rockwell between 21st and 24th Streets, which was the subject of my September 29 blog post. Since we tried several additional items each trip, an update on this brand-new Cleveland Asiatown contender seemed in order.

On Saturday, our table of 8 stuck to dim sum items. We left fully sated after spending about $15 a person. Seated in the main dining room this time, we were able to pick more proactively from the three dim sum carts, though as we learned on Sunday, they don't always bring them around the room. Still, several Asian customers didn't hesitate to make like they were in Guangzhou by marching up to the carts and examining the wares directly.

Sticky Rice and Preserved Meat Buns

The name "bun" is a little misleading here, because the wrapper is more dumpling-like than bun-like. Semantics aside, this was a tasty dumpling, offering exactly what the rest of the title described. 

These amazing cookies contain chunks of pork to accompany the peanut and sweet flavors. I'm not sure if these were the "shrimp and meat" or just "cookies" described on the menu; I don't recall a shrimpy flavor, but regardless, these were delicious! Like Nestle Toll House "meats" Michael Symon!

Roast Pork Pastry
We enjoyed this item at both visits. Flaky pastry, BBQ pork - what's not to like?

Chicken Feet
Chicken feet found the table on both days. These were much better than the last ones I sampled, at Cleveland's Li Wah. I found these a little bland, but very well prepared. 

Spare ribs w. black bean sauce

Also enjoyed two days in a row - the first day, they seemed a tad undercooked; on Sunday they were perfect, though again, the black bean sauce was unassertive.

Stuffed Tofu Skin Rolls w/Oyster Sauce

This is one of my favorite dim sum items, and Emperor's Palace does it very well. Tofu sheet is wrapped around pork and shrimp, then bathed in oyster-sauce and steamed to deliciousness. 

Egg Custard Tart (Dan Tac)
This version of Dan Tac can stand up to the best available in Cleveland (Koko Bakery). Still warm from the oven, both of the tarts I tasted featured creamy custard and tender pastry. The freshness of all of the ingredients really shined through.

Fried Crueller Wrapped in Rice Noodle
This item came to the table a little cold, then sat a few more moments as we waited for the server to squirt the soy-based topping over it. While it might have been better served hot from the prep table (one of our tablemates had enjoyed it at a previous visit and liked it very much that time), it was one of the few items that didn't wow our table on Saturday. The crueller was a little soggy and the noodle, once cold, had nothing to really recommend it.

Soup Dumplings or "Juicy Buns" or Xiao Long Bao
Emperor's Palace had been out of these the prior week, but we got to try them both days last weekend. Saturday's version had more soup in them than Sunday's; on Sunday, Bob noticed holes in the bottom of his dumpling matching the metal bottom of the service container. I loved the huge porky taste of these buns, but wanted more liquid in them; Sunday's dining companions commented that the dough was a bit thick for a Xiao Long Bao, and they were right (I simply have no objection to toothy noodles in any form). So, while these dumplings may still be a work in progress, I will happily slurp them!

On Sunday's excursion, we joined up with almost 20 friends (over two tables), which meant more mayhem and fewer photos. 

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings
At least, I think that's what these were. The dough was more "bun" like than "dumpling" like, but the flavors and textures were executed well. We liked them.

This close-up of a piece of pork sparerib shows that the individual pieces were more assertively coated with a batter on Sunday; probably rice flour. 

We also explored a little more of the non-dim sum menu on Sunday, such as this plate of Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) w/Oyster Sauce. Our per person check worked out a little higher than the previous day, at $20, but that included menu items also, and some dispensation for the littler members of our party. 

This was good to the last drop! The long pieces of vegetable were cut in half, making them much easier to handle. The gai lan was fresh, hot, crispy and provided that oh-so-needed-with-dim-sum fiber.

Fried Noodles with Seafood
Like the Spicy Fish Noodles we'd eaten on our first visit, these noodles were deftly prepared. However, this dish unfortunately pointed out the one complaint I have with Emperor's Palace (though its certainly not unique to them), which is the quality of the seafood. I did not taste any shrimp from this dish, but the scallop half I ate was downright soapy, and at least some of the calamari, which no one ate, stiff as a board. The vegetables and white sauce were fine, and Bob said the piece of fish he tasted was as wonderful as the fish we'd sampled before. But on Saturday, several tablemates had noticed some tripolyphosphate-tasting shrimp (particularly in the shrimp spring rolls, which I didn't sample); I had noticed that my first visit to EP, in the Shu Mai, and yes, a modest detraction in the otherwise delicious stuffed tofu skin. So be forewarned - while the fin fish is fabulous, your mileage may vary with the shellfish offerings.

"Veggie General Tso's Chicken"

This plate was ordered at the other table, but not well-consumed, so it came over to us. As General Tso's Chicken, it was kind of meh. However, as a tofu-veggie fritter held together with egg and cornstarch and fried - it was actually pretty tasty, with a smoky flavor that some of us thought was ham (it was the tofu, according to the waitress). The small diced vegetables in the dumpling retained their crunch - even the zucchini, which is often waterlogged before it even starts. 

So there you have it - another two visits to Emperor's Palace for dim sum and more. We felt that they did a very good job, though there are still some kinks to be worked out. We had fun playing with both dim sum and menu items in our three trips, and anticipate that we'll be back for more! 

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