Thursday, July 14, 2005

Restaurant 50: World Tong

Row 1: Tofu Skin Rolls, Shrimp Dumplings, Seaweed Balls; Row 2: Shriimp and Eggplant, Noodles Stuffed with Shrimp, Peanut Noodles; Row 3: Fried Fish, Coconut Rolls, Fried Rice Balls.

LOCATION: 18th Ave and 62nd Street in Bensonhurt, Brooklyn
DATE: July 9, 2005
FOOD: Dim Sum, including the following – Fried Tofu Skins with Vegetables; Shrimp Dumplings; Eggplant with Fried Shrimp; Seaweed Stuffed Balls; Sausage Rolls; Wide Noodles Stuffed with Shrimp; Shrimp and Vegetable Dumplings; Pork and Chive Triangle Dumplings; Wide Noodles with Peanut Sauce; Fried Fish with White Dipping Sauce; Mango Fish; Coconut Rolls.
BEVERAGE: House Chrysanthemum Tea; Tap Water
PRICE: $27.00

Ah, the pleasures of Dim Sum. There’s nothing like waking up early (as in 10 o’clock) on a Saturday and venturing out to Brooklyn for what many posts on aver is the best Dim Sum anywhere in New York. What makes the experience even more special, is that I was popping my Dim Sum cherry. If all first times were as memorable as my visit to World Tong, no one would wait until marriage. Hell, they wouldn’t even make it until high school.

World Tong’s storefront in Bensonhurst gives no sign of the delights held within. Perhaps I expected to see a gaudy placard screaming “Best Dim Sum West of the Yellow River”, but there wasn’t even the slightest indication the owners of World Tong are aware of it’s “foodie-cred”. Walking in the door, it’s immediately apparent World Tong needs no advertisement. At 11:30 on Saturday, it was packed with Chinese faces, so crowded that parties had to share tables. Like my experiences at Himalayan Yak and Tangra Masala, that Danny and I were the only Caucasians in the room, only indicated the good things to come.

The atmosphere is frenetic and loud, but not alienating. While there was a wait to be seated during our entire meal, it never lasted for longer than 15 minutes. The countless waiters attentively refilled our water glasses and cleared our table with regularity. A quiet order pulsated beneath the chaotic veneer.

Carts emerged from the kitchen loaded with small plates of Chinese appetizers, pushed by matronly women. We began our Oriental orgy with vegetables wrapped in tofu skins. Akin to spring rolls, the skins were light and un-oily, the Worchester sauce used for dipping, adding a surprising kick. But the shrimp dumplings we selected next were truly outstanding. The shrimp were beautifully fresh and the rose bud shaped dumplings contained the perfect degree of supple chew. Delicate, yet entirely satisfying, these were some of the best Chinese dumplings to be had anywhere.

But, amazingly, they weren’t even the best dumplings of the feast. The pork and chive dumplings, filled with Chinese greens, were sumptuously devoid of grease, the greens creating a clean taste, leaving the mouth salivating for more. But, though the pork was delicious, World Tong truly excelled at all things shrimp. Tempura battered shrimp, crisp and indulgently fried, made up for the mushy and bland slices of eggplant they were sandwiched in-between. Wide, lasagna-esque rice noodles, stuffed with petite whole shrimps were quietly pleasing and restrained, reminiscent of the Vietnamese ravioli at Nah Trang. Weightless and with the aesthetic appeal of a blank canvas, the stuffed noodles were covertly filling. The same noodles popped up in another dish as well, covered in a Thai influenced peanut sauce that was a tad too mild, lacking the complex spicing of Thai peanut blends.

I learned as the meal progressed that like a married man tempted to cheat, one shouldn’t indulge in everything that catches the eye. The food kept coming and my stomach filled before I was able to try everything I desired. One misstep occurred with the sausage rolls, which were overly salted and tasted and looked like a clogged artery. But a tempura battered white fish (Tilapia, I believe) immediately recovered World Tong’s eminence. Though seriously battered, the fish was still the most prominent flavor, minute squares of red and green pepper adding a point of sophistication to the whole proceedings. The fish came with a white sauce which is best avoided, a white mess with the substance of coalesced heavy cream and mayonnaise.

Unexpectedly, World Tong’s also had a wide variety of desserts. And though I ruined my stomach’s capacity by shoveling in one last savory course of pureed rice and seaweed balls with the texture of Matzoh, I still enjoyed the sweets. A sparkling and creative mango pudding in the shape of a fish was thoroughly fruity and revitalizing. And sushi style rolls stuffed with a coconut cream finished the meal with a tropical virtuosity.

12 hours after World Tong, I was still full, the lengthy period of satiation yet another new experience for an eater whose stomach usually knows no limits. However, for once, I was joyous in my gluttony, as World Tong’s Dim Sum provided so many great options, I’d rather have tried too much, than have left wondering what I’d missed. My meal at World Tong has left me with a longing for future Saturday gorging, another chance to start my weekend with a bright sum.

RATING: 8.1/10

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