According to a sign on its windows, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is NYC Chinatown’s first dimsum parlor. With such a title, I had been wanting to try it for quite a while. The first time I stopped by, an estimated 15 minute wait turned out to be 30+, so I left. The second time I went there was no wait – excellent!
The first thing you’ll notice is the decor – much preserved from its early days. My eating buddy and I were seated with 2 menus and a checklist presented on a red-checked tablecloth:
Unlike some other dimsum restaurants, there are no pushcarts at Nom Wah, which makes it a little trickier to order. However, your dishes are made fresh – a small trade-off in my opinion! And if you need extra assistance, there is a picture menu for your reference:
After perusing the menu and checking off our selections, we also ordered from a pretty extensive list of teas – again, another plus! We ordered the dragon well tea because it is oh so delicious!
Our first dish to come out was the steamed roast pork bun:
If you’ve read my previous dimsum posts, you’ll know that I almost always order a steamed roast pork bun whenever I try out a new dimsum joint – it’s kinda my go-to standard dish for which to compare restaurants. And how did this one fare?
Well, the doughy exterior was nice and soft, which is always appreciated. However, the meat filling was a little too sweet for my taste and the dough/filling ratio was a little off (too much dough for the amount of filling). It’s really too bad – when a steamed roast pork bun is good, it is very very good! Oh well.
We also ordered the steamed rice rolls (first photo) with scallions. When I eat the plain steamed rice rolls I always consider two things – 1. texture: how soft, delicate and fresh is the rice roll and 2. flavor: are the scallions fresh? Is there the subtle flavor of sesame oil? While Nom Wah’s version was a-okay in the texture department, the flavor was not as intense as I had hoped. Sad!
We also ordered the fried turnip cake, a dimsum staple:
So turnip cake is a funny thing – I’ve grown up on it (in fact, my NoshMom used to make it all the time until we realized that it was so cheap that making it from scratch really wasn’t worth the effort) and love it – crispy, soft, and flavorful. Deeelish! Strangely though, when I introduce fried turnip cake to newbies the reception is widely varied. I’ve heard it described as “OMG so good and crispy” and “it reminds me of boogers.” I really don’t know how the second description came about because I think it’s delish – but to each her own! Nom Wah’s version was perfectly passable.
We completed our dimsum selection with the scallion pancake:
The scallion pancake was not bad, but I wasn’t used to the sauce that was drizzled on top (not a standard on the scallion pancakes I usually order!) and it tasted almost a bit too healthy – as in, I was missing some of the greasy goodness that so many a quality scallion pancake possesses.
In the end, almost all of the dishes we sampled at Nom Wah Tea Parlor were *almost* great but there was one element that was always missing. I was quite disappointed because I always try out new places with a positive outlook and hope to emerge satisfied with the experience! And hey, the first dimsum parlor in Chinatown – I would have loved to love this place. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Really wanted to like this place.
13 Doyers St. (@Division)
Have you ever had high hopes for a meal and were disappointed?