Dim sum is always a fun meal, whether you order it straight off the dinner menu or partake in the traditional experience of grabbing items off carts pushed around by servers as they walk by your table. With social distancing measures now in place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, dim sum service might look a little bit different nowadays, but it's still thriving. Several places in the Valley remain popular for dim sum and are taking safety precautions seriously while offering the option of takeout.
Dim sum originated thousands of years ago and is a cuisine from the Cantonese region of China that has become increasingly prevalent in Western cultures like ours. It is often served with tea and is made up of smaller dishes or snacks, similar to the style of Spanish tapas or small plates. A friend and connoisseur of dim sim in Arizona tells me that novices should always go with a buddy who has been before and can handle doing the ordering which is sometimes only in Chinese. It's also important to have an open mind and be willing to try unfamiliar dishes, because after all, that's the best part of the experience! He also adds it makes a difference if you get there earlier on in case certain items run out, and there might be a bit of a lunch crowd or a line out the door. First come, first serve!
Speaking of getting there early, you'll certainly want to do that at Mekong Palace. The restaurant is located inside the food court at Mekong Plaza in Mesa. During COVID-19, they are requiring all employees to wear face masks and gloves and are offering both takeout and dine-in. They serve dim sum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week and from 10:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Some of their specialities include shumai or pork filled dumplings, har gow or shrimp dumplings and baked BBQ pork buns. If you're more adventurous, get the stewed tripe, pig hearts and chicken feet. Mekong Palace is located at 66 S Dobson Road, Suite 120, Mesa; 480.962.0493; www.mekongpalace.com
Great Wall Cuisine in Phoenix is another Valley staple known for its dim sum. There's both dine-in and takeout available (delivery as well for a $3 fee within 5 miles of the restaurant), and it's served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekly and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends. To adapt to social distancing needs, guests are now served individually at the table rather than from carts, and servers are wearing masks and gloves. Specialities include the shrimp dumplings, roast duck and shumai. Save room too for the egg custard tarts for dessert. Great Wall Cuisine is located at 3446 W Camelback Road, Suite 155, Phoenix; 602.973.1112; www.facebook.com/Great-Wall-Cuisine
If you're in Chandler, head to Phoenix Palace. Sounds funny, but it's true and a great place to grab some dim sum when you're in that part of the Valley. During the pandemic, they've been doing takeout and delivery to stay afloat, and the prices are pretty reasonable. Dim sum is available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Customer favorites include the shumai, shrimp dumplings, chicken feet, sticky rice wrap and steamed egg custard buns. Phoenix Palace is located at 2075 N Dobson Road, Chandler; 480.855.4047; www.phoenixpalacechandleraz.com
Jobot Coffee recently introduced dim sum to its menu, available for dine in or takeout after 2 p.m. Owner John Sagasta is also planning to do dim sum Sunday brunch. The new dishes span multiple cuisines from Chinese to Japanese and Vietnamese. There's the traditional Chinese shumai pork dumplings and the Vietnamese Cha Gio Tam, rice paper deep fried spring rolls with pork filling, plus the Cha Gio, crispy egg rolls with pork and noodles and a side of traditional sauce. You can also order BBQ spare ribs, chow mein and fried rice, typical to Chinese cuisine. Jobot is located at 333 E Roosevelt Street in Phoenix; www.jobotcoffee.com
Bitter & Twisted is known for its creative spin on food and extensive drink menu. Dim sum is now being served for lunch and dinner to go from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. You have to try the Bao Royale, a take on a hamburger in dumpling form with caramelized ground chuck, onions and Swiss and American cheese. There's also the siu mai dumplings with pork and shrimp fillings and a pork pan fried potsticker. A standout as well is the Impossible meat siu mai if you don't want or can't have actual meat. Bitter & Twisted is located at 1 W Jefferson Street, Phoenix; 602.340.1924; www.bitterandtwistedaz.com