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Philadelphia: Joy Tsin Lau

Dim sum is a traditional Cantonese style brunch that the Chinese has perfected over the century. Hong Kong made it famous, seen in many Kung Fu movies. It doesn’t matter if one lives on mainland, special districts, Taiwan, or any parts of the world, this is something all Hans knows and practices. So, on a Sunday morning, we decided to visit Chinatown in Philadelphia at one of the better known local spot, Joy Tsin Lau. Translated from Mandarin, restaurant of the drunken goddess.

Typical Chinese restaurant is filled with paintings and pictures of famous people.
Paintings on the walls.

I got to be honest here, I’m not a fan of dim sum, at least the Hong Kong style. Things like chicken feet, carrot cake, shaomai don’t get me going. In fact, my favorite dim sum restaurant is right next door, Dim Sum Gardens, because they specialize in dumplings, which is the only thing I like in a dim sum meal. Back in Joy Tsin Lau, servers still push little trolleys filled with food around. To order, flag a server and inspect her cart. Take whatever fancies you. Don’t expect good service, as those who work in a Chinese restaurant, especially in a push cart on a busy Sunday morning, are known to be arrogant and straight forward. That’s not targeted specifically at anyone, there is just not enough patience to deal with impatient customers. This practice of little trolleys going around the restaurant is rare outside of Chinatown, and practically none-existent in Hong Kong, the capital of dim sum. Each carries unique items – one might have desserts; another specialize in dumplings; there is one that cooks carrot cake right by the diners side. The experience of seeing that last cart alone is enough reason to swallow my pride and dine here.

Some dishes.
Soup Dumpling, also known as xiao long bao.
Taro Dumpling.

The typical dim sum is heavy on flavor and extremely greasy. My stomach is unable handle this amount of oil in each bite, so I eat only small portions of few dishes. The soup dumpling is an afterthought here, with thin soup wrapped in thick flour, a far cry from Ding Tai Fung’s. Other patrons seem to be enjoying their Sunday brunch much more. We spent less than $50 for 3 people, whereas most other tables are filled with various items. There are a lot of options for tea, a huge component in a dim sum meal. I assume tea has to do with degreasing after each bite. I can’t criticize the drink selection, and like the tea presented here.

Propane gas for cooking carrot cake.
Heated up to keep the dishes stay warm.
Cart filled with little dishes.
This cart is filled with dessert.

Over the course of the meal, I have experienced the Chinese restaurant syndrome. No, not the “medical” condition of having numbness in weird parts of the body; more that the bright colors and sights, the lack of air flow and general noisy environment triggered me, causing me to become slightly dizzy and lose my appetite. I will not fare well living in Hong Kong, which is okay, because here is enough sound and sights if I ever crave an authentic dim sum meal.

Our receipt. So far, one big and four medium dishes. The 正 character is used to count to five.

Visited: August 12, 2018 at 11am for brunch.
Address: 1026 Race St, Philadelphia PA.

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