Dim sum has arrived in University City.
Blocks away from campus at 3939 Chestnut, Jane Guo and Jackson Fu's Dim Sum House by Jane G's is where authenticity and decadence stand out. Chinese ornaments, golden lions and jade gemstones interspersed throughout the restaurant glow under dim candlelight. Dim Sum House just opened in January, but it already seems poised to revolutionize Penn's dining landscape.
Unlike its competitors—including (but not limited to) Bobby’s Burger Palace, Shake Shack and the five new restaurants currently under construction inside the upcoming Hamilton Court renovation—Dim Sum House takes a unique spin on traditional aspects of southern Chinese dim sum. With the help of three executive chefs, the restaurant distinguishes itself from more traditional dim sum establishments by incorporating both Shanghai and Cantonese dim sum into its menu offerings. According to owner Jackson Fu, “You usually can’t find somebody who does Cantonese dim sum really well but also has a, pardon my French, kick–ass soup dumpling! It’s usually just one or the other.”
Street saw just how "kick–ass" these dumplings were for a night out at Dim Sum House.
To start off, I tried one of the restaurant’s most popular drinks, the Canton Cosmo, which is made of vodka, lychee liqueur, lime and Peychaud’s Bitters. Served in a small champagne coupe glass with a piece of lychee in the middle, this bright pink $10 drink left my tastebuds buzzing with a sharp, sweet (and yes, kick–ass) kick. Warning: This cocktail is known to be the sweetest drink on the menu. For those who aren’t looking to over–indulge the sweet tooth, Dim Sum House’s "Shapeless...Like Water" serves as a dry, more muted counter, made with sake sangria, Asian pear and lychee fruit. It’s also the restaurant’s esteemed happy hour drink, costing only $5 Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. (Ed. note: All cocktails are $10 outside of the Shapeless...Like Water happy–hour special.)
My first food victim: the scallion pancake ($5.50). Divided into eight pieces and crisped to a browned perfection, the scallion pancake serves as one of Dim Sum House’s most prominent appetizers. The garlic soy dipping sauce that accompanies the pancake adds an unprecedented, but welcome, salty tang.
I next ate the shrimp siu mai ($6.50). Served at the restaurant’s grand opening party and largely recommended by restaurant staff, the shrimp siu mai stands out for presentation as well as taste. Steam erupted from the inside of the small metal serving pot, revealing four tanned dumplings with green peas placed atop in the center. Just remember to wait for the dumplings to cool down before biting in.
Afterward: the vegetable buns. Don’t let the “vegetable” aspect fool you into thinking that this is merely a light dish. Inside the fluffy, thick balls of dough lie densely–packed steamed green vegetables. This dish, served in portions of three, can fill up your stomach after just one bite. Both healthy and heavy, Dim Sum House’s vegetable buns go for only $6.50.
And as a perfect end to an overly–filling night of dim sum spoils, the coveted pork soup dumplings arrived in all their glory, placed in a rounded wooden container in a serving of five pieces. These dumplings, $6.50 per dish, burst with warm soup and add levels of flavor with warm, lightly salted dough. They're so full of soup that a small bite results in a surprising pop of savory liquid filling.
So whether you stop by to grab a drink at the bar and join in a fun game of pool (located in the louder, more social dining room to the left), or travel to the right side of the restaurant and sit with friends for a quieter, more refined dining experience, Dim Sum House by Jane G's will provide a an ideal night out—no Uber required.
Photo credit: Naomi Elegant