Elaborate banquets with a kaleidoscope of dishes that land on the table like autumn leaves are a hallmark of Chinese dining. And just as in China, the year-old Sunny Isles Beach charmer Chef Philip Ho offers a vast feast.
With seating for up to 300, the clean, bright space is divided into smaller dining rooms with wooden screens. Chairs are covered in a rainbow of shiny satin, and the walls are a peaceful shade of sage green.
The enormous menu focuses on both Hong Kong- and Cantonese-style dishes. Stir-fries can be had with hand-pulled noodles as thin as vermicelli and dotted with perfectly sliced mushrooms. Simple beef and broccoli pops off the plate with its vibrant emerald colors contrasting the shimmery glazed beef lozenges.
But it is the rolling carts of dim sum that entice me most. Sweet, young, pony-tailed waitresses wheel the carts through the aisles, lifting stainless steel trays to reveal steaming hot buns and dumplings usually three or four to a plate. Language can be a barrier, but pointing and nodding work fine.
It’s best to go with friends willing to sample more exotic offerings like the crunchy, golden chicken feet or cold jellyfish. Not to worry, though; there are enough takeout staples like sweet and sour pork and moo shoo chicken to appease timid palates.
Though a few of the buns are a bit dense, the hand-rolled dumplings are among the best I have had in Miami.
The standouts include a sumptuous ball of chive and shrimp enveloped in a wrapper as thin as paper and fine as porcelain. Shu mai with finely ground pork gets extra crunch from water chestnuts and tiny diced mushrooms. The gently pleated, open-faced cup holds just enough to make an indulgent bite.
Green tea duck dumplings are gently steamed and served with a slightly citrusy soy sauce — a fantastic explosion of flavor I’ve not found elsewhere in this town.
Another favorite is what they call a crepe but really is a jiggly steamed rice dough that has been wrapped around lightly seasoned, perky pink shrimp and bathed in a simple soy-based sauce. The look was off-putting for my companions — something like white jelly — but that only meant more for me.
Fat as baseballs, pork dumplings are more rustic with a slightly gummier and thick dough, but they are incredibly delicious.
The cooking here is clean, precise and authentic. Nearly every dish from a simple eggplant Aberdeen style to silken wonton in a clear broth is subtle and well-balanced.
Sweets like perfectly chewy sesame balls and a buttery, almost French pastry-like custard tart can be eaten in between the savory stuff.
If it all seems a bit too rich, you can slip open the glittery gold and red menu to find lovely vegetables like braised snow pea tips or crunchy spears of young bok choy in a clear garlic sauce with enough bite to hold its own.
A full bar is nice to have at dinner, but icy Tsingtao beer is a better choice for brunch.
We slowed our pace, and vowed to return soon. Perhaps to try one of the lobsters that loll in the tank by the rock waterfall up front.
For now it was enough to enjoy authentic, inexpensive and absolutely delicious dim served by a smiling crew.