Mock Meats & More at Vegetarian Dim Sum House
Just ignore the decor and focus on the food…
Vegetarian Dim Sum House is hushed, even when filled with customers. It’s somehow incandescent and dim at the same time, which has the special effect of making everything and everyone look slimy. The impression you get when you walk in is that you should walk right back out.
This restaurant may not be a looker, but that’s okay — it’s not what they set out to do. Instead of worrying about aesthetics even in the slightest, Vegetarian Dim Sum House is focused on their food: their tagline is “Mock meats and more,” and they certainly deliver on that promise.
This restaurant has been experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cuisine on Pell Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown for a long time. They seem to have perfected their recipes long before the rest of the world got savvy to the appeal of vegetarian cuisine. As a semi-vegetarian myself, I often struggle with my conscience at dim sum restaurants. That’s why I love Vegetarian Dim Sum House: it makes dim sum guilt-free.
All the dim sum dishes here are awesome, but if you get nothing else, try the potstickers! They were far and away the best dish of the meal, fried to a crisp and filled with something that was vaguely meatlike without actually trying to copy any particular meat. Second place prize goes to either the steamed buns or the “shrimp” rice noodle roll. Both dishes use what I like to think of as an uncanny valley approximation of meat — it really makes you think as you chew — but they taste delicious nonetheless. Also pictured are lotus leaves filled with rice and green sugar pea dumplings, which were less exciting dishes because they would have been vegetarian at any restaurant.
We also ordered a dish off the main menu, but I think ordering only dim sum is the move. Our bean curd dish was too large and too chewy, and we didn’t feel the need to finish it. Also, the main menu (pictured below) is one of those intimidating documents with fourteen variations on the same dish, while the dim sum menu is much more manageable.
The Vegetarian Dim Sum House is definitely an Americanized, modern take on Chinese food, which is reflected in its clientele: despite being situated in the heart of Chinatown, there were only young white people in the dining room. So if you’re looking for a more classic dim sum experience, this is not the place to go.
However, if you’re in the game for vegetarian food and hesitant to pay the prices at a new, trendy vegan spot, consider going here instead. It’s good food at reasonable prices, which cannot be said for many purposefully veggie-forward restaurants nowadays.
Oh, and one more thing: this place is still cash-only, so bring a twenty.