I distinctly remember the Sunday afternoon when I discovered that Canton House had closed due to a kitchen fire. Panicked over where to get my steamed dumpling fix, I was forced into dim sum adultery at other nearby restaurants.
Canton House has now reopened after completely overhauling the dining room. I organized a group of mostly dim sum neophytes to mark my return to the brightly remodeled, weekend favorite.
It's not easy being greens: While waiting for tablemates, I was approached by a server wielding plates of Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. I figured the greens were a healthy way to start. Disappointingly, they were cold, tough and had been sitting in the sticky sauce, rather than dressed at the table. I thought I was alone in my dissatisfaction until I overheard the waiter insisting to a nearby table that the broccoli was, in fact, better cold.
The bare necessities: Salesmanship is a trend I've observed at dim sum around town lately. No longer can you simply point, nod and pass your ticket; now you must negotiate "maybe later" or "we've already eaten three plates of those" to every dish on each cart. The essential steam cart was the first to arrive, which eased negotiations. I picked an array of staple dishes: chicken/shrimp and pork/shrimp shu mai, shrimp har gau, and pork and mushrooms in a tofu wrapper. Each had the clean and simple taste of its key ingredients -- dependable yet lackluster.
cart blanche: Ensuing carts brought personal favorites: shrimp on sugar cane; shrimp balls with "hairy" wonton skins; and my new obsession, hom sui gok -- best conceptualized as a pork doughnut. These pastries are a savory filling of pork, shrimp and mushrooms, wrapped in sweet dough and lightly fried. Five of us devoured an order apiece.
A spoonful of sugar: I've always found dim sum dessert incongruent with the rest of the meal. Nevertheless, I gingerly chose some gelatinous sweets: mango pudding, coconut pudding, "flan" topped with syrupy coffee sauce, and mysteriously opaque wobbly triangles. Both puddings were appropriately flavored and jellied. The green and white triangles were most aptly described as tasting like "a sweet hard boiled egg" and unlikely to make it onto my table in the future.
The dim sum newbies were in awe of the spread we'd devoured. I, however, was left remembering the glory days when Canton House was my go-to dim sum spot. I enjoyed the first visit back enough to keep Canton House in the rotation, but I can't say I'll forsake all others for it, either.
4825 Buford Highway. 770-936-9030. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m-midnight, Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-midnight. Dim Sum daily. Small plates: $2.15. Medium plates: $3.25. Large and special large plates: $5.95-$8.95.
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