Darwin, Discovered - Xiao Long Bao (Dim Sum Garden)

Dim Sum Garden
59 North 11th Street, Reading Terminal/Market East

As frequent visitors of New York City, we always make a point to grab some xiaolongbao (Shanghai soup dumplings) whilst playing in the concrete jungle. When we heard there was a place that served the same in Philly, naturally, we had to check it out.

Located in an underpass nearby Reading Terminal Market, Dim Sum Garden is a small hole-in-the-wall conjuring up memories of Chinatown NYC (or really anywhere, for that matter). Set with small Ikea plastic tables and chairs (some of which have seen better days), the layout was open enough that you didn’t feel like you were dining with strangers, despite its size (a common occurrence in NYC).

We ordered our standard fare: two orders of the pork dumplings, one of the crab, and one order of fried tiny buns. Service was pretty quick – the dumplings (all three sets) came out within 10 minutes. The verdict? While the ingredients definitely didn’t taste as “fresh” as we are accustomed to in New York (or in W’s case, Shanghai), the meat was quite juicy and flavorful nonetheless (note: more on this later). The wrapper, often a key component in an appetizing xiaolongbao experience, did not stand out in a good or bad way – I guess I would call it complimentary, if unspectacular.

Darwin, Discovered - Xiao Long Bao (Dim Sum Garden)
A steamer full of soup dumplings

The fried tiny buns contained the same pork filling of the soup dumplings, which came together well with the charred yet doughy flavor of the wrapper. One oddity to check out, if you can see in the picture below, was that in the process of charring the wrapper, the tiny bun had collected some of the bits and pieces of the grill/pan – not sure if that was intentional or if they had just neglected to clean between fryings – which was an annoyance, although it had minimal impact on the overall taste.

Darwin, Discovered - Fried Tiny Bun (Dim Sum Garden)
Fried Tiny Buns (notice the charring)

Note: Winnie and I came to the conclusion that the food must have been laced with MSG – as we spent most of the afternoon feeling parched and groggy. Keep that in mind if you are particularly sensitive to that stuff.

Conclusion: a good Chinatown-esque hole-in-the-wall, particularly if you have the hankering for some old fashioned xiaolongbaos in downtown Philly, but beware of the MSG-induced food coma that will inevitably follow.

More posts in our 48 Hours in Philly series:

Philly Sips: La Colombe Torrefaction
Philly Sups: Pat’s vs. Geno’s
Philly Stay: Radisson Plaza- Warwick Hotel Philadelphia (Hotel Review)
Philly Sips: Ray’s Cafe and Teahouse
Philly Sips: The Franklin Mortgage Investment Co. 
Philly Sups: Dim Sum Garden

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