Flushing, Queens, used to be the undisputed home of dim sum in New York. Dim sum is a style of Chinese food that involves eating small portions of many dishes. It differs from tapas and other styles of small-plate dining in that you don't order food - there are several carts wheeling around the restaurant, and they stop by your table and you pick what you want to eat.
Most of Queens' dim sum restaurants have either closed or gone significantly downhill in the last few years. My parents and I used to frequent Dong Yi Feng on 37th Avenue, but that too has declined recently. So it's been awhile since I've eaten dim sum. This brings us to last weekend, when Florence and I were staying with friends in Brooklyn. Sunset Park in Brooklyn is rumored to be the new home of dim sum in NY, so we looked up the best places on Serious Eats and decided on Bamboo Garden. Inside, it has the classic look - a huge and chaotic dining hall with many carts, and a stand at the front where you check in and get a number. We only waited about five minutes, which is impressive for a Sunday morning.
As soon as we sat down we were accosted by several carts. In fact, Bamboo Garden had more carts than I've ever seen at a dim sum restaurant - at least five stopped by our table within a few minutes of us sitting down. The weakness of dim sum is often that the food is not too fresh by the time the cart gets to your table, but Bamboo Garden was crowded and the food was flying out the kitchen. Everything was fresh, hot, and very, very good.
The standouts were the tripe and the water chestnut cake cake, both of which were easily the best I've ever had. The tripe was perfectly cooked, not rubbery as tripe can sometimes be, and not funky at all. It was the "white" style (I don't know what it's called in Cantonese) with ginger, garlic, and scallions. The water chestnut cake was the star of the morning - it was piping hot and perfectly cooked. The bottom was pan-fried, which I'd been hoping for, but you don't always see that in dim sum restaurants as it takes extra work from the kitchen. The combination of the crunchy bottom with the jellylike texture of the cake was fantastic.
The only thing that wasn't great was the chili sauce - it was a slightly-alarming bright red and tasted vaguely of chemicals. However, the food was so good that I didn't even miss it.
6409 8th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11220
Expect to pay around $10/person, which is pretty typical for dim sum in NY