The man at the Festival City taxi queue handed me a slip of paper with the number 152 on it. Some time later the first cab for some time pulled up and he called out the next number in line. It was 104. It was time to give up and get something to eat.
Steam Sum Dim Sum hasn’t been open long and is one of the increasing numbers of eateries at the city’s latest temple to consumerism. Unlike many of the others, however, its décor is tasteful and it’s offering a type of food that is a little more than the usual fare of burgers and chips.
The service was also swift and soon a wicker town arrived. The baskets had little labels on the side to let us know which was which, and they even varied the shapes to mix thing up a bit – when you sell mostly one type of food I suppose you have to.
The prawn and coriander dumplings and prawn and crushed peanut dumplings were both light – key for dim sum – and full of the type of flavour a mall eatery rarely offers. My chicken chilli had a decent, sweet kick and along with the spicy crackers it was all as rosy as the cover of Chairman Mao’s little book.
Duck dumplings with hosin sauce were wrapped to look like duck pancakes and fell apart when you tried to pick them up. They ended up being a bit of a mess. A good dumpling is firm, only slightly glutinous and does not fall apart or lose it’s shape when it is dissected with chop sticks or, for amateurs, a fork, but the flavour was up there with dim sum from high-end venues like The China Club. The same can’t be said for the beef dumplings which were really pretty poor, with a solid chunk of meat (as if cut from the centre of a big sausage roll) thinly wrapped in a gossamer sheet of goo – it was the only bum note of this Chinese dim sum symphony.
This is slightly more on offer than just edible Chinese parcels and the system of ordering of noodles works well here. You choose from four types, including the yellow noodles I had. Then order one of four toppings (beef, chicken, prawn or tofu) and one of four sauces different sauces. They arrived hot, steaming and pretty much faultless and while it’s easy to snip that it’s hard to get noodle wrong – believe me – there are some dreadful noodle dishes out there.
The side order of duck salad my dining partner had was perfect for the kind of people that order salad, as the meat was light, slightly crispy and had no fat in sight. Proportionally it also worked well as often in the city you get bundles of leaves and little else.
Dim summed out, we shared a banana and toffee with ice cream. The coating was sweet and crisp like a fine crème brûlée topping and the centre warm a gooey, inviting the ice cream to melt into it. It was one of the better desserts I’ve had this year and quite possibly the best in a mall, which is a big claim as over half the foodstuffs served in malls are essentially desserts.
Those who have visited places like Noble House at Raffles and sampled the delights there, may be wondering why you would visit a shopping mall to eat at a little restaurant that largely focuses on (as the name suggests) dim sum. Sure, there are Chinese restaurants that offer more and do it better, but it will cost you a lot more too. And yes, this is in a mall (or at least on the canal walkway outside one) and a mall that can keep you waiting for taxis for a long time if you’re unfortunate enough to be here close to rush hour. And, yes, there are often children running about if you sit outside – on our visit one little darling was trampling his way through a flowerbed as his mother stood and watched.
I could list more reasons why its location detracts from Dim Sum Steam Sum, but it is worth seeking out, because this little restaurant punches above its weight and as the Chinese proverb says, ‘he who toils with pain will eat with pleasure’. The eating here is largely very pleasurable.
Verdict: Don’t let the venue put you off, the food is great.
The bill came to Dhs232 including soft drinks