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Tea Palace Dim Sum Review

Point Me to the Highlands, Dim Sum at Tea Palace

Dim sum, the Asian equivalent of dining à la carte.

By Catherine Reynolds | Email the author | December 30, 2010

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Lotus Leaf Credit Catherine Reynolds
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Stir-fried noodles with bean sprouts & onions. Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o2.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/24228c858b6d42bab7d7cb8044005ac9
The steamed Gai Lan, Chinese broccoli is made to order and was  served hot, oyster sauce on the side. Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o4.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/b06c629b3353f0f4f76d11a11bb965ca
The standout was the crisply golden fried shrimp balls,  oval-shaped and graced with a strip of nori, which gives them an  artistic touch. Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o4.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/b13b4a6943f3362dccaa7a6d83ba013a
Fu Zhu Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o2.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/e8999ca0833cdb3a81fd15a9f917f51f
Ha Cheong Fun Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o1.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/93ee462ed93733776646702ac3f0e158
Har Gow Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o4.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/3d4be2225315e0bb7bef7d1e85862d7a
Lotus Leaf Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o3.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/6d4bd5f112765eb3ee063d1a3f942c6e
Wolf berry & longan “pudding” is knox blox on tropical  steroids. A jewel-like quivering cube of encased wolf berries and floral  longan strips, artistically topped with a cool layer of condensed  coconut milk. Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o3.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/62b9181c2d68c6953313227866bd2cf
Shu Mai Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o2.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/11eabb30305f3fc691449aeb8eb4579d
Sticky Rice (unwrapped) Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o5.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/fc0f6e30bc3cfa8e84168bf949adc33f
Along with strands of chicken, fried tofu skin and minced  scallions, Tea Palace's congee also holds the surprise of Pi dan,  blueish preserved 'century eggs' at the bottom of the bowl. Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o4.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/3fa1c6295268ecd84a7ba2f5026ab503
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"C'mon," I said nudging my husband as the hour grew closer to noon. "Let's go get dim sum!"

"You mean, fifty ways to eat shrimp?" my dozing husband laughed and rolled over. 

The true translation of dim sum is to "point heart." That being said, your stomach should point you towards Renton's Tea Palace

Tea Palace, situated in an enormous lot behind the Highland's Viet Wah,  is a staggeringly large restaurant, aimed to have banquets of up to 800, and is one of the largest Asian halls in the Northwest. The day after Christmas, the chandeliers glistened and several stages were set for live entertainment the night before. This is a place built for a serious party. 

I envied the large tables with families, set around Lazy Susans filled with various dishes. It's hard to do dim sum justice with only two or three people, even though it can make for splendid leftovers. I've laughed at another dim sum joint as a small Asian woman claimed the entire offering of shrimp and chive dumplings, then proceeded to break out her Tupperware.

While Tea Palace may not have Tupperware-toting Gow Choi Gau, it does have cordial service, a wagon train of carts and a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere.  And excellent jasmine-infused tea, as a tea palace should. Servers are friendly, and willing to answer questions, even if it requires sending over a translator. 

The congee was a comforting start, especially after a night of revelry. Along with strands of chicken, fried tofu skin and minced scallions, Tea Palace's congee also holds the surprise of Pi dan, blueish preserved 'century eggs' at the bottom of the bowl. A treasured dish, a first for me, and an acquired taste I believe.

Stir-fried noodles with bean sprouts and onions were quietly comforting, the fu Pi Kuen, or bean curd skin rolls were devoured quickly along with their hidden layer of minced pork & shrimp. The shu mei were up to snuff, although we agreed that it may have been our fault for ordering greedily, the dishes could have been warmer. The steamed Gai Lan, Chinese broccoli, is apparently made to order as we never saw it on a cart but on many a table, and was served hot, oyster sauce on the side. Just the way I like it and a great way to round out a meal of tasty fried dishes. 

However, the standout was the crisply golden fried shrimp balls, oval-shaped and graced with a strip of nori which gave them an artistic touch. And the surprise favorite for me? Wolf berry and longan "pudding." This is knox blox on tropical steroids. A jewel-like quivering cube of encased wolf berries and floral longan strips, artistically topped with a cool layer of condensed coconut milk. Not too sweet, but a refreshing finish.

If one is to judge the caliber of dim sum on the pleats of the har gao, I didn't count. I will say they stuck to the paper which is a dim sum faux pas. But would I rather eat here than head to madness of the International District after a major holiday? Dang ran, of course.

Our meal of over ten dishes barely pushed $50 with lots of leftovers. And as I spooned chili sauce into the side of my to-go box, I felt pretty merry for the day after Christmas.

Tea Palace Asian Restaurant & Banquet
2828 Sunset Lane NE, Renton, WA, 98056
(425) 228-9393


Monday - Friday :   10:00am - 3:00pm Lunch
                                        5:00pm - 10:00pm Dinner

Saturday - Sunday : 10:00am - 10:00pm


I'm a Renton restaurant reviewer!

Hey Madeleine readers...

It's been a long time since I've posted, BUT I AM writing again. I'm now a restaurant reviewer for Renton Patch. Feel free to give me feedback.

My reviews will be coming out every Thursday. Enjoy & HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Love & to a delicious 2011,

Catherine

The Scent of Great Papaya

Expand your flavor palate with coconut, ginger, lime and cilantro at Papaya.

By Catherine Reynolds | Email the author | December 23, 2010

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bánh canh tôm cua Credit Catherine Reynolds
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bánh canh tôm cua Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o2.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/5cd2cc31ee86f512115f3207eb649df4
coconut juice Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o5.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/a410f265626e4526ed5090e436ee61c
Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o3.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/5ebd4f258994db908c4171df454c53a5
soft shell crab fresh rolls with young coconut juice Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o2.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/3670a60e56a569a136cf0adfe46caeb2
Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o4.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/47909fca8aaa67eca12aefa9b29de363
Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o5.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/afc94f8631743fd280b8b29cb246d262
Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o1.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/63326384307673ad16ca80f1709953cd
Credit Catherine Reynolds http://o4.aolcdn.com/dims-shared/dims3/PATCH/resize/273x203/http://hss-prod.hss.aol.com/hss/storage/patch/1cfa045e6e63ee8fadffad3bbee508bc
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The first time I walked into Papaya was on a summer afternoon. I came looking for a salad as light and cooling as the lime green walls, but as a bowl of pho passed by my table the smell of house broth (slowly rendered bones, star anise, peppercorn and cilantro sprigs) had me captivated. It's taken me a while to move about the menu as it's easy to fall upon favorites here, a small price to pay for quality service and selection. Thankfully as a south-end resident, I no longer need to visit Seattle's International District to satisfy my cravings for authentically-crafted, original Vietnamese dishes. 

While many of the customers dining during my most-recent December visit at the early hour of 5 o'clock were Asian families, this is a place that should attract all palates who crave flavorful cuisine and quality ingredients.  A soulful kitchen welcomes you from the moment you walk in. 

Not that I can call Papaya's external atmosphere homey, with its glassy high-reaching windows in The Landing's "pedestrian village," but there is soul in the kitchen. It is the smell of slow-cooked stocks and the sight of parents spooning broth into a bowl for their toddler. 


Should you be looking for a basic bowl of pho, the classic warming noodle soup, or an artfully prepared Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich replete with craving-inducing yam fries, you can fill up fast for under $20. If you are feeling adventuresome, you will be rewarded in selecting some of their more unusual offerings . 

In Vietnam, pho is a dish to cool off with while seeking nourishment with a bowl of steaming broth and chiles in a balmy climate. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is the perfect healthful dish to enjoy year-round, especially on a crisp evening, the sight of a wintry full-December moon rising above a Doug Fir strung with lights at The Landing.

For the more adventuresome, I highly recommend the steamed coconut (bone-in) chicken rice in a cast iron pot for $12. This is a dine-in dish only, & the cast iron pot creates its own magical crust on the rice, much like a Spanish socorrat which is the crisp layer so prized in a paella. Lightly golden coconut rice mingled with ginger presents itself in joyfully crisped spoonfuls surrounded by tender chicken thighs. Asian soul-food indeed. It had my chef-husband swooning and he packed half of it home for lunch the next day.

The second dish we ventured out on was the bánh canh tôm cua, or Dungeness crab & quail egg croquettes, shrimp and pork dumplings udon soup for $12. Another winner. Unlike pho, which is anchored by a rich beef broth, this stands out with the clearest of chicken stocks, and has enough original flavor to shun the usual bean sprout, lime and basil side plates. Scallions, cilantro leaves and fried shallots float in a pool of fragrant chicken stock, bobbing with two curled shrimp, sausage slices, a seafood encased quail-egg, and pork dumplings — all floating above rice-based udon noodles. 

Next on my must-try list is the soft shell crab with braised egg noodle, soup on the side for $11, or the bún riêu cua: soft shell crab, shrimp & pork dumplings, tofu in tomato rice noodle soup for $12. I encourage you to give me your reviews of Salmon, taro and tofu skin rice noodle soup which sounds extremely intriguing, and the savory crepe (bánh xèo) filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts or tofu, enoki mushroom and bean sprouts.

There's plenty to explore here. Come back often, and choose boldly if you will.