Give me sum dim sum
The two weeks leading up to my trip to Cleveland, I had been to the middle of no where South Central Kentucky, middle of no where North Central Tennessee, San Francisco and Sonoma. Before embarking on the back to back to back to back trips, I went to a rather sub-par dim sum place in town which microwaved food before delivering items to my table and was quite bad. There is no dim sum, let alone Chinese food in South Central KY, nor in North Central TN. When I was in San Francisco, I made the mistake of going to a dim sum place at noon on Sunday that did not have a line with at least a 1 hour wait, and was about 2/3 empty. The San Francisco place was better than the sub-par, but there was not enough of turn over, and some of the steamed food was served to me cold because it had been in the cart too long. I was so disappointed that I chose poorly in San Francisco. I should have just waited the hour for the good dim sum.
When I got off the plane from San Francisco and got on the plane to Cleveland, I knew I had another chance for dim sum, as I have eaten at Li Wah before. Last year, I was at Zinc Brasserie, and was asking Andrea and Kirk where there is some decent Chinese food in Sandusky. They said there isn't, but in Cleveland at the Asia Plaza, Payne Ave, St Clair Ave, E 30th to about 39th, there are some Chinese and East Asian style restaurants. A few weeks before I left on my whirlwind travel, I can't remember if it was Michael Ruhlman or Michael Symon who took a little poll on Facebook asking where there is decent dim sum Chinese food in Cleveland. Well, overwhelmingly, Li Wah was on the top of the list followed by Bo Loong and others. I had been to Li Wah before because it is easy to find off of 90, 2 and 6. There is plenty of off street parking. There is a nice Asian grocery store next door. It is just an easy hang at Li Wah.
On the occasions that I have gotten to eat here, it has been fairly full for dim sum midweek any time between noon and 2 pm. I hear there is a wait on the weekends, but I have not tried Li Wah on the weekends. At Li Wah, I have had har gau, pi quot, cilantro har gau, beef chow fun with gravy, ha chung fun, and jung. The steamed food was steamed, the pan fried foods were pan fried, and the dishes that normally come with sauces came with sauces. This seems a little odd to write that I was impressed with steamed dim sum that was actually steamed, but the bad dim sum I had in Nashville tried to pass off microwaved food as steamed foods (not good). I will not take steamed dim sum for granted ever again. I love steamed dim sum that is actually steamed! The two dishes I really like a lot are the chung fun and the pi quot. The chung fun at Li Wah is served with an optional sauce. I opt for the sauce because I like it, but it is not mandatory for those who are looking for a lower sodium dish. The pi quot at Li Wah is actually as good as anywhere I have been in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and New York. The pork is smooth with just the right amount of fat, and the fermented black beans mixed with the steam and pork fat makes a really nice umami sauce for the pork. Another dish that I really like was the now yook chow fun, the stir fried beef with white rice noodles, and Li Wah delivers a decent version. There was one version of beef chow fun that I had in New York City in a little basement joint off of Canal Street that was truly exceptional. This noodle dish was stir fried over an extremely high heat so that the oil reached the smoke point and added a smoky charry edge to the dish. There is only one place in Boston that did the same thing. Li Wah did not get the wok that hot, but the flavor of the noodles and beef was very nice and satisfying. There isn't a huge Chinese population in Cleveland, but there is just enough to support a restaurant like this. There is also a long old world tradition of food in Cleveland, so the general population is used to dining on a lot of ethnic foods from Europe and Asia. I am looking forward to going back to Li Wah during my next trip to Cleveland.
Labels: Cleveland Eats