Dim sum with 'bit of heart' Grand Palace offers Hong Kong-style fare

September 18, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Grand Palace Restaurant on Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn Park on a Sunday morning feels like bustling Hong Kong.

My companion and I walked in on a recent Sunday looking for good dim sum -- a Hong Kong-style Chinese brunch which translates literally as "a little bit of heart."

The restaurant's lack of windows, dim lighting plus the small disco ball that hangs from the ceiling gave the place a slightly sleazy feel. ("Sort of like you're eating in a subway station," my friend noted.)

But the place was packed with Asian families, many of whom knew each other and exchanged greetings. The buzz of conversation made for a warm ambience.

We were seated almost immediately, and a waiter promptly came by. Instead of asking whether we wanted tea, the waiter asked in Mandarin what kind of tea we'd wanted. I knew that this would be a good meal.

The restaurant offers a variety of teas, including Jasmine and Chrysanthemum. If you'd like a tea that's light and sweet, yet deep-flavored and full-bodied, I recommend their combination of Chrysanthemum and Po Lay. The flowers lend a honeyed aroma and aftertaste to Po Lay -- one of the darkest Chinese teas. It's my favorite with dim sum.

Grand Palace has dim sum six days a week, but it's only on weekends that food-filled silver carts are steered through the restaurant.

The restaurant's dim sum chef is supposedly an expert from Hong Kong, and his repertoire includes chicken feet with black bean sauce, turnip cake and four treasure chicken.

But we were eager to try his Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumpling, $2.20) and Siew Mai (steamed shrimp and pork dumpling, $2.20) -- both dim sum trademarks by which restaurants should be judged.

However, the first cart we hailed brought us plump and succulent deep fried shrimp balls ($2.50). These were juicy on the inside, and their wrappings were crisp and not too greasy. The next cart yielded bean pasta rolls with oyster sauce ($2.95). These are a must -- soft rolls of minced pork and scallions that were swimming in a warm, tasty gravy.

We also had the roast pork rice noodle crepes ($2.75), which had too much crepe and not enough roast pork, and the steamed shrimp and shark's fin dumplings ($2.50). They were slightly dry inside, but still delicious.

The next cart brought steamed roast pork buns ($1.80), a dim sum staple, and they were superb. The bun was steamed just right, so it felt fresh and fluffy. And the roast pork was flavorful and lean -- unlike others I've had that have more greasy fat than meat.

The best dish we had was the Eight Treasure Sweet Rice in Lotus Leaf ($3.50), which was as impressive as it sounded. We could taste the fragrance of the lotus leaf in the sticky rice -- which had been mixed with mushrooms and well-marinated chicken, wrapped with the leaf and steamed.

Finally, the Har Gow and Siew Mai arrived and were not disappointing. The shrimp in the Har Gow was fresh and juicy, and the Siew Mai's pork and shrimp filling was delicious, though it could have used more scallions.

We left happy and stuffed. We had found a little bit of Hong Kong and a little bit of heart in Brooklyn Park.

Grand Palace Restaurant

Where: 5721 Ritchie Highway, Brooklyn Park, 410-636-8333

Hours: Dim sum, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. all week except Tuesdays, when restaurant is closed.

Prices: Dim sum, $1.80 to $3.50

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express

Rating: ***

Ratings: * culinary wasteland

**** culinary heaven

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