My dim sum heaven

Steamed prawn buns at Dim Sum

Steamed buns at Dim Sum

“Mmm, chicken bum,” said one of us, peering at a menu I’d downloaded from the Dim Sum website. We laughed. Obviously a misprint. But when we got to the London Road restaurant we gleefully double checked the table menus to find someone had to laboriously correct in Biro the same mistake on every one.

I love steamed buns. I reckon I’d even love steamed bums because I’ve never had a mouthful at Dim Sum that didn’t surprise or delight in some way.

The red fronted eatery is exactly what it says on the fascia, a dim sum restaurant that also runs a classic Chinese menu yet 90 per cent of customers, says co-owner  Sang  Wan, eat dim sum exclusively or as a starter before going on to main dishes.

There were five of us. I love everything about dim sum, my wife is more reserved. The son said “Can we have lots of steamed buns?” My brother and sister in law claimed to be dim sum novices and I sensed they were a little dubious. So what’s dim sum? Think Chinese tapas. The Chinese usually have it for Sunday lunch.

It’s probably wise for newcomers to start on the gentler, lower slopes and go for steamed buns and dumplings and leave the wilder dishes – steamed chicken feet, whelk and tripe – for another time, if at all. So I felt it best to leave the steamed manifold off the order sheet. This is a tripe which looks like jet engine propeller blades and is colloquially called slut in Ashton-under-Lyne.

It is also probably wise for newcomers to note that in Chinese (and Japanese) cooking, texture is as important as taste and nowhere is this more evident than in dim sum dishes. Some dishes are quite slithery or gelatinous, which do not always square with Western tastes. Let’s put it this way: if you’re fine with tapioca you’ll be home and dry with dim sum; if not, you may need a steer.

Har Kwork - deep fried prawnparcels

Deep-fried prawn parcels

Don’t let this put you off. Dim Sum has 32 dishes on its dim sum menu and you’ll find some you love. In fact, even the doubters loved a new dish to the menu, stir-fried mooli cake in XO sauce (£4.30) which Sang’s sister and co-owner Tina Yau brought us to try.

It was soft little cubes of what some thought to be fish but is, in fact, vegetable – shredded mooli (also called daikon or white radish) mixed with rice flour, cornflour and seasonings, steamed then allowed to set before being stir-fried. The taste is delicate and haunting, set off by XO sauce, made from scallops, shrimps and chillies, which some local chefs (chiefly Rico at the Rutland) have taken up with enthusiasm.

The steamed buns were good: har gau (£4), prawn dumplings; siu my (£3.50), pork and prawn; as well as har kwork (£4), deep-fried prawn parcels. “This menu must be a prawn’s worst nightmare,” joked my brother-in-law. They come whole, chopped or minced with pork, inside wrappings of sweetish bread dough or rice flour ‘pasta’ jackets.

Sang and Tina opened Dim Sum in 2003. Sang’s father brought him over from Hong Kong at the age of 14 and he was sent to High Storrs School where, he says, the teachers ignored him. He left a year later and went into catering, learning about dim sum at a leading Manchester restaurant.

They took over Mr Yun’s tiny sandwich shop when he retired and turned it into a dim sum restaurant, later expanding into premises next door.

Aside from steamed buns and dumplings, another favourite are the breadcrumbed cuttlefish cakes (£4.20), very firm, sweet chunks of squid served with little bowls of salad cream as a dipping sauce.

Prawn Cheung Fun

Slithery heaven – cheung fun

You should also try one the cheung fun dishes, flat sheets of rice flour noodles with a slithery texture with fillings of beef, pork or, of course, chopped prawn.

We had started with half a crispy duck (£16.50) at the insistence of the ladies of the party who had wanted to hedge their bets if they didn’t like the dim sum. We ate it with wine or beer except for me, who opted for green tea, because that is the Chinese way and I’m a bit of a food fascist.

Sang, who predicts some London Road businesses will struggle when the nearby Chinese-financed ‘Chinatown’ New Era Square opens because supply will outstrip demand, is quite happy to stay put and keep to the dim sum path.

“Some places don’t serve dim sum in the evenings so customers order main courses and get bigger bills. But I am here and the chef is here so we serve dim sum all day.”

He was right about the bill. Despite ordering more dim sum dishes than described, a bottle of wine, bottle of beer, tea and coffee the bill for five came to £84.45 for five people on a Saturday night.

And in the end we never had that chicken bun or bum. We’ll do it next time.

Dim Sum, 201-203 London Road, Sheffield S2 4LJ. Tel: 0114 255 0467. Web: www.dimsum-sheffield.co.uk

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Dim Sum on London Road

 

 

 

Strutty Rutty

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Pil Pil Gambas or prawn cocktail, oriental style

I bring the post in from the mat as I walk into the Rutland Arms on Brown Street, Sheffield. The A-board advertising the pub’s excellent food and beers is still stacked inside the porch. It is 12.30pm and it seems I am the first in.

But already one of the seven dishes on the specials board has ‘sold out’ written across it. I won’t be having the braised lamb, then. Instead, after ordering a half pint of the excellent local Blue Bee Brewery’s Reet Pale Ale I go for the roast cod on squid ink risotto. After coming back from the kitchen the barmaid puts ‘sold out’ on that, too.

Now as I sit by the window I’m making a shrewd guess that head chef Richard Storer has taken Wednesday as his day off. Drat. It’s the second time I’ve missed him. On my first I learned from his tweet that he was away so changed my plans to discover the excellent Trippets Lounge Bar.

I’ve been following Richard, who tweets as Chef Rico, for some time. He chunters and grumbles away at life as he sees it both sides of the kitchen door. Apparently he’d like to kill people who say ‘I am a bit of a foodie,’ and sighs theatrically that he’s just ‘a sub-human stove monkey, a thicko pub chef.’

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Roast cod, squid ink risotto

Not that you’d get that impression from his Twitter account, full of tempting and inventive dishes, hardly what you might expect from a thicko pub chef. But perhaps a whiff of aggression. His blog, Not Another Sodding Food Blog, has the web address http://www.eatmyopinionsbitches.blogspot.co.uk

I’d spotted him in the photo with the review last year by Ellen Beardmore in the Sheffield Telegraph. There’s lots of hair. I got a mental image of a chef coming out of the cave in The Flintstones growling ‘Who complained about the mammoth?’ He tweeted (approvingly) about Ellen’s choice of food before realising who she was and told her he wanted to cook like a French housewife in the Fifties.

The pub soon busies up. I was last here in 2006 when the then head chef, Paul Hil, offered a nifty calves liver and ham hock fritters. On the fringe of the artistic quarter, it’s always been inventive.

I take in the studiedly slightly shabby surroundings. No wallspace has been left free of pictures, posters, blackboards, beer mats and notices. Where one piece of wall is worryingly clear someone has drawn a stick man with a speech bubble: ‘Chip butty please.’ The Rutland is famous for the Slutty Rutty Butty, bacon, chips and cheese.

I go first for a spin on gambas pil pil, prawns in chilli and garlic (£4.75), with an oriental twist. There are fat, meaty deveined prawns in, according to the blackboard, a combination of sauces, the Chinese XO seafood sauce and Japanese Ponzo, both of which are made from scallops. It’s been tricked up with smoked paprika.

The result is a little stunner of a dish, served on a bed of posh leaves with some classy olives. I like the smoky, sticky richness of the sauces coating the prawns. An oriental prawn cocktail perhaps but that sauce knocks spots off Marie Rose.

The best component of the cod dish (£9.50) is the risotto, quite gorgeous, inky black with mushrooms, soft and unctuous (I’m using the culinary, not perjorative, sense of the word): think soft and yielding, tender grains of rice. It’s circled by a slightly too acidic tomato sauce.

The fish? Hey ho, it was the last cod on the block, wasn’t it?, a little dry on the outside, decent enough but rather less than sparkling.

I should have stopped for dessert but had to get away. I hear they, too, are good. The Rutland struts its stuff.

68 Brown Street, Sheffield S1BS. Tel: 0114 272 9003. Web: http://www.therutlandarmssheffield.co.uk

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The Rutland Arms on Brown Street