Restaurants that have built their reputation on serving traditional food at the highest level of quality are always a joy to visit. There’s nothing better than tasting the finest example of any given cultures cuisine, the way its creators intended. It takes courage then, to take that cuisine and start playing around with the tradition and methods proven over centuries. Well recently I visited the folks at Red Egg, and I can say that their courage has paid off.
Red Egg, on the border of Soho and Chinatown is a shining example in the world of Chinese cuisine, specifically dim sum. Naturally, rumors of delectable dumplings is what drew me to them in the first place (though I heard of Peruvian influences, I didn’t see those sneak into the dim sum menu). Now, don’t misunderstand, Red Egg isn’t reinventing the wheel here, they’re not bastardizing dim sum the way many sushi restaurants do by adding sugary sauces to their maki rolls filled with strawberries, cream cheese and fried shrimp. They’re simply elevating it, coaxing even more delicious flavor from the same quality ingredients, the same dishes that we’ve all come to love. It’s the little things that make all the difference. You’ll see it right on the dim sum menu, this isn’t your daddy’s dim sum house, where women roam the aisles with steam carts full of dumplings that may have been made much earlier in the day. Dim sum, like sushi, is always better when eaten immediately after its made, the longer you wait, the more the flavor deteriorates. That’s why Red Egg wraps and steams/fries each set of dumplings to order, giving you your tiny purses of joy at their peak of freshness.
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when I read this on their website. For years now, I’ve been a huge fan of the traditional cart service that you find in many dim sum houses in Hong Kong, London, New York and San Francisco. Cooked to order dim sum sounded promising, but it still felt like a break from tradition. I mean, there must be a good reason for steam carts as a delivery method! Maybe the dumplings are par-cooked in the kitchen and then finished in the steamer? I don’t know, all I do know, is that the dim sum being made at Red Egg is extraordinary. I’m saying this after hurriedly ordering take-out and rushing back to my office before it got cold. If their take-out impressed me that much, I have to imagine they’re even better eaten in-house.
I ordered three types, pork and cilantro, pork Siu Mai (I have to try this old favorite everywhere, it’s like a measuring stick), and “Red Eggs shrimp”, which, as I suspected turned out to be a great example of Har Gao. I have had all of these in some form or another at other restaurants over the years. These were excellent examples, surpassing many dim sum eateries in terms of freshness and flavor (perhaps all but Maison Kam Fung). The pork in the Siu Mai was juicy and almost sweet thanks to being paired with pieces of shrimp. There were even traces of chopped watercress for a little crunchy nuttiness. The fat from the pork infused the entire dumpling with a wonderfully buttery texture which lent the wrappers tenderness.
Everything I ordered was delicious, my only regret was that I didn’t have the time to sit down and sample some of their larger plates, the Peking duck sliders caught my eye as well as the shredded duck mei fun (admittedly I am a tad bit obsessed with that bird). Another intriguing item is the Durian Puff. For those of you who don’t know, the Durian is a large, spiky fruit from Southeast Asia which some either love or hate based on its custard-like pulp and unique (to some, off-putting) odor. Nonetheless, I have wanted to try the Durian for some time, and sampling it in dim sum form seems like a fantastic opportunity. Alas that will have to wait until my next visit. As far as dim sum goes, Red Egg is absolutely worth the visit. As for the rest of the menu, I’ll get back to you when I have a chance to chow down on some chow fun.