88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111
Hei La Moon is an incredible and quintessential Dim Sum experience. I am surprised that this was my first trip there, to be honest, I have always been somewhat intrigued by the look of the venue as I pass the restaurant every single weekday on my morning commute. It is located somewhat outside of Chinatown proper—it is across the street from the plaza with the Chinatown gate.
Upon entry, the first thing you will notice is that the restaurant is huge and busy (even for 11:30 am on a weekday.) The large banquet hall room is a sea of white tablecloth-covered tables, dominated on one wall by a large golden phoenix and a golden dragon with glowing eyes. The crowd consisted of some pairs, or groups of friends but it was mostly large families.
Unlike many of the restaurants in Chinatown, Hei La Moon has a pretty decent website, I found it especially helpful for the Dim Sum menu that includes pictures—it is a great mini guide if you are unfamiliar with Dim Sum.
There were so many carts! And the ladies will push them by quite quickly, so you need to be aggressive in stopping them and making sure they show you everything they have. The sheer volume and variety of the dim sum available was quite astounding.
The first dim sum we chose was the Baked Barbeque Pork Buns. I had never had these before (I’d had the steamed variety many times before however.) They were good—overall a little too sweet for my taste but there was a nice ratio of filling to bread.
Next we chose some Deep Fried Shrimp and Chive dumplings. These were excellent! The dumplings were light and crispy and not the least bit greasy. The ingredients inside were fresh and delicious.
We also selected a plate Sticky Rice in a Lotus Leaf. I think this is something I am going to stop choosing. Not that it is bad, but it is something that does not seem to change from place to place. If you have never tried it, I definitely recommend it. It’s good but never spectacularly so (although I personally think it is best when it has a higher percentage of Chinese sausage in it!) Otherwise, it just ends up being a lot of rice with a little meat in it and fills you up without being something very special.
Hei La Moon has quite possibly the best Pork Shu Mai I have ever eaten. First of all, the Shu Mai is enormous (almost the size of my fist.) The ingredients and the wrapper are very fresh and they were served, very hot, right out of the steamer. It makes the teeny little Shu Mai from Twelve Hours a couple of weeks ago seem ridiculous by comparison and undeserving of the name Shu Mai!
We also picked the Steamed Spare Ribs. These were fantastic, and honestly I was surprised. I have had this dish before, and it has generally been an unappetizing assortment of bony bits of meat in a clear, congealing sauce. This was different—the meat was tender and had a very nice peppery flavor, and the bones were easy enough to navigate around.
The Shrimp Dumplings (called Har Gow) were the final and probably best dish we had (out of an assortment of really great choices.) The wrapper on the dumpling (which after some research I have discovered is made from wheat starch and not rice flour) was tender but did not break too easily and the filling was heavenly. It tasted of shrimp and a little garlic, and it was moist, fresh and amazingly tasty.
The only downside to our Hei La Moon experience was that we missed out on the Turnip Cakes (one of my particular favorites.) We saw the lady with the Turnip Cake cart (it is very distinctive as it has a high back with a shelf that holds the freshly fried turnip cakes) but alas, it was quite far on the other side of the room and by that point we had definitely eaten enough! Since our experience at Hei La Moon was so transcendent, we decided then and there to come back. So stay tuned Dumpling Freaks, next week we will return to Hei La Moon!