It’s made fresh on-site, cooked to order, and super-tasty — how has this dim sum been hiding right on Capitol Hill?
Seattle-area dim sum just isn’t as good as Richmond, B.C.’s — or so the super-aficionados always say. And after finally, belatedly trying the vaunted Jade Seafood Restaurant up north last year, I have to admit my old favorites lost some luster. The key to the Richmond spots — besides skill in the delicate art of dumpling-making — is that you order from a menu, meaning everything’s hotter, fresher and better than what’s been rolling around on a cart for who-knows-how-long.
Locally, lovely Monsoon and Monsoon East offer very fine, cooked-to-order dim sum at weekend brunch, but at a premium, with rather limited options. You order off a menu at the superlative Dough Zone, too, but it only exists on the Eastside (though a Chinatown-ID branch is finally in the works!).
Turns out more excellent dumplings have been right under Seattle’s nose at Regent, a Capitol Hill restaurant and bakery that’s been known for good Chinese food and gorgeous mousse-cakes. A few years ago, they quietly started dim sum, and they’re doing it right — all made on-site and served still steaming, with super-fresh-tasting ingredients and properly translucent, elastic wrappers on the ones like har gow. I’m going to go out on a dim-sum limb and say the quality here rivals Richmond.
1404 E. Pine St. (Capitol Hill), Seattle, 206-743-8866, regentbakeryandcafe.com; dim sum Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Don’t-miss dumplings: Regent’s spinach dumplings achieve greatness, made with fresh spinach, lots of garlic and a little sesame. The plain shrimp dumplings are very good, but the parsley shrimp ones are even better, with the flavor of parsley actually evident, but not overwhelming. The generously portioned sticky rice gets loaded up with lots of mushrooms and chicken. Barbecue pork buns are fluffy little clouds, their filling not too sweet.
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Also good: The pan-fried turnip cakes — an acquired taste and texture, admittedly — are much better than those that have been circulating and congealing on a cart, but could use a little more golden-crispy sear. Football-shaped mochi dumplings with minced pork filling also offer a weird, arguably wonderful textural experience, alongside a strange, arguably splendid sweet-and-savory contrast. The rice-noodle roll is not the usual, crêpe-like filled roll-up chee cheong fun, but smaller, chewier cylinders coiled tightly enough to be solid, served in hoisin sauce.
But wait, there’s more: Black-bean-sauce spareribs, steamed beef tripe, chicken feet and 14 more options, with various noodles or fried rice $6-$7.
To drink: Dim sum this good is worth celebrating, plus it’s the weekend (or Thursday, or Friday — close enough)! And drinks are cheap, too: a glass of slightly effervescent vinho verde contrasts the savory flavors and squishy textures nicely for just $6, while mimosas, bellinis and more (bubbles with mango puree!) go for $7 each.
Important note: Regent serves dim sum Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (and sorry, Eastside, it’s not available at the Redmond branch).
Prices: An order of shrimp dumplings (four of them, $4), spinach dumplings (three, $4), minced pork mochi dumplings (three, $4), shrimp-and-chive pancake (three, $4), barbecued pork buns (three, $3), and sticky rice (two, $5) made for a grand total of $24 before tax and tip, and was more than enough for two.