Dim Sum Heaven is easy to miss along Buford Highway’s dizzying stretch of international restaurants, wedged here and there, on top of each other, in corners, and behind shopping centers. It’s like an episode of hoarders but for city planners. Even when I was looking for the front door, I missed it, my attention drawn to Chef Liu and Bo Bo Garden, two much-loved restaurants that, I think, have slid over the years. But in the same strip mall, in between both, is Dim Sum Heaven.
I’ve been twice, and both times the dining room has been largely empty. It shouldn’t be. Among a long menu with too many pages devoted to the usual Americanized suspects, you can pluck out some exceptional gems. Wondering who currently makes the best soup dumplings in Atlanta? They’re here. No bigger than a key lime, full of rich broth, and encased in a smooth, pliable skin that never bursts when you pick it up, these xiao long baos were eerily similar to the ones I ordered last month in Los Angeles at Din Tai Fung, a global chain out of Taiwan widely recognized as masters of the art.
I say “currently makes” because Chinese kitchens can turn faster than an avocado. These chefs shuffle between restaurants, often giving no notice either to their employer or to their loyal fans. Go now before the magic disappears. Peerless, too, were the har gow, a shrimp dumpling wrapped in delicate rice wrapper. The wrapper was light with an al dente bite, and the shrimp inside were minerally-fresh. On a second visit, the skins were gummier, like the cheung fun noodles rolled with shrimp, but compared to what other dim sum restaurants shell out, they’re still worth ordering. Better were the shu mai, steamed pork dumplings. They taste much better than they look. Or maybe just crowd your table with deep fried pork and leek dumplings. Yes, deep fried, and they’re stuffed with so much meat that you know the kitchen didn’t buy them down the street at a grocery store.
But these dishes, no matter how great they are, aren’t what call me back. My siren song is the steamed pork with salted egg yolk. It’s a Cantonese specialty, and one of the five dishes my Pol Pol cooks when I visit her. Pork mixed with crunchy water chestnuts is steamed and then covered in strands of ginger and chopped chives. Eating it is my Ratatouille moment, my ticket to a small apartment in Memphis, my reminder of how much she misses me, and I her.