Dim Yum, a potential bad review turned good after a second visit
March was an eventful month at work with its birthdays, baby showers and monthly drinks! We also did a few celebration lunches, one of which took place at Dim Yum. This restaurant located in Flagey proposes a menu that revisits dim sums with a European twist. Please note that this post will be long because it covers my first and second visit and so my overall opinion. PS: The story ends well so read until the end ;)
Now when I say revisiting Dim Sums, I mean that Dim Yum has kept more or less the technique but modified the recipe..Plus, they broadened the scope of dim sums* to "dumplings" I would say. Indeed, looking at the menu I see first juicy dumpling which are probably what's called Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) and come from the region of Jiangnan (Shanghai & Wuxi), they are buns with soup inside. Then you'll see the crunchy dumplings which are pan-fried, suggesting that these are actually Jiaozi (饺子). And finally the menu proposes the signature dumpling which seems to be a steamed variation that you'll know as the actual Dim Sum (点心) or Yum Cha, a typical Cantonese delicacy usually served with tea.
With the increasing popularity of these three specialties, it is no wonder that new restaurants keep on opening with menus getting more and more extravagant. When my colleagues and I decided to try Dim Yum, I didn't expect to find authenticity rather I was looking forward to the recipe and to being surprised... Especially with the good reviews this restaurant has on Google. The story took a funny turn though...
We booked a table for 6 and arrived around 12:15 at Dim Yum. There were just 2 customers seated, the place wasn't crowded at all. We dropped our bags and jackets at our table and headed to the counter to order our food. We were all tempted by the Lunch Duo which allowed us to try 2 dim sums and to get a side dish for 9,90€, a good bargain. Some of us took just crunchy dumplings, some mixed the crunchy and the juicy, other took just the steamed dim sums... But all of us went for the curry soup. In my case, I ordered the #1 (juicy dumpling with pork, ginger, green onion and broth) as well as the Twisty (Chicken, lemongrass, lime).
We waited for about 15 minutes to get our food, the time to steam and pan-fry the dumplings. Plates started to arrive, one by one, and that's when I started to be a tiny bit disappointed. Having Chinese in-laws I know what a pan-fried Jiaozi must look like and this was not a golden crispy dumpling...It was burned, badly wrapped and the presentation wasn't appealing...
Then it was the turn of the juicy and signature dumplings (steamed ones) to come. When I lifted the top of the bamboo basket I knew something wasn't right. The Juicy dumplings were rather flat and the signature dumpling that I ordered just looked weird. And my suspicion was right: I searched for the soup in 3 out of the 4 "juicy dumplings" and the filling felt quite dry. The signature dumpling wasn't better: the dough was too thick, the chicken was extra dry and the lemongrass overpowered any other taste... The balance of flavors was a disaster but so was the folding and cooking.
I ate everything nonetheless to avoid food waste but the experience wasn't pleasing at all. Good thing the price was cheap otherwise it would have been a complete rip off! In the following afternoon, I left a review on Google with the pictures above and strangely, one of my colleague was contacted by the owner who proposed that we come back for another lunch to try again the food.
I was surprised by this gesture, it felt nice but also a bit dangerous for Dim Yum to invite us again. Did we catch the chef (Antoine) in a bad day? Or would he prepare better for our second visit? In any case, it raises questions about Dim Yum's ability to provide quality at all time. I was ready to give it another chance but first I read about Dim Yum and asked around...
The answer was more or less the same whether I read or spoke to people: After spending a few months in Asia, Antoine decided to launch Dim Yum. It seemed like an empty story so I spoke to Antoine, after my second visit, and got the full story which clarified everything. He actually opened Dim Yum for two reasons:
He visited a friend living in Taiwan and discovered dim sums and liked these little treats;
He studied management at Solvay and was looking for an unusual business concept and restaurants serving original dim sums at an affordable price are not legions in Brussels.
He actually trained for 2 years to prep his recipes and folding skills but truth be told, it's one thing to make dim sums at home...But it is another to make huge quantities to sustain the needs of a restaurant. Not only do you need to prepare bigger batches but you also need to train your staff to master the discipline and that can be tricky. That's probably why my previous visit was a flop.
I must say that my second visit was a lot more pleasant than the first. I tried the gyozas for a change, the Teriyaki (salmon, green beans and green onions) and the Shishi (shiitake mushrooms, sesame and red onions) and I was positively surprised. The gyozas were properly cooked, golden on the bottom, and the filling was moist and tasty. It was a complete change from the dry dumplings we had last time.
The girls tried again the #1 and other soup & steamed dumplings and were satisfied with their choices. Eating soup dumplings was a first for some of them and quite a funny experience :) Another general comment was that the filling was not dry and that flavors were a lot more balanced than before.
What I appreciated even more was the honesty of Antoine, admitting that the plates of "burned" gyozas from last time should never have been served, same for the soup dumplings. He was also interested in hearing constructive comments that would help him improve his skills and recipes, an attitude that makes a whole difference. He didn't consider himself as a 3* Michelin chef or as someone who masters traditional dim sums, rather he wanted to offer a variation and tries to continuously improve. He also admitted that the success of Dim Yum was a double edge sword because he needs to hire more staff that are not always familiar with making dim sums, be it the recipe or the folding part. That explains why sometimes, the quality varies... I guess once the employee count stabilizes and everyone gets trained, the quality will be consistently good.
Again, if you visit Dim Yum come with an open mind and don't expect traditional Chinese dim sums. If you come here, it is to try a variation and if something doesn't seem right, I would definitely suggest to talk to Antoine, he is ready to listen and to acknowledge when a mistake's been made.
Have you tried Dim Yum? What did you like best? Drop a comment below.