Review: Hung Sum Restaurant – Ottawa
870 Somerset West, Ottawa, Ontario, (613) 238-8828
Date of Visit: March 22, 2012
I wanted to visit this place after reading a brief review at Ottawa Foodies, where it was misidentified as the ‘Hung Sun’ restaurant. Apparently, the establishment is quite new and the reviewer in question described it as something of a gem that he hoped would be kept ‘secret’. I suspect that the owners of the place might have some different thoughts on the subject but I can certainly appreciate the sentiment as I very much enjoyed my meal there and would hate to see it change its character to cater to more ‘mainstream’ tastes…
The name of the restaurant is not easy to decipher as the Chinese characters on the sign are very stylized and I am not sure I am reading the first character correctly. The last two characters, 飯館 (fàn’guǎn), just mean ‘rice shop’ and this is just one of the many ways of saying ‘restaurant’ in Chinese. The second character, 心, is pronounced ‘xīn’ in Mandarin and ‘sum’ in Cantonese and is the same character as in ‘Dim sum’. As for the first character… I *think* it may be 恆. If so, together with the second character, it forms a compound meaning ‘perseverance’. This seems like an odd name for a restaurant but it could be possible, I suppose. If any readers can shed any light on this I would love to hear from you…
Ambience and Service
Hung Sum is a tiny little place and there are seats for only about 32 patrons. It is very plainly furnished, almost Spartan actually, but it is clearly well maintained and very clean.
I arrived for on a Thursday afternoon at about 1:15 p.m. just after the normal lunchtime ‘rush’ and there were only 4 other patrons the whole time I was there. There was a single waitress on duty and I found her very friendly and helpful. I was particularly impressed when one of the other patrons forgot ‘doggie bag’ she had asked for and the waitress, who didn’t discover this until about five minutes after the woman left, chased her way down the street to return it.
Hung Sum basically offers Dim Sum dishes only***. In the picture above, alongside the pot of complimentary tea, you can see the sheet of paper that doubles as the menu and the order form. Patrons are expected to make their selections and mark down the number of each dishes required in the box provided. This place is a bit too small for the traditional Dim Sum cart service in any event, but I have to say that I much prefer this method of ordering Dim Sum as you can see at a glance what is on offer and order the dishes in the order you prefer.
*** (Update: A reviewer at Ottawa Foodies has advised that there is an evening menu that offers dishes other than Dim Sum)
You can see a copy of the Dim Sum Menu here…
Turnip cake: This is a standard on most Dim Sum menus but I don’t order it very often. It is made by blending shredded Asian white Radish (Lo Bok) with rice flour or other starches to make a thick batter. Other chopped ingredients such as dried shrimp, black mushroom and Chinese sausage or ham, are added and then everything is steamed to form a firm cake. Usually, this is sliced and the pieces are then briefly pan-fried before serving. When I make this, I generally make the cake very thin and fry it quite well to make it very crispy on the outside. Here, as in most Dim Sum restaurants, it is quite thick and very soft. I wasn’t sure I liked this version when I first tried it but it actually grew on me and I finished it all. It had a very slightly sulphurous taste, which may have meant it was steamed a bit too long, possibly, but it was otherwise sweet and tasty. There wasn’t much in the way of additions, a bit of shrimp, ham and possibly some mushroom, perhaps, but it was still quite good on the whole. Rating: 3 out of 5.
Chicken feet in Black Bean Sauce: These were, quite simply the best I have ever had. The waitress was very surprised that I, a non-Chinese, would order these and asked, with some incredulity ‘You like Chicken feet?’ … I just shrugged and said I liked them the last time I had them and, for some reason, this struck her as very funny. When they arrived the aroma was lovely and they were steamed to perfection. The meat and skin came easily from the bone but it was still nicely chewy and with the proper, slightly ‘gelatinous’ mouth-feel. Often, I find that the sauce that comes with chicken feet is bland and uninteresting but this was delicious. It was piquant and nicely sweet and savory with a hint of garlic. Rating: 5 out of 5.
Green Onion and Ginger Squid: This wasn’t bad although the squid was a little bland. It was cut quite thickly but managed to not be overly chewy despite not being scored. I found the Ginger taste a little too much but this is just a personal observation. I have had better versions than this but I have also had plenty that were not as good. Rating: 3 out of 5.
Shrimp Har Gow: – These dumplings were very prettily folded and frilled. Unfortunately, they were carelessly placed in the steaming basket and stuck together so that the skins ripped when I tried to take them out. The filling was tasty but not especially remarkable. Rating: 3 out of 5.
I very much liked this place. The service was friendly and quick and the surroundings comfortable, if a little plain. The menu has quite a lot of things I would like try and the selections I had on this occasion were tasty. I particularly enjoyed the steamed Chicken feet and found them to be the best I have ever had. I will definitely return.