At Dim Sum Go Go, the Fried Dishes Trump the Steamed
As we've mentioned before, the quality of order-by-the-cart dim sum can be a little hit or miss. If your timing is right, your fried sesame balls will still be steaming hot and your fresh rice noodles will quiver like custard. If not, you might be eating food that's 30 minutes old, a lifetime and a half in dim sum years—perhaps tasty still, but a shadow of what it could have been.
Menu-based dim sum restaurants, where you order by ticking items off on a card that you hand to your waiter, take a lot of the fun out of the dim sum experience. After all, isn't hunting down carts part of the point? But they do make for a less hassled meal, and it means your dim sum is likely cooked to-order just for you, which should make for a fresher meal. Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Street, Red Egg on Centre (full review here), and of course Nom Wah Tea Parlor are some of the best-known examples, but Dim Sum Go Go has won its own acclaim over the years, a kind of Chinatown institution so established it's rarely discussed anymore.
It's been over a decade since I last paid a visit to Go Go, and while we're all thinking about supporting our downtown restaurants, it occurred to me that we've never really taken a stab at the place beyond a couple piecemeal items on this site.
How does the dim sum stack up? Pretty well, we'd say—with one major caveat. For best results, stick to the fried food.
It's a curious inversion of the dim sum norm, where the steamed items usually hold up better to long trips on the cart before they reach your table. But at Dim Sum Go Go we mostly found sticky, gooey dumpling skins, bland or texturally off fillings, and uninspired buns. Rice rolls are decent, but more thick and doughy than lithe and pliant. The one exception: a duck dumpling that merits a visit all on its own.
It's a whole different story with the turnip cakes ($3.50 lunch/$4.50 dinner). Dim Sum Go Go has one of the best you'll find anywhere, wobbly and custardlike with a delicate crust and the honest flavor of turnip (bolstered by tender chunks of the root in the cake).
Pumpkin cakes ($3.50/4.50) are an autumnal must-order, a case for how much depth you can find in squash without the cover-up of cinnamon and allspice. They're just as wobbly-delicious as the turnip cakes.
Deep fried sesame balls ($3/$4), glutinous rice dough stuffed with bean paste, are usually tepid and leaden by the time they reach your table at dim sum. Here they're as hot and fresh as you could ask for, the sesame seed coating crisp, nutty, and grease-free, the lotus bean paste bright and sweet.
And innocently-named shrimp balls ($3.50/4.50), deep fried pockets of cloud-like shrimp mousse, are crisp but tender beneath their crackly crust, run through with briny sweetness and once again, no grease! At dim sum! What a miracle.
The only offending fried item was the pork dumpling ($3.50/4.50), a disappointment of wrinkly, oily skin and gristly filling. But we're still batting four out of five on the fried stuff, pretty good odds.
It's hard for me to reconcile our recent meal at Dim Sum Go Go with my rose-tinted memories—I just don't recall the dumplings and buns being so disappointing. But the fried stuff here is great stuff, and I know I'll be seeking out those turnip cakes and shrimp balls again soon.
Dim Sum Go Go remains an easy introduction for the dim sum novitiate—it's clean, bright, and reasonably accommodating. While I might still send first-timers to Nom Wah, I'm happy to know the place is still kicking.