When I was growing up, dim sum was my Chuck-E-Cheese's. In a palatial, cacophonous Cantonese restaurant festooned by dragons and chandeliers with an army of red tuxedos, my childhood friends and I would marvel at the crabs leering in their tanks and roving carts negotiating swift right angles across the floor. We'd race back to the table just long enough to grab a dumpling or a few lengths of noodles, then we were off again.
The grandeur was as much the point as the dim sum, which is why I always look for chandeliers and dragons when going out for the meal today.
Pacificana in Sunset Park offers both. That is, the dragons and the dim sum, each quite well. The cavernous restaurant accommodates hundreds comfortably and is popular enough to draw long waits if you arrive later than opening (dim sum begins at 8 a.m. on the weekends). Crowds come for prompt, agreeable service and some rather nice dumplings.
The Shrimp and Pork Dumplings, for instance, are stuffed to bursting with juicy ground shrimp and pork, the filling speckled with a touch of green and the skins taut and supple. The solo shrimp Har Gow taste impressively clean, the shrimp crisp and fresh. Soup Dumpings are worth an order as well. They're not perfect, but sweet and meaty enough.
Jiu Cai Bau are also done well here, at least on the inside: thin skins (they do great skins at Pacificana) hide a rush of mustardy greens which more than make up for the delicate crust these dumplings acquire when fried. Our Turnip Cakes also came with weak crusts, but the wobbly, custard-like cake with its nubs of pork satisfies.
I'd come back for the Cheong Fun, which was not quite as thin and delicate as what you'll find at New Spring Garden down 8th Avenue, but still plenty lithe and slippery. The curls of shrimp inside were just as good as what we found in the dumplings.
Near the end of your meal you'd be wise to order a mess of Greens, which are crisp and not too greasy, and deep fried Mantou with Condensed Milk, the little doughy pillows delicately crisp and glossy, the best dessert Pacificana can offer you.
Our only misstep was a house favorite of Roast Suckling Pig, which arrived not just cool but cold, the fatty pork chunks more gelatinous than succulent and the crackly skin softened by what I imagine was refrigerator humidity. Perhaps you'll have better luck with it. But you needn't bother, not with these dim sum classics done well and all this twinkling glamor available for under $15 a head.