Some Yelpers disparage Harmony Palace, right in the heart of Chinatown, but overall, it’s pretty good. Indeed, it is crowded and you may have to wait for your number to be called (in Chinese and English) but it’s about the food, right? Most of the dim sum are fine and there is a lot of variety, far more than at some other dim sum parlors. The sticky rice is a large lump wrapped in a leaf with bits of meats and veggies mixed into the rice. The pork shu mai are long on filling, not dough as they often are.
My most frequent dim sum companion is a tripe fan (I’m not) and reports it’s very good. I like the tiny spareribs despite having to wrestle the meat off the little bones and make a stab at spitting them into my hand to dispose of in a not-too-gross fashion. The cheong fan (rolled rice noodles) come stuffed with shrimp or pork and the dim sum lady squirts sauce over them unless you stop her (don’t.—it’s vaguely like Worcestershire and adds some welcome zip .)
Harmony Place can be very noisy especially at lunch time on a weekend. The dining room is enormous, aggressively red and gold with a raised stage at one end. You may be seated at a table with strangers, possibly Chinese, possibly not, but most groups talk to themselves after a polite nod in your direction. Have fear of chopsticks? Just pick up a fork as many people do. Sometimes, if a waiter has the time and inclination, he will twirl a rubber band around a pair of chopsticks so that a child can use them with ease.
Back to the food. Lo baak gou is known as turnip cake but technically it’s made of shredded daikon radish mixed with rice flour. Often, ham, sausage or shrimp are added to the mixture before it’s fried. Sometimes the turnip cake is greasy; on other visits, it’s been crisp and tasty. As sort of an antidote to the grease Harmony Palace almost always offers oval plates of bright green veggies, sometimes boy choy; other times Chinese broccoli and always delicious (and eating the veggies makes you feel better about all the not-so-healthy food you just inhaled.) Many carts include fried items including spring rolls and crab balls which I tend to pass on as I do the desserts.
When you sit down, a plump white teapot and Chinese tea cups will be put in front of you. You can pour tea whenever you like –it’s fairly weak as the pot arrives and gets stronger as it sits. If you need more, ask for a fresh pot. You can get a glass of wine at Harmony Palace although most people drink tea or a soft drink.
Each time a dish of dim sum is put on the table, the server, usually a woman pushing a rolling cart, will use an ink stamp to note the price of what you were served on a card that remains on your table. When you finish, the total will be added for you to pay at the cashier towards the front of the room. In general, it’s incredibly inexpensive.