Intense dim sum cravings require a certain quality of the doughy delicacy to satisfy. Dim sum is not just a meal or just some more Chinese food. It is a part of a weekly routine, a form of slowing down and relaxing. I will always remember my dad’s longtime college friend; every Sunday morning, while his wife and daughter slept in, he went to the nearby dim sum restaurant with a newspaper and enjoyed the food for three or four hours. He savored every bite while pondering the latest news. It’s a ritual for him. I always say to myself, “This man truly enjoys life and the small intricacies of food.” Dim sum is about savoring every bite of all the unique tastes. In Cantonese, dim sum holds many different meanings. The word can mean “treat” or “snack”, but it also means “to touch the heart.” The meal is designed to enlighten and touch you deep down in your passion for food, to be a treat for oneself. The warmth of dim sum embraces you each time you savor a bite.
As students, we might not have time for a three-hour meal, but we still deserve delicious dim sum. Asian Pearl is one of the good dim sum places accessible to UC Berkeley students by bus. Located in an indoor plaza with 99 Ranch Market and other Chinese shops, Asian Pearl draws crowds like no other. Go on a weekend, and be prepared to wait for about 30 minutes to an hour. Do not be scared away though; the restaurant is well worth the wait because its dim sum is one of the best around Berkeley.
In a brightly lit restaurant with white tablecloths, white ceilings and tan and beige walls, the mood is sure to please. Look through the windows and see a sea of people eating their hearts out. Although the food is great, the service is average, probably because there are so many people that the servers forget little things sometimes. I have always gone for the dim sum and order my staples: steamed shrimp dumplings, shiu mai (pork dumplings), baked barbecue pork buns, steamed egg custard bun (filled with salted duck egg’s yolk), shrimp rice noodle roll, baked crispy egg custard tart and turnip soft cake with scallops. Actually, I am especially judgmental about the egg custard tart. I order it every time I eat dim sum. Unlike the other dishes, every restaurant makes egg custard tarts a little differently. An excellent egg custard tart should be noticeably flaky, easily crumbled, so soft that I barely have to bite down and able to melt in the mouth. Asian Pearl’s egg custard tarts are almost up there with the best tarts I’ve had in Hong Kong and San Francisco’s Chinatown. Including the egg custard tart, all dishes arrive hot and fresh, creating the distinct light aroma of dim sum.
Dim sum exists to slow down life and to help one forget about stressful problems. Dim sum represents something a little bit different for everyone, whether it be a time to socialize with friends and family or indulge in filling treats to satisfy a passion for food. When I eat at Asian Pearl, I always feel relaxed, free and true to myself. Somehow the restaurant makes me regain a positive attitude toward daily life. I wonder if it was the same for my father’s friend.
Asian Pearl is located at 3288 Pierce St,, Suite A-118, Richmond, CA (inside the 99 Ranch plaza). You can call the restaurant at (510) 526-6800, but it doesn’t take reservations.
Contact Annie Change at [email protected]