Dim Sum at Sunflower Chinese Restaurant
The mom says:
I haven't told my son yet but, during our dim sum dining experience at Sunflower Chinese Restaurant, I'm pretty sure we ate something that was part of a late animal's reproductive system.
And that sums up (pardon the pun) both the fun and fear of dim sum: Unless you're part of the Chinese-speaking community, it's going to be a culinary adventure.
Dim sum is a fascinating dining tradition where you share small servings of bite-sized food ranging from spicy to savory to sweet, and they're wheeled around on carts that you make your selections from. Because my son had just finished a unit on China in his social studies class, I figured this would be a great way to top it off.
So one Saturday noontime we headed down to a strip mall along Sawmill Road near Dublin. The place was already packed and the two of us had to wait about 10 minutes for a table (they don't seem to take reservations).
I think the fact that there were only two of us affected the experience. Dim sum definitely is best experienced with a crowd, not just so you can compare notes on what you're eating, but so you can garner more attention from the staff. I had a hard time getting a pot of tea for myself and I had to get up and beg the dessert-cart server to come to our table. Larger groups of diners didn't seem to suffer from the same lack of attention.
We also got only very rushed explanations on dishes and never managed to get a poultry dish other than chicken feet, despite a request for one. And, like I said, I'm pretty sure that one of the dishes - which unfortunately was very boiled and bland to our tastes - had done hard time in some animal's nether regions.
All that said, several of the dishes were tasty. I especially liked the steamed barbecue pork buns, steamed pork dumplings and the egg custard tarts (though they are very heavy on the yolk).
I would say that if you've got adventurous eaters, dim sum is worth doing at least once as a family. It certainly gave us a lot to talk about, comparing how different countries' food traditions develop and why. Eating chicken feet definitely
makes the concept of "waste not, want not" very real to a kid.
The women's bathroom was very clean and had an often-used diaper-changing station (there wasn't one in the men's bathroom, my son said). The restaurant does attract lots of families with small children, many of whom played happily under the tables while their parents and grandparents lingered over their meals. And be wary of the parking lot - it's busy and cars move quickly through it.
The Kid Says:
I thought dim sum would be a fun experience. It met many of my expectations and mostly the good ones. There wasn't as much rice as I thought, but there was a lot more meat.
It's fun to have everything come around on a cart because you get to see everything before you order it, so you have a more in-depth perspective on what you want and what you don't.
For example, I didn't want the chicken feet but my mom did. I still tried it, but I didn't like it. There were lots of bits and pieces of bone and it was just a thin outer layering of something and then just bone. The meat around it was no thicker than a centimeter. It did gross me out, the idea of eating chicken feet. Just think about where those feet have been.
Sunflower is a place you should go to if you are a meat lover. There was beef mixed into almost everything, plus chicken and pork. The steamed pork dumpling is very good except I suggest eating it with a fork. It's pretty slippery and I don't think I would be able to hold onto it with chopsticks.
I had the strawberry smoothie, which was delightful. The egg custard tart was not very good. It was pretty much scrambled eggs with no salt in a bread cup. The barbecued pork bun was very good. Just don't pick it up with your hands because it's very sticky.
The service was OK. They didn't do a very good job of explaining what the food was, even though we asked. The bathrooms were pretty small but they were clean.
I might go back but pick carefully what you eat.
Mom: Steamed barbecue pork bun
Kid: Steamed pork dumpling
Sunflower Chinese Restaurant
7370 Sawmill Rd., Dublin
Cost: About $15 per person. Each dish costs $4, $5 or $6, but you have to ask your server which is which as you order.
Hours for dim sum service: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday