Dim Sum at Shen Yang
I love hors d'oeuvres. They're bite-sized, which means you can eat lots of different ones, and you never know which little bacon-wrapped, deep-fried, cheese-encrusted, melon-infused, parsley-topped, skewered delight will be offered to you next.
This is why I love dim sum, the Chinese version of hors d'oeuvres. Dim sum’s even better, though, because they take it one step farther and make an entire meal out of it. Shen Yang, just north of 38th on Georgetown Road (the former location of Yummy), serves dim sum every day at lunch. Dave and I went there on Saturday and exhibited little restraint. Loosely translated, dim sum means "order to your heart's content," and we did.
Walking up to Shen Yang is a little off-putting. The parking lot is filthy and littered with trash and cigarette butts. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that the parking lot was packed 11 a.m. The plain, large dining room was already a third filled with patrons. We were quickly seated and given a metal pot filled with delicious jasmine tea. Then the fun began.
If you're new to dim sum, here's how it works. Servers circulate around the dining room with carts that have one or more different items on them. The server stops by your table and describes what's on her cart, you tell her what you want, and she puts the various round metal dishes on your table. The servers keep track of what you eat by marking it on a bill they leave on your table. Repeat with the next cart. And the next. And the next. Keep going until you're full, then grab your bill and pay the cashier. (A word to the large-capacity eater: it's not all-you-can-eat, so the hollow-legged could conceivably rack up a pretty big bill.)
I like going for dim sum when the restaurant is most crowded, because there are more ladies pushing more carts filled with more varieties of food. Our table was close to the kitchen so we usually got first dibs on whatever was coming out.
We hit the jackpot on the first cart, which had a big at least seven different things on it. We started with ground shrimp scallop balls on shitake mushrooms. The balls were light and fluffy, and I love shitake mushrooms, so this was a hit. We also got the ribs, which were tiny bite-sized boiled riblets that looked a little gray but were very tasty.
By the end of the meal, we had also gone through delicious sautéed eggplant, steamed Chinese broccoli, pork buns (they look like perfect egg-washed dinner rolls, but surprise! there's barbeque pork inside), rice paper dumplings filled with shrimp and garlicky greens, and chicken feet.
A word about the chicken feet.
To be clear, chicken feet really are chicken feet, not some sort of funny name for something else, like "mountain oysters" or "beggar's purses." I ordered them under my "I'll try anything once" policy. Once it probably all they'll get. First, the chicken feet look like chicken feet, albeit cooked and coated in a pretty tasty barbeque style sauce. Second, there isn’t a lot of meat on those tiny little bird-foot bones. Third, I couldn't stop thinking about what it is that chickens scratch with their feet all day. I ate one, but not with gusto.
But never fear. There are lots and lots of choices here, including beef balls, sesame balls, custard balls, calamari, sticky rice, and lots different types of dumplings and rice noodle rolls.
Everything we ate was fresh and well prepared. I wish I had been hungrier so I could have tried more things. Ideally, I'd go with a group of about six so we could more items.
By the time we left, the restaurant was nearly full with happy chattering patrons. They were definitely onto something good.
3902 Georgetown Road (North of 38th St.)
Indianapolis, IN 46254
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