There are no reservations at the Upper West Side outpost of RedFarm, so my group of five showed up at 6:30 on a Thursday night hoping to beat the usual 8 p.m. dinner crowd. Even though it’s apparently twice the size of the original West Village location, the place was packed, and even having called earlier in the afternoon to put ourselves on a waitlist wasn’t helping. But the staff was zealous in finding a spot for us, and soon enough, we were seated at the end of a communal table in the middle of the checkered-table-cloth and blond wood dining room, about to eat every single item on the dim sum menu.
You can sell white people anything with a little woodgrain and some bold graphic design.
cucumber thyme cooler and blackberry ginger-lime soda
three color vegetable dumplings
Katz’s pastrami egg roll, mustard sauce
So spicy and everything I wanted it to be. How can you make the famous pastrami from Katz’s Delicatessen even better? DEEP FRY IT.
crunchy vegetable & peanut dumplings
These were just what you expect–all earthy vegetables with just a hint of peanut–but something about them made them really memorable for me. Probably the fact that they were so simple and fresh amidst a mass of fried things.
shrimp & mango fried wontons
shrimp & snow pea leaf dumplings
The way these were shaped just like the shrimp inside did so much to highlight the seafood. This was all about the shrimp and its texture.
five flavor chicken dumplings
The best part about these was the curry sauce underneath, which everyone loved and wanted to spoon onto everything else.
lobster cheese sticks
I was the only person at our table who seemed so-so about these. The cheese tasted processed to me. And you know I usually love a processed cheese food, but I wanted to be wowed by what was accompanying my lobster.
‘Pac Man’ shrimp dumplings
I know this was supposed to be all novelty, but it was one of my favourite plates in terms of flavor, too. The Pac-Man was made of tempura sweet potato, and the dumplings were shrimp with a heavy dose of lemongrass.
crispy duck & crab dumplings
The little “tail” on these was the end of a crab claw. (Have you noticed yet that practically every dumpling has eyes?)
pan-fried pork buns, spicy sauce
I loved these mini pork buns because I love all pork buns ever, but everyone else complained that they were only big enough to tease us.
pork & crab soup dumplings in individual bamboo steamers
pork & crab soup dumplings
I know everyone has her own idea of the perfect soup dumpling, and these weren’t mine. I liked the very tender meatball inside that made the guts easy to eat, but the thin skin made it too easy for the dumpling to fall apart while I was sucking out the soup. I prefer the thicker, chewy skin of the Chinatown soup dumplings I’m used to.
pork & shrimp dumpling skewers
Very tropical. Again, I thought the texture of the shrimp was the stand-out.
pan-fried lamb dumpling shooters, tofu, miso seaweed broth
A meeting of the land and sea.
BBQ’d duck breast, grilled litchi (lychee), lotus chip
One of the most complete bites I had: crunchy lotus, sweet fresh fruit, seared smoky duck.
shrimp-stuffed jalapeño poppers
soft & crunchy vegetable fried rice
Our friend Tiffany, who had visited the original RedFarm downtown, insisted that we order this despite its $14 price tag, and I secretly could’ve eaten the entire vat myself. Partly because the dim sum wasn’t nearly enough to fill me up, and partly because I loved the crunchy bits of watercress.
Our server became ECSTATIC about this chocolate pudding when reciting the dessert menu to us. It was the kind of build-up that ensures you’ll be disappointed by whatever follows. But I wasn’t disappointed. It was simply some of the thickest, chocolatiest pudding around.
The bill. For dim sum.
This should scare you.
RedFarm, most notably, is expensive. It seemed like nearly all of the comments I read on reviews before my visit were centered around how expensive it is, and rightfully so. We spent $80 per person, and then we talked about going to Shake Shack afterward to actually get full. It was strange to find a restaurant charging $14 for 4 dumplings you’d pay $1 for in Chinatown and then adding eyes to everything like it was meant to help children stomach shrimp for the first time. That said, I actually really liked the place. Some of the dumplings were unmemorable, but some of them were bursting with flavor and had me wishing I was getting more than one of each kind (Pac-Man, I’m coming back for you by myself). And that creativity was reflected in the price. So was the fact that this wasn’t some dim sum factory restaurant with food being served from carts but a friendly place for white people to bring their mothers who are afraid of cuisine that sounds foreign. This is the kind of casual, cute eatery I’d love to pop into on a whim whenever the craving for dim sum hits (which is about every other day for me), but the price point unfortunately makes it more of a destination than a whenever spot.
New York, NY 10024 (map)