It was early Saturday afternoon and it was time to “Feed The Beast”. I grabbed the mom of “The Beast” and “Beast Jr.” and off we went to West Lake Plum House in Matawan, New Jersey for Dim Sum. Many are unaware of this Cantonese culinary tradition. So before we discuss the experience and the dishes we enjoyed, we should understand what “Dim Sum” is all about.
The custom of Dim Sum dates back to the tenth century in the city of Canton in Southern China. Teahouses were seeing an influx of travelers and decided to offer Yum Cha (Small-portion meals) with their tea. Dim Sum which represents small food items eventually evolved into the Yum Cha which we know today. Basically Yum Cha is the Cantonese form of brunch. It is a wide selection of small dishes where servers will traditionally maneuver around the dining room with carts filled with steamed baskets and small plates containing different food items. You will pick which dishes off the carts you want to try. On your table will be a card that is separated by “Small, medium, large and sometimes extra large” dishes. Each size is a set price. The server will mark down on the card the different categories based on the dishes you select. At the end of your meal, they will tally up how many of each size you had and will total up your bill.
With the exception of going to China Town in New York City it can be difficult to find a restaurant locally offering Dim Sum in the Tri-State area. Years ago I found this local restaurant and have been going back to West Lake Plum House ever since. Since it is a brunch offered only on the weekends and they want the food to be fresh, only a certain amount if prepared. As the day goes on they will start to run out of choices which is expected and appreciated. With this in mind, I recommend going in between 11:00 am and noon.
Unfortunately with Covid restrictions, they cannot circulate through the dining rooms with the carts. They supply you with a Dim Sum menu and you check off your choices. Hopefully, soon they can resume with the carts because that is a major part of the allure.
As for the food, they never disappoint. Everything we tried was extremely tasteful and fresh. Shrimp and pork dishes are the most popular on their current menu with the widest variety of choices. Keep in mind the items on the Dim Sum menu may not be what you are accustomed to. But if you are adventurous, you need to try this fantastic custom. They do have a menu that you can order dishes that you may be more familiar with. Some of my favorite dishes is the “Sticky Rice”, “Shrimp Dumplings”, “Roast Pork Bun”, “Shiu Mai” and “Shrimp Rice Rolls”. I would recommend these dishes for a beginner to Dim Sum.