By Anne DesBrisay
Dim Sum is one of the finest, funnest and fastest ways of filling up. Particularly if you arrive early and can snag a table right away. Tea arrives, and the bossy trolleys begin their pass-by within seconds of you settling yourself.
Your job is to indicate the steaming baskets and small bowls that appeal, succumbing not to over-pointing-eagerness at the start, so easily done when driven by hunger. That, and the reluctance to refuse the nice trolley ladies any of their wares. (Women tend to do the driving here. Men seat you, bring tea, and the bill.)
But if you don’t save some room for what tends to come toward the end of the parade (the taro dumplings, say, with their mad scientist wig around a soft, rich filling; or the delicate egg custard tarts) you’ll find yourself flagging 10 minutes after you’ve arrived.
The quality, variety, and inventiveness of Ottawa’s dim sum offerings pale in comparison with those of cities like Toronto or Vancouver. But I have come to believe that Le Palais Imperial on Dalhousie Street now offers the best dim sum in the city and I’ve written as much (and please weigh in with your thoughts…)
But today we are at the 24-year-old big sister of Palais Imperial, the expansive Mandarin Ogilvie Restaurant in Ottawa’s east end.
I’ve always loved the grinning welcome here. There’s a family feel to the busy, efficient Mandarin banquet space. And like all families, some of the members are patient and kind, some brusque and bored. Part of the fun of the feast, I find.
The best dish of any I’ve sampled here is the one piled with juicy, crackling pork. I can eat this till the pigs come home. The Fun Gor (fresh rice noodle filled with pork) is a slippery treat. Sui Mai (shrimp- and pork-filled steamed baskets), though a bit indelicate, are still tasty and filling. Not too impressed with the greasy eggplant sliced and filled with shrimp, nor with the gelatinous garlic sauce ladled on top. But the pork and scallion filled pot stickers (steamed and fried) are very tasty, and we like as well the sweet, sour, and spiced up vegetables with their whole hits of garlic.
We drink tea, and we point and we point. And we waddle out laden with leftovers.
Cost: for way too much dim sum for two, $63
Open: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Open every day but Christmas.
Mandarin Ogilvie, 1137 Ogilvie Rd., 613-749-8838.