Steaming hot shumai dumplings? Check.
Sweet, savory and sticky baked bao? Check.
Chicken feet, steamed spareribs, congee? Triple check.
I ate with my eyes as carts roamed the dining room of newly opened Ming Palace in South Tacoma.
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I was thankful for the server who handed me a checklist because dim sum offerings on the written list went beyond the limited cart offerings (there’s also a picture menu for neophytes).
Ming Palace Chinese Seafood Restaurant — a dual-purpose dim sum and family-style Chinese restaurant — opened in mid-December in the former home of Ginger Palace II. It’s our policy to avoid criticism of a restaurant’s food and service in its first month. Here’s a first look.
Dining room: Inside looks virtually unchanged from its former life as Ginger Palace II, with the same ’80s hotel chic decor. Wood-wrapped pillars separating dining spaces, teal-and-mauve booths and chairs, shimmers of gold and silver in the artwork and inlaid mirrored ceiling. Several dining areas, plus banquet space.
What’s dim sum? A style of Chinese dining built from small dishes of steamed dumplings, steamed meats, tarts, buns and rolls. Each dish comes with three to four pieces for sharing.
Ming’s protocol: Order directly from the cart or peruse the list and check off what you’d like. Hand the list to the server, who will place your order. Cart items are immediately served, but the checklist dim sum takes longer because it’s prepared to order. A server will tally your dishes on the back of the checklist as each dish arrives.
Dim sum prices: $2.75 (small), $3.55 (medium), $3.95 (large), $4.15 and up (specials).
Only dim sum in Tacoma? Yes, it’s true. Tacoma has a mercurial history with dim sum. Lobster House in Tacoma’s Lincoln District opened in 2011, but uneven food and service was a problem until it closed a few years later. Ginger Palace II, which operated from 2013-2016, held true promise, but like Lobster House occasionally proved unpredictable. Only time, execution by Ming Palace, and your dining dollars will tell if this one sticks around.
Dim sum daily? Yes, they do have dim sum every day. Call first for hours and availability, though.
Menu: About 40 dim sum items with savory and sweet offerings, including rolls, steamed chicken feet, steamed tripe, Chinese broccoli, shrimp footballs, dumplings, buns, tarts, congee, Chinese doughnuts, sweet cakes, sticky rice in lotus leaf and steamed spareribs.
Try these dumplings and buns: Baked bao ($3.55) with a sticky glaze and a savory-sweet pork filling. Crunchy-chewy fried pork-veggie bun ($3.55) with a mushroom and pork filling in a saucy gravy. Steamed dumplings ($3.95) with shrimp beneath a see-through wrapper. Another version of steamed shrimp dumplings ($3.95) offered a finish of cilantro. Shumai ($3.95) came with a waft of ginger and fish roe topper.
Most surprising find: A steamed dumpling in a yellow wrapper broke to a filling of sweet corn, scallions and shrimp ($3.95).
Others to consider: Steamed chicken feet with a savory-sweet sauce ($3.95). Steamed tripe ($3.95) was just as chewy as the steamed spareribs dotted with black beans ($3.95). A lotus leaf unwrapped to sticky rice doused with a pungent sauce and flecks of pork ($3.95).
You can’t always get what you want: A crab meat dumpling checked on the dim sum order list went missing. We weren’t charged for it. Some of the menu descriptions did not quite match what arrived at the table, so go in knowing that.
Service: Friendly dim sum cart workers consistently stopped at every table, chatting and describing food as needed, with numerous table check-ins. Only six tables were occupied on my visit, with two servers working the floor. I worry that at higher capacity, service could be slower and less attentive with only two servers.
More Chinese: The restaurant doubles as a Chinese and seafood restaurant with the usual appetizers (barbecue pork, salt-and-pepper calamari, $7.95-$11.95), soup (egg flower, wonton, hot and sour, $8.95-$9.95) and all the usual Chinese wok dishes in pork (mu shu, sweet-and-sour, $11.95 each), beef (Mongolian, sesame, $12.95 each) and chicken (kung pao, sweet and sour, General Tso, $11.95 each). Also, vegetable and tofu dishes ($10.95-$16.95), hot pot ($13.95-$14.95), chow mein ($11.95-$13.95) and fried rice ($9.95-$16.95).
Live seafood? I spotted lobster and crab in the fresh tank. It’s market priced.
Ming Palace Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Where: 8736 S. Hosmer St., Tacoma; 253-548-2419.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.