Last weekend I had my first brush with dim sum brunch. You'd think as a twenty-something-year-old and my, ahem, heritage that I would've met this prized dining experience years ago. My mother swears she introduced me to dim sum when I was younger, but there's just no way I'd forget something this good.
Tip No. 1: If you arrive on time, you’ll be waiting for a table.
My mother, husband, Cody, and I arrived at Jade Villa in Virginia Beach around 10:50 a.m., ten minutes before it opened. There were already about 20 people in line, and by the time those doors swung open, nearly 40 hungry folks piled in. The servers promptly sat each group and took drink orders, which included many pots of tea. Clearly, they knew the drill.
Tip No. 2: Pace yourself.
Similar to tapas, dim sum is a dining style in which food is delivered on small plates or in steamer baskets. The servers roll carts between the aisles, stopping at each table with a rundown of ready-to-serve items like dumplings, sticky rice, pork buns, tofu—you name it. But the trick in mastering dim sum is to not order every time and be tempted by the enticing items on the cart because different dishes are constantly being added to the rotation.
Once you make your selections, the server hands you your food, then marks an “X” in the corresponding price category ($2.50–$6) on the ticket at your table. And boy, do those X’s add up quickly.
Tip No. 3: Sometimes my family ignores Tip No. 2.
Even though my family didn’t go on extravagant vacations together when growing up, my mother always made sure we were fed and fed well. Cody has learned that to be a part of my family, you must have an appetite for two or you’re going to be picked on for not eating enough. This of course meant that she ordered nearly one of everything to make sure we had a well-rounded first visit to Jade Villa.
Here’s a rundown of what we ordered:
Steamed shrimp dumplings
Steamed pork dumplings
Spicy eggplant stuffed with shrimp
Rice soup with chicken and scallions that was almost like grits meets chicken noodle soup
Tofu stuffed with shrimp
Steamed pork buns of sweetened pork baked inside a sticky bun
A sort of beef stew with sweet, thin broth and potatoes
Garlicky short ribs that were crunchy, salty little morsels
Leek dumplings with shrimp and beef inside
Chinese broccoli sauteed with garlic, which we ordered separately
Taho, a silken tofu dessert
Sesame balls filled with sweet bean paste
Popular in the Philippines, taho is like ice cream there, my mom told us. Served hot, the silken tofu is carted to each table, and the server shaves off thin slices, then tops it off with ginger syrup, which tasted like sweetened black tea.
Sesame balls are these delicious, deep-fried, sesame seed-covered pockets made of sticky and chewy dough filled with sweet bean paste. Cody jokes that I know more about foods of my heritage than I let on. This was further demonstrated when I squealed, “sesame balls!” I’ve begun to accept the raised eyebrow that he responds with because I know that once I let him try something, we’re caught in that whole you-should-have-ordered-your-own ordeal. As I’m forced to share my Filipino treats, my mother grins proudly that I didn’t marry a picky eater.
After sampling over a dozen items, I was more than full, but that’s how my momma raised me, an adventurous, joyful overeater.
Jade Villa is located at 353 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach. Dim Sum brunch is only offered on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m. However, you can order dim sum from the menu during the week. View the dim sum menu here. Call 757-473-2228 or visit their website for more information.