Top 5: Where to find the best dim sum in Tokyo
Dim sum is the grail of the grazer. A little of this, a little of that, tea – sorted. Rendered as tenshin in Japanese, the Chinese term means “to touch or near the heart,” or refers to a small snack or light meal.
Although the dishes are believed to originate in Guangdong Province, today they include foods and traditions from all over the country, ranging from a myriad of varieties of dumplings to fried delicacies and sweet treats. To list them all – over a thousand – would be madness.
Dim sum can be found at all echelons of the Tokyo restaurant. The Mandarin Oriental, Grand Hyatt, and Westin all offer dim sum, for those who can afford the price. At the other end, there are the big players’ chains – a handful of Din Tai Fung branches; the local Jin Din Rou franchise; Tim Ho Wan, internationally renowned, even has two branches in the city. But there is a plethora of delicious dim sum dinners hidden in plain sight in many parts of Tokyo. Here are five of the best, chosen for their cost effectiveness and authenticity.
Daikouun Tenten Shurou
Down on Meguro-dori, before the avenue turns into a canyon of vintage stores and furniture stores, is the sizable gem Daikouun Tenten Shurou. The name of the game here is cool. The shronpo (xiao long bao, widely called “soup dumplings”; 1,000 for six) are wonderful – potentially even perfect. Soft, supple skins give way to meat broth and pure, finely chopped pork.
The aromatic pork enclosed in the chÅ«gyÅza (medium dumplings; 500 for six) also comes swimming in a broth, with a satisfying solidity to their fried bases, while the smoked duck harumaki mochigome (Sticky Rice Spring Rolls; 800) Take everyone’s favorite duck pancakes and fry them until crispy. The staff are also accommodating: if you want vegetarian versions of anything, just ask.
Takaban 1-1-7, Meguro-ku 152-0004; 03-5721-8866; take out available
Tsim Sha Tsui
Despite its questionable location along one of Roppongi’s anonymous lanes, tucked away on the ground floor of the somewhat suspicious Roppongi Business Apartments, Tsim Sha Tsui is well worth your time. The upholstered interior, the sleepy music box soundtrack, and the extremely welcoming staff (not to mention the food), combine for the kind of down-to-earth appeal that every dim sum fan should be looking for. .
Everything is cooked fresh. The nira gyÅza (garlic-chive pork) exhibit skins of the dumpling variety that are translucent and unleavened, but are noticeably thick, resulting in satisfactory chewing. The shÅ«mai (steamed pork dumplings) are miniature giants, densely packed with rich, juicy pork in a real dumpling sausage. Almost all dim sum dishes cost Â¥ 650, which makes it pretty profitable if you want to mix and match a few.
Roppongi 17-17-12, Minato-ku 106-0032; 03-3403-0166; take out available
Hong Kong Chan Ki Coffee
If you want to briefly transport yourself to the “scented port”, head to the Hong Kong Cafe Chan Ki. This Iidabashi establishment offers laissez-faire service and a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere, like the Cantonese equivalent of a British coffee from a greasy spoon. Here you can gorge on staples such as veloutÃ© daikon mochi (Go for it or turnip pancakes; Â¥ 650) and cloud-like chashuman (steamed barbecue pork buns; 650) with a sweet and chewy filling.
It’s also the rare place in Tokyo where you can get authentic, homemade Nonya. Kaya – jam made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs and pandan sheets. Here, it’s sandwiched between slices of toast (390) and pairs perfectly with a Hong Kong-style cup of latte. Stay and soak up the atmosphere, punctuated by friends from the store passing by to chat with the kitchen staff. As a special treat, get a bo lo bao (pineapple bread; 300) – it’s like a puffy, mega-soufflÃ© melonpan.
Iidabashi 3-4-1, Chiyoda-ku 102-0072; 03-6261-3365; take out available; chankichachanten-iidabashi.jp
Bimi yum cha
Bimi’s interior is chic at first, with the granite floors, high chair backs, and fancy music tinkling over the speakers – the grand piano crouching in the corner may leave you curious – but the constant tinkle of the dishes and the lively service soon disillusion you with this notion. The same applies to economical meal sets, namely the honjitsu no tenshin Meal plan (Â¥ 1,200), available from 11:30 am to 2 pm (excluding Sundays and holidays).
The set begins with tea, zÄsai (Sichuan pickles) and egg soup, then it’s rice, stewed cabbage, pork chÄshÅ«, and an assortment of dim sum. It even comes with annindÅfu (a sweet and jellied dish made from almond stones) for dessert. Otherwise, go âoff pisteâ and select your dim sum individually (plates from 726). The nira-ebi mushigyÅza (steamed shrimp with garlic-chives) are delicately balanced; crispy harumaki (spring rolls) have a robust crunch and silky innards; and the buta no shÅ«mai (steamed pork dumplings) feature a hearty, coarse filling of juicy pork.
Sarugakucho 11-6, Shibuya-ku 150-0033; 03-3770-2168; take out available; bimijp.com
If you are lucky enough to visit this veritable Ebisu institution on a hot, sunny day, you might be treated to a window seat, getting as close as possible to the concept of the Park – it’s ‘central Chinese’. “city of Paris”, by the way. The ‘terrace’ feeling begins the moment you are led to your table and quietly pour a cup of tea, identified for you by the helpful waiter (pu’er on this particular visit; the staff will also recommend combos to dip. ).
The 1,100 Daily Dim Sum Lunch Set is rightly praised. In addition to the delicious steamed dumplings, you get zÄsai, corn soup, steamed vegetables, a choice of Okay (rice congee) and dessert (tapioca or annindÅfu pudding). Ravioli du Parc are pretty translucent sticky packets. The squid and perilla leaf is an aromatic revelation, while the ebi-gyÅza (shrimp balls) bulge with a creamy filling. If you want to choose your own, prices start from 560.
Note: If this was an annindÅfu battle, the very natural version here – topped with a single goji berry – wins. All punctuated by the slight rebound of Brazilian bossa nova.
Ebisunishi 1-19-6, Shibuya-ku 150-0021; 03-3780-5050; take out available; cordon-bleu.co.jp/ebisu
In Marunouchi, Yaumay is the creation of London restaurateur Alan Yau, founder of Japanese food chain Wagamama. It’s a one-place thriller for dim sum, putting a self-admitted boutique twist (and a price tag) on ââthe proceedings. Go ahead with the cash to spare. His daikon mochi is a slice of salty-sweet paradise, while the infamously more gourmet puffs of venison epitomize his inventive menu.
Not strictly a place for dim sum at all levels, but rather a specialty shop that laser-focuses on a single variety of dim sum, Taizen Shengjian in Jiyugaoka is much appreciated. Concretely, it is the shengjian mantou (pan-fried soup balls) that makes this shop run like a real factory. With five or more people on the production line behind the small counter, there is plenty of kitchen theater to watch before gorging on Shanghai bao themselves (three for 360; six for 720). They’re beautifully fresh – the husk is mushy, the pork is finely chopped, and the soup is a smooth blend of savory sweetness.
In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is urging residents and visitors to exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, concert halls and other public spaces.
In a time of both disinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us tell the story right.