In a nutshell, Dim Sum is a type of Chinese cuisine characterized by small plates or “eats,” which include steamed or fried dumplings and other hors d'oeuvres-type treats. According to About.com’s Guide to Chinese Food, Dim Sum literally means “to touch your heart” and originated in Chinese teahouses.
The Dim Sum dishes at Shangri-La are served fresh and hot and are made with the generous use of traditional Chinese ingredients. Each small plate has several servings, making the cuisine a great option for groups, especially when time is short at lunch time. The table-side service is fast and efficient, the portions are large, and the price per person is very reasonable.
Shangri-La is located in a mall/plaza in West Bloomfield along Orchard Lake Road. Tucked into a corner, just inside a mall entrance, the restaurant has an elaborate entrance way with a fountain and a decorative archway. The restaurant itself has two main dining areas that are decorated with authentic Chinese artwork. Several booths are available in the first dining room, while the back dining room has large tables and an ornate, stained-glass ceiling.
While some restaurants serve Dim Sum like Sushi, requiring the diner to check off their selections via a pencil and paper checklist, Shangri-La does it up traditionally, serving a wide variety of Dim Sum in steamer baskets off of roving carts. While this method of service can be noisy with patrons yellowing out their orders, Shangri-La managed the process without a lot of abrasive sound.
The restaurant has several carts roving the restaurant at any given time, and each cart has a large variety of authentic Dim Sum. If you want to ease yourself into the experience, there are several familiar options available, such as spring rolls and several different types of steamed and fried dumplings. As you get more adventurous, however, other options include Chicken Feet, Shark Fin Kau, Curried Baby Squid and Marinated Beef Intestine. All of the dishes range in price from $2.95 to $3.50.
One type of shrimp dumpling consisted of a long noodle wrapped around several large, whole shrimp. The dumplings were served drenched in soy sauce, which had a unique, smoky flavor. Another type of dumpling was served in a translucent wrap and was liberally filled with spinach. While it apparently also contained shrimp, the dumpling's vegetable over powered the dish.
The Steamed Barbeque-Pork Bun was a highlight. The bun looked like white bread but had a silky texture. The bun managed to lighten the dumpling by absorbing some of the barbeque sauce and making the large portion of pulled pork less soupy.
What looked to be a lemon-custard dessert turned out to be an egg tart. While the tart crust was flakey and lighter than air – a treat in and of itself -- the egg custard filling was a bit bland.
The best part of Dim Sum for lunch is how quickly the food and drink is available. A pot of tea is served as you settle in at your table, and a cart happens by almost immediately. The cart method of service insures the food is served warm but does not insure a particular Dim Sum dish will happen by.
The dishes sometimes come fast and furious and almost automatically. As a diner at Shangri-la, remember that it is your choice which dishes you accept to the table. While it is tempting to say yes to the first few Dim Sum dishes that happen by, something more to your taste may be as close as the next cart. It is okay to slow down the service and let the meal unfold according to your tastes and appetite.