Grand House China Bistro and dim sum tips
What is a China Bistro? I’m not 100% sure, but my definition is an Asian restaurant that provides a slightly higher-end experience than your typical family chinese place. In the chain restaurant world, we have P.F. Chang’s China Bistro to give us an idea of what the term means. But really, who wants to eat at a chain? The Grand House could be compared to P.F. Chang’s, but in my opinion, it is a whole lot better, and it’s local, of course!
The Grand House is a large, well established restaurant in the Asian district of Oklahoma City, and it provides just about the “nicest” Asian dining experience I’ve found in the city. As a “china bistro” it’s priced a little higher than your typical chinese place (roughly $12-$25 per person at dinner), but the quality of food, the atmosphere, and the experience make it a great value, in my opinion. Plus, they do offer a variety of lunch specials during the week that make things more affordable. I highly recommend it any time, but in this post, I want to focus on their most unique niche offering, dim sum.
There aren’t many places in the city you can get a dim sum experience, but the Grand House offers dim sum every Saturday and Sunday for lunch. If you’re not familiar with dim sum, it’s an ancient Chinese tradition of eating a meal through a progression of many small samplings. A lot of dim sum restaurants are characterized by the “trolley carts” which contain the small portions that servers offer to each table as they roll them around the restaurant.
At the Grand House, a couple of these trolleys are in use, but most of their food is served off of trays carried from table to table by an army of servers. It’s a lot like an Brazillian churrascaria. If you’ve ever been to Fogo de Chao or the like, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Except, instead of huge chunks of meat, the dim sum delights usually consist of small steamed dumplings with different types of seafood, chicken or pork, plus a lot of other Asian specialties, some of which you recognize and some of which you don’t. You can get a full listing of the Grand House’s dim sum offerings on the dim sum page of their website.
Dim sum can be a great experience, but it can also be a little overwhelming and hard to master at first. I know it was for me. So, to help you out with your endeavor, I’ve developed two strategies for enjoying dim sum which I will share with you to hopefully make your experience more rewarding.
Strategy #1: the dim sum adventure — In this strategy, the objective is to try as many different items as you can in an effort to expand your culinary horizons. This strategy works best in larger groups so that you can all share each item and therefore try more items. When using this strategy, try not to take the items that are familiar, so that you can save your meal for the out of the ordinary. Also, pace yourself. One problem at the Grand House is that the servers come by so fast and so often, it’s easy to load up on the first few things you see and then your meal is over. Instead, take one or two items and then wave everyone off for a while until you’re ready to try some more. This makes the meal last much longer.
Strategy #2: I know what I want — In this strategy, you go in knowing what things you want to eat and the game is to wait for them to come to you. It’s an exercise in patience and discipline. I find this to be the best strategy for parties of two. After all, with just two people, you can’t try that many different things. When my wife and I go, for example, we know exactly what we want — potstickers, shrimp or pork shaomai, and singapore noodles. We wait for those items to form the core of our meal, and then throw in one or two other things that look interesting along the way. Another handy tip for this strategy is to keep your eye out for a server who speaks english well and then ask them to send over the items you are waiting for.
Note: No matter your strategy, there is one skill you need to master before going out for dim sum. That is, the art of saying “no thanks.” Sometimes I feel a little bad for constantly telling the servers that I don’t want any of their delicious offerings. You can’t feel bad about this or you will be terribly depressed throughout your meal. You are going to have to say “no” alot! You will constantly be asked if you want something and if you take it all, you’ll waste a lot of food and spend a ton of money. So really, make sure you’re comfortable saying “no” before you go.
Bottom line — I highly recommend that you try dim sum. Keep in mind, it’s not terribly cheap. The servers will stamp your meal ticket every time you take an item from their tray and at the end as you check out, they add it all up for you. In general, you should expect to pay between $10-20 per person for dim sum at the Grand House. You might end up spending more if you really go crazy with your selections. So for me, this is not something I can afford to do every week, but it’s great for a special occasion as it offers something truly unique.
By the way, the Grand House only has dim sum on Saturdays and Sundays at lunch, but they are open for lunch and dinner the rest of the week and it is well worth the trip any time. I thoroughly enjoy their Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops (which is not a dim sum item) and my wife loves their Moo Goo Gai Pan. So, you can certainly check them out any time for a fabulous experience.