Food & Drink

Review: Dimsum Palace Brings Hong Kong-Style Carts to Catonsville

Apparently, diners with ties to the Old Line State told staff at the restaurant's Florida locations that Maryland sorely needed dim sum restaurants—and they listened, for which we should all be grateful.
An assortment of dim sum.

The day after Chinese New Year, on a rainy February late-morning Sunday, the line at Dimsum Palace in Catonsville filled the entryway and stretched out into the parking lot. Inside, families sat around the large round tables on either side of the dining room, their lazy Susans loaded with dishes, while a banquette and smaller, white-tablecloth-covered tables ran down the center of the vast room.

The staff pushed a series of dim sum carts down the aisles, off-loading small plates of various dumplings and buns, while servers brought a steady progression of teapots and larger dishes. Every seat in the house was filled with couples, families, older folks, and children, one small girl proudly wearing a bright red outfit covered with dragons—2024 being, of course, the Year of the Dragon.

Décor at Dimsum Palace.

Dimsum Palace opened last July in Catonsville’s One Mile West, a shopping center off Baltimore National Pike. The company that owns the restaurant is based in Florida, where it owns other dim sum spots; its owner is from Hong Kong, as is this location’s dim sum chef. Hong Kong is also the home of modern dim sum itself, the small-plates service that began in Cantonese teahouses in the 19th century.

Apparently, diners with ties to the Old Line State told the staff at the Florida restaurants that Maryland sorely needed dim sum restaurants—and they listened, for which we should all be grateful.

Traditional dim sum service utilizes metal carts that wheel the various dumplings and other small dishes around the dining room, shuttling them in an efficient rotation. Dimsum Palace has four such carts, and they’re all in use on the weekends, when the place is packed for the four hours it’s open for late morning and lunch service, the time dim sum is historically served; the restaurant reopens for dinner, when everything, including the dim sum, is also on offer.

Pushing the dim sum cart.

Dim sum houses typically have extensive menus beyond what’s on the carts, which here include Cantonese appetizers and mains, clay pots, barbecue, soups, noodles, and rice dishes. There are the better-known items, like Kung Pao chicken and wonton soup, as well as those that are more esoteric, like jelly fish salad and Cantonese frog legs.

There’s a sub-section of congee, the savory rice porridge that’s a staple in much of Asia and served for breakfast in Hong Kong; plus another short list of the wonderful Cantonese rice noodle rolls called cheung fun, which are made of sheets of flat rice noodles that are rolled around fillings of pork, shrimp, and crisp crullers—long fried doughnuts that are themselves the filling—and served with dipping sauce.

Dimsum Palace also has a beautiful Peking duck service, as well as dishes made with XO sauce, the spicy mixture of dried seafood, ham, and chiles that was invented in the ’80s in a Hong Kong hotel kitchen.

One dish that should not be missed: the homemade noodles with XO. These are thin sheets of pale rice noodles that are tightly rolled up, then cut on the diagonal and sauced. It’s a simple dish, just noodles and XO, but both the technique involved and the flavor are spectacular.

Hong Kong-style pan- fried noodles.
Egg tarts, sesame balls, and more.

One of the many joys of an excellent dim sum restaurant is the carts, which slalom between tables and are repeatedly refilled by the staff in the busy kitchen. So, if you forget something, or want seconds, or have been coveting what you see on an adjacent table, you can soon enough get it from the next cart.

The best thing to do is to bring as many family members or friends as you can and secure one of the big tables with the lazy Susans—another genius culinary invention—as they allow for easy access and cut down on both spills and infighting. As for what to order off those carts, in addition to the obligatory bbq pork buns and shu mai, do not overlook the turnip cakes, pineapple buns, and Hong Kong sticky rice. And yes, they have chicken feet, here glazed a deep burnished gold, so they look more like pub chicken wings than, well, actual feet.

And remember that you will need to save room for dessert, as the kitchen makes splendid charcoal egg-yolk buns—gorgeous obsidian orbs with gold brush-stroked stripes down the center—fried sesame balls, and not only Hong Kong-style egg tarts but Portuguese-style as well. The egg tarts are blissful pastries filled with egg custard the shape and color of a noon sun, and they routinely sell out, so grab a plate when you see them. The Portuguese-style tarts are bigger, with a caramelized top, and the best thing to do is get some of both and conduct a taste test.

It’s worth remembering that if your teapot runs dry, just open the lid and an observant server will quickly refill it, and that you can get food to go—especially if you’ve driven down from Pennsylvania for dim sum, as some diners do. An extra order of egg tarts will work nicely for any drive home.


DIMSUM PALACE: 6600 Baltimore National Pike, Ste. O, Catonsville. 443-860-9378. HOURS: Sun., Mon. Wed., Thurs. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m.; Fri., Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m. PRICES: Dim sum: $5.25-8.25; soups, noodles, entrees: $11-68. AMBIANCE: Hong Kong-style teahouse.