When noted chef Peter Chang opened his second Baltimore restaurant on Ashland Avenue last June, it was fantastic news for lovers of Chinese food. Because not only was it more of Chang’s cooking—his first Baltimore restaurant, NiHao, opened in 2020 to rave reviews—but it specialized in dim sum.
Dim sum, a style of small-dish service that originated in Cantonese teahouses, is a cuisine Baltimore has been missing. Chang’s latest restaurant offers not only a large dim sum menu, but also classic dishes, including some available at NiHao.
Located near Johns Hopkins Hospital, PCB feels more like a fast-casual eatery than a Hong Kong teahouse. Rather than the large banquet tables and roving carts of a traditional dim sum restaurant, you order your food at a walk-up counter. Thanks to the Hopkins lunch crowd, the place does a brisk takeout business, helped by its boba menu.
The same menu is served all day, so you can get a huge bowl of Chongquing sour-cabbage flounder, an excellent rendition of the water-boiled fish that’s a staple at Sichuan restaurants; the branzino, fried and served whole atop a pool of spicy pan sauce; or a whole or half Peking duck, the lacquered bird served with a container of paper-thin pancakes.
But the most fun, and arguably the best use of your appetite, is to bring a group and order as much of the dim sum menu as you can. Start with a bamboo basket of soup dumplings, called xiaolongbao or xlb in dumpling houses and a dim sum must-have, as are orders of shumai and wontons, doused with the requisite chile oil.
And although you might not ordinarily opt for kabobs at a dim sum house, the ones here are blissful miniature skewers of cumin-heavy lamb. These aren’t really kabobs at all, but a variation of toothpick lamb, a classic dish for which bits of lamb are infused with cumin and chiles, crisped into submission, then impaled on a series of toothpicks, an addictive but insanely labor-intensive dish, both to create and to consume.
And no matter how many dishes you manage, do not forget dessert, here in the form of eight-treasure osmanthus sticky rice and black-sesame egg-yolk bao. And that duck? You could start your dim sum journey with it, but then you wouldn’t have room for the dim sum. Either put in a to-go order or enjoy it at NiHao, a more leisurely restaurant better suited to banquet-style dining.
It is easy to find Peter Chang these days. This was not the case 15 years ago, when the then-peripatetic chef was tracked by his remarkable dishes throughout the Southeast, his trajectory the subject of a New Yorker piece called, “Where’s Chang?” by Calvin Trillin. Chang, who cooked at luxury hotels and won cooking competitions in his native China, then moved to the U.S., where he was chef at the Chinese Embassy in D.C. before building a small restaurant empire and winning a slew of awards.
That we have not only NiHao but a neighborhood dim sum spot here is something of a coup. One imagines Trillin, now 88, sitting in the corner, a stack of bamboo baskets before him, smiling.
PETER CHANG BALTIMORE: 1923 Ashland Ave., Baltimore, 443-888-3688. HOURS: Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. PRICES: Dim sum: $7-12; noodles, soups, and entrees: $4-78; desserts: $8-12.