Many people associate a dim sum meal as a grand gathering of friends on the weekend in a massive dining room involving carts of food weaving through the tables to offer their delicacies. Dim sum is really whatever you want to make of it though, as Chen Won and countless other small places prove.
Eating here in the morning, on a weekday or weekend, is probably the equivalent of taking your meal in a small, sleepy provincial town rather than the big city. It is a much more relaxed and friendly experience, even if some of the items are a bit less delicious and/or fresh.
The steamed rice roll with shrimp ($2.25, below) and steamed shrimp dumplings ($2.25, below) are both passable like their brethren in the big halls. As a lady came in and handed the owner $260 for a large order of dim sum to take to an event she must have been organizing, we plopped these into our mouths to get started.
Usually one of my favorite items, the turnip cake ($2, below) was unusually unsavory, possibly because it was made yesterday or the day before. I have the impression that a few of the items here might suffer from this, so take a look at things before you open and dig in. They are definitely not going to be as fresh as the places cranking out hundreds of each everyday, like Pacificana in Sunset Park. The large steamed pork buns (not pictured) also seemed old.
All of that being said, one thing definitely knocked our socks off, and that was the tangyuan soup (below), which does not seem to exist on the menu but should definitely be asked for. This version had plenty of turnip to go with the glutinous rice flour balls and pork, and all combined to make a delicious warm counterpoint to the cold air outside.
There are only three four-person tables here, so most people are coming in to grab some items to take home. We asked a kind gentlemen enjoying some tea if we could share with him, and he immediately gathered up his newspaper to make room and made sure we were happy with our meal and even started making suggestions. It was something that you definitely could not imagine happening in one of the crowded places in Manhattan's Chinatown.
A look into the kitchen showed what was on the menu for later.