Manhattan’s oldest dim sum parlor plays the part to the hilt, from faded storefront to checklist ordering. For kids, there’s a time-warpy thrill to seeing what Chinese restaurants used to look like. Lure them in with the scallion pancakes; seal the deal with the shrimp sui mai and Shanghai soup dumplings.
This appeared in the November/December 2014 issue.
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Opened in 1920, it was Chinatown's first, and it is now its oldest, Dim Sum Parlor: Nom Wah. Situated on the curve of Doyers Street, aptly titled "The Bloody Angle" for its history of gang violence relating to the curve that gang members hid behind, it has witnessed many a decade change the face of its neighborhood, and the city as a whole. Posh bars and 'dive' Mexican joints selling cocktails for $15 each now compete for customers on the same stretch of Doyers as Nom Wah. Yet it remains a family affair. After a brief closing and a few slight changes (nothing too extreme to chase away the old regulars), the tea parlor is reopen and serving Dim Sum the way they always have, by lists you check off and give to your waiter. No one walks around with a cart here like in the football-field-sized parlors in other areas of Chinatown. Earl Grey may now be available on the tea menu but Nom Wah still serves the old, traditional, favorites as well. Seasons may change but what there is to love here, does not. You can even find @NomWah on twitter. It just means they recognize a good thing when they see it. You will too, when you enter Nom Wah Tea Parlor.
Nom Wah has been around since 1920 on a very small and hidden Doyers Street. I’ve actually walked past it many times and never even thought to peak inside. Around this time last year I was walking on Doyers Street with my parents when my mom stepped on a blank envelope. We were probably right in front on Nom Wah. I told her to pick up the envelope and have a peek (maybe there was money inside!). Well, there were $1,000 cash inside that envelope and now my family and I have a personal history with Doyers Street. After about a year I have returned to try my luck again, this time with Dim Sum.
From the very beginning the entire experience was a blast. The wait was only 20 minutes (my friend Susan and I went on a Saturday, which is probably less busy than a Sunday) and the food came out immediately. As you can in the images above, we were not shy about ordering. We already knew the drill! We ordered a pork bun, the assorted steamed dumplings, the shrimp shumai, steamed Chinese broccoli, the steamed spare ribs, and the almond cookie. Make sure you ask for tea and select wisely as there are over 10 different kinds.
I've done many postings about another dim sum staple in NYC called Golden Unicorn and they are very different when it comes to presentation and overall environment, but for the record I should say this - The food at Nom Wah is at this point #1.
We went for dim sum in the mid-afternoon on a Saturday and needed to be quick to get to our train. We quickly checked off our choices on the order sheet and then took in the retro diner-style decor. We liked the style so much we bought t-shirts.
The shrimp rice noodles were some of the best I've ever had. The steamed pork bun was also fantastic. Everything was really good.
The staff was efficient and polite to us despite our apparent rush and we were back in plenty of time for our train.
Will definitely be back.