Launching along Jalan Besar literally steps away from the famous dim sum mainstay that is Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant known for its attractive prices, good-for-groups round-table vibes and no-frills rusticity, newly-open dim sum concept Sum Dim Sum delivers a decidedly different offering with prettier digs, higher prices, more intimate seating and an overall more comfortable bamboo basket experience. Boasting an eye-catching Putien-esque turquoise facade, playful Chinese-inspired design flourishes and modern wooden touches, the double-storey restaurant offers a combination of both indoor and outdoor seating arrangements on the ground level.
The menu offers a range of steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried, baked, rice roll, porridge, noodle and rice options along with a small dessert selection (think Mango Sago with Pomelo and Osmanthus Jelly) and a range of both hot and cold teas such as Pu Er, Xiang Pian, Tie Guan Yin and Chrysanthemum which are refillable.
Most of the menu plays it fairly straightforward. The rice roll section provided for BBQ Pork, Scallop as well as Prawn & Asparagus pairings, with the porridge available in three variants – Hong Kong-style Porridge, Century Egg & Lean Meat Congee as well as Scallop Congee. Noodle options included Hong Kong-style Wanton Noodle, Fresh Prawn Dumpling Noodle and Beef Noodle, while rice choices included Salted Fish with Steamed Minced Pork Rice, Fragrance Chicken Rice, Dried Shrimp Pork Ribs Rice and Yang Zhou Fried Rice.
Some of the steamed options, which generally comprise dim sum staples such as Bamboo Roll with Oyster Sauce, Shanghai Xiao Long Bao, Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce and Golden Custard Bun, jazz up the standard equation with certain tweaks, with varying degrees of success. The juicy Wolfberry with Mushroom Dumpling delivered reliable (albeit predictable) goods, while the Fresh Prawn Dumpling with Asparagus had a subtle, uncharacteristic vegetable earthiness and bitterness from the inclusion of the spear vegetable which made the things mildly interesting. My favourite dish from the steamed section was the Signature Hot & Spicy Dumpling, which added a fairly Singapore-style flourish to the usually vinegar-tart proceedings with its flavourful dashes of soya sauce and chilli padi.
The deep fried offerings which consist of options such as Deep Fried Salted Egg Sesame Ball and Deep Fried Shrimp Dumpling with Salad fared the least well, with the meat-filled Deep Fried Yam Dumpling being decidedly moisture-deprived and joyless and the Fried Prawn Roll in Beancurd Skin being malnourished and mediocre.
There were two highlights of the evening. The Pan Fried Carrot Cake straddled the line between crisp-skinned firm and yieldingly soft with surprising finesse, with the delectable XO chilli lending much commendable support with its oil-slick, jaw-pleasuring chewiness. However, the star was the Signature Pandan Crispy Pork Bun, which possessed the crusty exterior of a pineapple bolo bao, deliciously pillowy interiors reminiscent of those fried buns that accompany chilli crab gravy, a modest quantity of sweet, luscious BBQ pork filling as well as a highly familiar and irresistible fragrance of pandan which is less modern pandan swiss roll and more old-school neighbourhood confectionery in its simplicity and gentleness. Both dishes came in portions of three, so set up your travel party appropriately.
Rounding up a meal was the Coconut Osmanthus dessert. The osmanthus element was conspicuously absent, while the coconut enticed with its thick, eggy-creamy panna cotta-esque charms.
The restaurant certainly does not appear to be competing with Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant in trying to replicate the elements of the latter which have since made the dim sum institution a household name. However, its more modern take on the shophouse dim-sum experience is sans queue and in a much more comfortable setting, and I can see many of the older young crowd (if you know what I mean) likely to be enticed by the starrier turquoise lights down the street.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Worthy alternative to Swee Choon along Jalan Besar.
The must-orders (if any): Signature Pandan Crispy Pork Bun, Signature Hot & Spicy Dumpling, Pan Fried Carrot Cake
Sum Dim Sum 心点心
161 Jalan Besar