$13 at Ocean Palace
: Ocean Palace, 11215 Bellaire Blvd, 281-988-8898
What $13 gets you: A feast of chicken feet in a Vegas-like atmosphere
Part of the beauty of dim sum is picking and choosing from the constant flow of metal carts by your table. It’s nice to see your food before you eat it, but you don’t always have that luxury at Ocean Palace. You can get dim sum here any day of the week, but the place is packed to the gills on Sundays and the carts don’t move fast enough to provide a steady flow of steamed dishes to the table. To cope with this frustration, there’s a buffet line where you can order noodles, turnip cakes and shrimp, as well as some more obscure delicacies that I was too chicken-shit to try. The buffet can be a daunting experience. Customers are ushered along by pushy servers, sometimes before they even have a chance to order. And for every item that looks appealing (the bright green stems of Chinese broccoli looked like fresh and healthy), there’s another that looks intimidating: a woman in front of me ordered a big bowl of beige tripe and chicken feet. I stuck with the turnip cakes and mushy dumplings of indeterminate fillings. For $13, you’ll be able to afford about four dishes, since they average $3 a dish. There are some extra-special dishes that cost over $5, but I’m still not sure what they are.
Recommended? Not on Sundays. The food on the carts — such as the sweet and delicious barbecue pork buns — is worth the drive. But only two carts came by over the span of an hour, taxing our patience. If you speak Chinese, you might be able to speed things up and get a better description of the food than “pork” or “shrimp.” Non-Chinese speakers, however, might feel a little helpless and lost in this massive operation, which seems like it ought to be in Las Vegas.
Bonus point: The restaurant has designed the most efficient, yet dehumanizing, strategy for seating ever invented. It involves a microphone, a gaggle of young women in button-down shirts and ties, and paper tickets. You’ll have to experience it for yourself. -- Russell Cobb