$13 at Yum Yum Cha

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Where:Yum Yum Cha, 2435 Times Boulevard, 713-527-8455

What $13 gets you: Enough variety to keep you happy and enough food to fill you up. Although Yum Yum Cha doesn't have the crowded-ballroom ambiance of other dim sum destinations, or those steamy little carts rolling by, the luxury of being able to get fresh, hot food every time is really nice.

The only table available was one awkwardly centered right in front of the entrance. No matter, it made it easier for our dining companion to find us. As we waited, some soft classical music streamed through the stereo. It was a lovely day.

It took a little while to settle on an order this time -- normally we go with several friends and then pass things around to sample everything. This time, price was constraining, and we were very hungry. As with other dim sum restaurants, there are three different "sizes" of dishes: small ($1.95), medium ($2.90) and large ($3.70).

We stuck with mostly small dishes, ordering ginger tripe (medium), barbecue pork dumplings (small), chicken and shitake dumplings (small), and a vegetarian rice roll. This time, we skipped the tea, as our rough estimate came to just under $10, and we didn't want to leave a lousy tip. Our dining companion ordered the gai lan (Chinese broccoli - medium), and we also planned to steal a few pieces of that.

Our food came out after about 10 minutes of waiting, and almost all at once. At this point, the place got a little louder, making it a bit harder to hear our dining companion. The place simply is not that big.

The tripe was light, and delicately seasoned with ginger. The steamed buns were both excellent -- the chicken and shitake was hearty and savory, and the barbecue pork was sweet and savory at the same time. Both fillings shone in the sweet steamed bread, and made us almost not want to share or leave any leftovers. The vegetarian rice rolls were also excellent, stuffed with shredded shitake, carrot and wood ears. We like this version better than the shrimp one, which we've had in the past. When we got the bill, it was less than what we thought ($9), so we left our attentive waitress a nice tip.

Recommended: Definitely. Our choices were all hot and delicious, and we ended up with a to-go box when we were finished.

Insider tip: According to their menu, the phrase "Yum Yum Cha," when said fast, translates as an invitation for tea. There are four different varieties of tea, all less than $1.

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