Published on March 13th, 2018 | by Tony Mallett0
Don’t be Dim – head for Dam Sum…
Are you a fan of dim sum? If so, you really should make a beeline for Dam Sum, a Chinese eatery in a bustling part of Ixelles, writes Martin Banks.
First, the name: it’s a play on words, the ‘Dam’ bit being an abbreviation of the first name of the owner, Damien Toulouse.
This gives a small clue to the inventiveness of what is said to be the country’s first dedicated dim sum restaurant. The minute you step through the front door you are transported to Beijing or Shanghai, but the 2018 version of those great Chinese cities.
That’s because the concept behind Dam Sum was to create a thoroughly modern Chinese eating place while at the same time staying true to the traditions of this great world cuisine.
So, what you see here, for example, are fixtures and fittings becoming pieces of art, such as the distinctive yellow radiator affixed vertically to the wall. Look out too for the wonderfully-designed Chinese characters (the work of a local artist) which adorn the restaurant.
One obvious feature you don’t often find in an Asian restaurant is the cocktail bar serving traditional cocktails but with, yes you guessed it, a Chinese twist. These include “mojito” a Cuban cocktail but which, here, comes mixed with lemongrass leaf instead of the usual mint. You could say the bar is, literally, imbued with the spirit of China.
All this is was inspired by Monsieur Toulouse (who, despite his surname, actually hails from Paris). He studied and lived in China for several years before landing in Belgium and, being so passionate about the Chinese cuisine, in particular dim sum, he wanted to open a restaurant specialising in this fantastic dish.
For those unfamiliar with it, dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates.
The dim sum is actually prepared right in front of your eyes where, in a corner of the restaurant, staff from China, Hong Kong and Malaysia skilfully roll out and fill the various dim sum before despatching them to the kitchen.
There is a lovely selection and the very friendly staff are happy to guide diners through the options, which are listed in English and Chinese on the menu.
There are 13 separate dim sum dishes and all are great. But special mention must go to the favourites and best sellers, including the crispy shrimp (fried bean curd rolled with shrimp), the pork and fresh crab – one of the signature dishes of the restaurant – and one served with the world famous Wagyu beef (plus a secret ingredient and the BBQ pork bun.
While this is dim sum at its very best, there is rather more to this place than that, with some great options to be found elsewhere on the menu.
The mains, for example, include Gom Bao chicken (wok-fried chicken with peanuts and spicy oil sauce) and crispy lemon chicken (consisting of chicken strips tossed in a tangy sweet lemon sauce).
There’s also soups, vegetables, noodles and rice . Later, perhaps finish with dessert and another speciality: ice cream supplied by the award winning Nicolas Arnaud (also noted for his pastries) who just happens to be located very close-by.
This is fabulous food and is very nicely accompanied by either a Chinese beer or one of the two Chinese wines (one red, one white) that are available (not forgetting the fine whisky from Taiwan).
Dam Sum has only been open a couple of years but it’s proven to be a huge hit, so much so that even on a midweek night – often the quietest part of the week for many such places – business is really booming.
In fact, be careful because so popular is it that it’s not unusual for queues to form outside. When this happens, the staff can helpfully take your phone number and inform you when a table is available (helpful if it’s cold outside).
This used to be a Greek restaurant but has been totally transformed by the owner and now seats up to 80 inside with an outside terrace with 18 tables.
Everything is prepared freshly on the premises (note, no frozen products used here) and some guests order several portions of dim sum (some of which have a soup inside them) as a main course.
So successful has the place been in a relatively short space of time that there are possible plans for at least one more dim sum restaurant in another part of Brussels (plus a Vietnamese one as well).
Parvis de la Trinité 11,
02 538 0810