Snacking is the best way to eat anything, and dim sum has the added benefit of snacking and surprise.
Asian Court serves terrific dim sum in Ellicott City, but Oriental East was a delicious place to meet my folks who live in Northern Virginia. Easy access off Rte 29 in Silver Spring.
On weekends, Oriental East serves up the rolling-cart dim sum that I know with steamed buns, fried snacks, shu mai passing in random order. It's a steady flow of carts. Roast pork buns, baked eggplants, sesame balls filled with red bean, desserts like a custard that the waitress slices from a large pot into your glass cup. This is Hong Kong-style Chinese food so nothing was spicy. There are also few vegetables. I always miss vegetables by the time that I finish dim sum.
Our favorites included a white steamed ball stuffed with pork and a fried taro pancake with shrimp -- like a shellfish latke. I was impressed by the diversity and by the fact that everything was fresh and hot. I also appreciated that the servers didn't try to press their dishes on you. They all spoke enough English to explain their dish, and they just moved on if you didn't want to try. Oriental East has long held a spot on "Best Of" lists around Washington and gets comments from people saying that the dim sum is exceptional, even though the regular menu is nothing special.
At the brunch, I learned that a Sunday visitor should arrive at least 15 minutes before Oriental East opens if you don't want to wait. We came a few minutes early, and the line ahead of us filled the entire restaurant and left us #20 on the waiting list. Turnover is constant, but we had to chat outside through a 45-minute delay because every table had just sat down. Frankly, the food is worth the wait. Our delay just primed our hunger.
After eating there, I learned from a Washington Post review that you can pick up the dim sum menu and then keep a watch for the items that draw your interest. Next time, I might pick a few favorites in advance from the Yelp reviews because my family tends to think everything looks good until we suddenly realize that we're too hungry to go on.
(Update: Whoops. I fixed the title and second paragraph to say "Silver Spring." I got Wheaton stuck in my brain -- although I did get Silver Spring right in the address below. Dan Reed corrected me in a comment below. Fallibility is why I try not to smack down people when I write about their restaurants.)
If you want dim sum in Howard County, check out Asian Court or my summary post about the best Chinese restaurants in Howard County.
If you're looking for places to meet friends from DC, you can split the difference at terrific restaurants in Silver Spring right off Rte 29. Check out the Burmese at Mandalay Restaurant. Or lure them to Burtonsville for Ethiopian at Cafe Oromia or Cuban at Cuba de Ayer.
1312 E West Hwy
Silver Spring, MD 20910
NEAR: This is a half-block from Rte 29 in Silver Spring. From Howard County, it is an easy drive down Rte 29. Cross over Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. Then turn left onto East West Highway at the next traffic light. Turn right immediately into the shopping center and look for Oriental East on the right.