Dim sum just got closer for the HowChows now that we have tried -- and really enjoyed -- Asian Court on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.
Asian Court looks like a hundred other Chinese restaurants, but it stands out because it serves dim sum for lunch -- from menu on weekdays and from rolling carts on weekends. On a Sunday, Asian Court offers the bustling fun of Hong Kong brunch. Waitresses pushing carts and offering little dishes in metal containers. "Do you want shumai?" "Steamed pork buns?" "Sticky rice?"
At first, we were actually overwhelmed. I have been to many dim sums where we waited and waited for a cart to roll past. Asian Court floods the room, and there are other waiters carrying platters with just a couple plates of specials like "salt-and-pepper shrimp" or "clams in black bean sauce." Grab one of the yellow dim sum menus as you enter the dining room. You can see your options and then wait -- or even ask for -- the items that catch your fancy.
Our yardstick was the steamed barbeque pork buns. That's Mrs. HowChow's standard back from the days when she ate dim sum with a Chinese friend in Monterey Park. Asian Court's were as good as Los Angeles and Silver Spring. A fluffy outside with the savory pork inside. We also loved with sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. You unpeel the leaves to find inside a
mix of sticky rice and pieces of meat -- a few pieces of pork, maybe chicken, definitely a cube of pork belly and a piece of sweet sausage. I also liked the "salt-and-pepper shrimp," although it was hard to peel the shrimp and still one step beyond for me to eat their heads.
On first visit, Asian Court holds its own with Silver Spring's Oriental East, which often wins "Best of Washington" awards. If anything, Asian Court was better because it serves the best desserts that I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant. First, a coconut jelly -- white squares a little more firm than jello and tasting of coconut and a touch of sugar. Then, sesame balls -- rounds of rice dough fried perfect so that they're light and crispy and stuffed with gooey, sweet red bean inside.
(Update: Based on David's comment below, I revised the post to be clear that Asian Court serves dim sum at lunch, not dinner. David reports that the standard dinner menu did not stand out.)
If you want more suggestions about Asian Court, check out Warthog's 2008 post on Chowhound, where he specifically recommends bitter melon rounds stuffed with shrimp past, the meat-filled tofu-skin rolls, and the tripe. Maybe he'll put his current top picks in the comments below.
This year, Asian Court won a "Best of Baltimore" from the City Paper. Click here for my post about Chinese restaurants in Howard County. If you want to explore Asian Court's neighborhood, check out my post about all the restaurants along Rte 40.
9180 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042
NEAR: This is on Rte 40 west of Rte 29. From Rte 29, you turn RIGHT into the Chatham Station Shopping Center and then right again into the shopping area with Asian Court, Goodyear Tire and Davis Cigars.