Of the few groups a flag-flying misfit like me finds herself belonging to, aesthetic minorities make up the majority. I’m oddly far fonder of lesser prizes—of modestly showcased semiprecious gems rather than their spotlit, velvet-swathed precious counterparts, speaking both literally
& figuratively; for instance, I’ll take Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later over either of his more celebrated smashes, Trainspotting & Slumdog Millionaire—neither of which boasts zombies going from zero to 60 in hilariously terrifying, gore-splattered seconds—or the extended remix of “Rain” over not only all the rest of Madonna’s A-sides combined but also, say, Radiohead’s entire oeuvre (how’s that for waving the contrarian banner?).
Likewise, I realize I’m among a select local lot (joined, I might add, by the Director &, I hear, Boulder Weekly dining critic Clay Fong) who officially if incrementally prefers King’s Land to Super Star.
Mind you, it’s partly a matter of vibe; in my experience, to contradict the above remark about gems (very well, then, I contradict, containing multitudes for better or worse, especially post–dot hearts), dim sum’s the stuff of gaudy, echoing faux-temples where the cartpushers have room to swoop around Busby Berkeley–style
Warner Bros., in case they care
rather than holes in walls where what should be hustling & bustling is bumping & grinding. Thus bumped & ground on a recent trip to Super Star (kindly invited by CulinaryColorado’s Claire Walter, who rates the rivals roughly equally; to cast judgment once & for all, I propose a tiebreaking double-header—back-to-back, cross-parking-lot dim sum. Who’s with me?), I myself had less room to swoon over the best of the bunch—including the jiaozi (steamed pouchlike dumplings), their pork filling visibly juicy;
these pan-fried, shrimp-filled chive dumplings (as they were identified for me in this Chowhound thread, much to my eventual acceptance but initial surprise, since the chive dumplings I was most familiar with & keen on, from Boston Thai fixture Brown Sugar, were only & entirely filled with minced chives, whereas the green shreds in these were relatively large—suggestive of the leek version that is listed on Super Star’s menu rather than of any chive version that isn’t; perhaps it’s a question of translation &/or semantics?);
this special order (scored by Claire’s other guests & new pals—fellow bloggers & “world residents,” in her words, Dimitri & Audre) of snails sauteed with green peppers, celery & onions—each poked-out gastropod pure umami on a toothpick;
these clams, essentially snails redux;
this eggplant dish, full stop. Though logicosyntactially I should really keep this sentence going until I’ve covered all my faves, aestheticoemotionally (to use the least aesthetic, indeed most annoying word I may ever have lazily coined) I must here pause to opine, as an above-all-else Italophile, that no one does eggplant like the Chinese (well, except maybe the Japanese, Turks, Indians &, as long as I’m at it, the Italians). Here thick slices were pan-fried & fitted with an oval of what, according to the menu, was shrimp. If it wasn’t in fact minced whitefish of some sort, I’ll eat my hat, & probably insist afterward it tasted like whitefish. But either way it was moist & flaky & crumb-coated atop world’s sweetest nightshade, seeping oil from every fleshy pore. What more could you ask for, besides a ream of blotting paper?;
this Goldilocksian congee—the 1 dish I’d deem hands-down superior to King’s Land’s, being just right—neither too thin nor too thick, recognizably ricey rather than generically glutinous, & clam-dappled;
this super-chunky seafood noodle soup with firm-fleshed whitefish, gailan & red peppers in your typical (but therefore fine-by-me) egg-drop-type broth;
& this perfectly fried rice bedecked with bits of egg, peanuts & greens.
Less best were the char siu bao—
like some sort of freak hybrid between barbecued pork buns & jelly donuts due to overly sweetened filling;
these whole fried shrimp, greasier & heavier than King’s Land’s;
yet more shrimp dumplings, also made with a somewhat heavy hand;
this cheung fun, or steamed rice noodles wrapped around yet more shrimp—neither here nor there as oral sensations go (IMHO, that is, though I learned a thing or 2 about them I could appreciate via this other Chowhound thread);
the ubiquitous fried taro cake, no better or worse than the competition’s;
this ho-hum, prefrozenesque crab-stick roll
& really?-more-shrimp? roll;
this gailan, stir-fried nicely but sided by that offputting black pudding—practically half a bottle’s worth of oyster sauce;
these underfried sesame balls;
& that milquetoast of all Chinese sweets: coconut jello cubes, here studded with seemingly raw red beans (compare to these, which as cubes of milquetoast go actually look appealing).
At the opposite end of the gelatinous spectrum, however, I confess to getting quite a kick out of these cubes of congealed blood (to use this CulinaryColorado commenter’s term), I’m guessing from a pig; tasting like you’re simultaneously licking an aluminum pole & biting through the freshly spilled bowels of a moonlight sacrifice, they put those indescribably obscene Jello commercials in a whole new, much more fun light.
In (dim) sum—though I enjoyed & stuffed myself as silly as ever—thus far I’d rather be living off the Land than swinging on that particular Star. Take me up on the proposed rematch, though, & all bets are off (or, for that matter, on).
***Thanks to ninelives, gini, a l i c e & yumyum—Boston Chowhounds & pals all—for your assistance in itemization!