FEAST: East Meets Brunch

By on August 23, 2017

Asian food outpost delivers dim sum delights to the daytime dining sphere.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Descriptions of dim sum brunch are ripe with innuendos, my date pointed out at Teton Tiger one Saturday morning: Spicy. Sticky. Sweet.

Indeed, it’s hard to deny that dim sum is a sensory experience. The traditional Chinese cuisine is an offering of bite-sized foods delivered on a cart in steaming tin dishes. The flavors, the textures and the presentation invite all five senses to fully participate.

Traditionally, dim sum brunch is served with tea. I traded tea for a Thai bloody mary, clinging to a familiar brunch favorite even while trying to immerse myself in something totally new.

But even the bloody came with an unfamiliar twist: a combination of chili-based hot sauce, cilantro and Lucky Buddha rice lager gave it a more immediate, but short-lived, kick and a sweeter aftertaste. “It tastes kind of like salsa,” my date remarked.

Good thing I eat salsa like it’s the last thing on earth.

For strangers to dim sum, the experience may feel hard to navigate at first. At Teton Tiger, there are two things happening at once: a server will come by the table to ask if you want anything “from the kitchen.” In addition to the dim sum offerings, the kitchen also dishes out some of Teton Tiger’s better-known dishes: Mama’s Midnight Ramen, Tom Kha, Korean Street Ribs. I ordered some wasabi devilled eggs, again clinging to the familiar amid all the new.

Meanwhile, a cart comes around every 10 minutes or so full of dumplings, pork buns, wontons and other small-plate offerings. The ingredients are simple, and many of the dishes are closely related, distinguished only by the edible vessel that carries the protein inside. Shumai, for example, is a dish of pork and shrimp wrapped in wonton paper. Har Gao is rock shrimp encased in a rice dumpling.

If there is a strategy to dim sum brunch, we did not know it. We tried to pace ourselves and, completely without method, chose two dishes per cart visit and sampled almost everything on the menu. My date favored the tiger dumplings: chicken and shrimp swaddled in dumpling dough. I preferred the BBQ Pork Bun, perhaps more for the sweet, sticky, doughy bun than its juicy BBQ filling. Next, a gyoza, or Japanese-style dumpling filled with pork.

Sauces also come from the kitchen and cost a buck each, or $4 for all five. In the spirit of thoroughness (and indecision), we got them all: sweet and sour, Chinese spicy mustard, ponzu (like soy sauce), avocado wasabi and hoisin. I wished there were something like a pairing guide that suggested which dish to dip in which sauce, but I found myself gravitating toward the hoisin most often. Like the BBQ pork bun, hoisin is thick and equal parts sweet and salty.

We saved the custard bun for last, which was a lucky accident because it tasted like dessert. Instead of a savory meat filling, the bun is full of sweet egg-based custard. Then it was time to tap out. While the dishes are individually tiny, collectively they are a force to be reckoned with. I couldn’t imagine making room for even one more tiny dumpling. A scorecard of sorts tallied how much we ate: one of almost everything. We missed the nori dumpling, a seaweed dumpling filled with chicken, because it was out of stock. And we ran out of room for another pork dish, HK pork. That’s at least two reasons to go back. PJH

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