By Sophia Hsu
Photos by Cindy Trinh
Upon entering the vast banquet hall, every surface sparkles and shines from floor to ceiling. Women are pushing carts filled with the treasures that the chefs started preparing early that morning and continuously throughout the brunch rush.
Photographer Cindy Trinh and I are seated immediately while we wait for our host and the head dim sum chef. The shumai, pork and shrimp dumplings in the shape of crowns, are larger than other shumai I have seen. They taste homemade. I wave down a tray of tofu skin rolls, a favorite. They are so plump and juicy that they spill over the edge of the little plate. Finally, we grab a tray of sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and a plate of pan-fried taro cakes. The sticky rice falls right out of the leaves, cooked to perfection. The taro cakes had just enough color on them to make them fragrant and still al dente.
Our affable host Jimmy finally gets a moment from the hustle and bustle to sit down with us. The kitchen sends out special seasonal dishes like lobster dragonfruit salad and cartoony custard buns.
Asian Fusion Magazine (AFM): Did you grow up in the restaurant business or was this a career change for you?
Jimmy (J): Both. My family had one of those old school Cantonese noodle shops in Manhattan’s Chinatown while I was growing up with all of the traditional roasted meats. It was a small takeout place, but we were floating something all of the time. You couldn’t source the sort of fresh noodles we needed back then, so we made our own every single day. Dumplings were made fresh every day, too. Then, like every immigrant parent’s dream, I graduated university and landed a job working for a non-profit in my field of choice. But my parents were getting older, and it was getting to be overwhelming, so I started helping out.
AFM: Why the move to Brooklyn?
J: The customer base dried up. Our primary source of business was the garment factory workers. When the factories moved to Brooklyn, so did my parents’ business base.
AFM: Everything tastes so fresh and looks handmade. The shumai definitely don’t look like they came from a package.
J: Oh, never. We source fresh ingredients and everything is made fresh like in the old noodle shop.
Head dim sum chef, Jin Huan “A Fu” Yu, joins us at the table after a long morning.
AFM: So, have you always wanted to be a chef?
Jin Huan Yu (JHY): Yes, the food at home was terrible, so I took over meals. Everyone enjoying my dishes fills me with such happiness.
AFM: Have you always worked in dim sum?
JHY: Yes, I spent seven years in Guangdong (some say this is the birthplace of dim sum) working at large banquet halls perfecting the core dim sum dishes. Here, I get to be creative and experiment a lot thanks to Jimmy. He sources all of the ingredients I need to test out dishes that I see on social media or from going to eat at other restaurants.
J: It’s becoming harder to keep up with the customers’ tastes. They want quality, imagination, and beauty when they order something here. We change up the dim sum menu seasonally, like every three months, and new family-style entrees and banquet dishes are added every six months.
See A Fu and his team’s artwork is on display every day at Pacific Palace, 813 55th Street, Brooklyn. Validated valet parking is available in the underground garage. Book a table at Pacific Palace today!