Good dim sum—Cantonese small bites, served in tiny baskets from wheeled carts—used to require a visit to New York or San Francisco. But in the last few years, Cincinnati has been playing catch-up. Still need convincing? The weekend brunch alternative is a sure-fire hit with both pint-sized Kung Fu Panda fans (we inquired, and unfortunately Mr. Ping does not make the Pacific Kitchen dumplings) and Lucky Peach subscribers looking for ethnic authenticity. Go with a group, order a few pots of chrysanthemum tea, and let the carts come to you.
The pork shu mai is a must. Rich, shredded pork shoulder gets a hit of ginger and soy. But don’t grab all the dishes at once! The real action starts when servers emerge from the kitchen to tempt you with insider delights like braised bits of spare rib, whose tiny bones demand your chopstick “A” game. bonchinese.com
The comforting pork and egg congee (a savory porridge made from high-gluten rice) has always been the main event here, but Uncle Yip’s has done well to beef up the rest of the menu. We couldn’t get enough of their crispy duck quarters served with plenty of spicy hoisin sauce. uncleyips.com
Technically, it’s the Year of the Monkey according to the Chinese zodiac, but if food trends in the 513 are anything to go by, 2016 is shaping up to be Year of the Octopus. Grand Oriental serves up a simple yet stunning cold poached rendition dressed with a light sesame sauce. grandorientalonline.com
“Blanket yourself with napkins,” cautioned our waitress as she set down a basket of the juiciest chicken and ginger dumplings we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Unfortunately, she didn’t warn our neighbors. Yes, that juicy. Veg tip: We’d be remiss not to mention the broccoli rabe sautéed to an ideal al dente in Chinese white garlic sauce. greattangcincy.com
Chinese Imperial Inn
Fresh shellfish is the calling card of this Sharonville institution, and you’ll see more than one curious child rushing back to stare at the tanks of live lobsters and dungeness crab. Don’t miss the Manila clams, steamed and bathed in black bean sauce—an earthy foil to the clam’s salinity. chineseimperialinn.com
Calling all adventurous eaters! It’s time you tackled tripe, and Pacific Kitchen’s savory soup combines the offal with tender pieces of beef tendon, daikon, and carrot in a nuanced broth. Alternately, the bean curd “roll ups” —stuffed with spicy pork—take tofu to a new level. thepacific.kitchen