Perched on the corner of North Pau’ahi Street & Smith Street in the heart of Honolulu’s Chinatown is a popular favorite; Mei Sum Dim Sum (65 N. Pau’ahi, Suite A, Honolulu, HI 96817). It is one of those places serving comfort food for those in need of a dim sum fix during the course of a hectic day or a full meal at the close of the day.
As the name implies, Mei Sum specializes in dim sum — those delectable goodies served in tiny bamboo baskets. During their busiest times waitresses whirl through with metal carts bearing small portions for $2.25, such items as Sweet Sesame Ball, Malaysian Style Sponge Cake, Crispy Spring Roll, and more, or one can opt for medium sized baskets for $2.65, even more variety with traditional delicacies such as Chicken Feet (by which connoisseurs judge dim sum), Spareribs w/ Black Bean Sauce, Deep Fried Taro, Mushroom Chicken Dumpling, Crispy Seaweed Roll, much more. There are only a few large offerings for $3.45, Deep Fried Taro w/ Scallop, several varieties of steamed Look Fun, and a Seafood Roll wrapped in Bean Curd.
Mei Sum has an extensive and inexpensive menu containing appetizers, soups, seafood platters, sizzling platters, poultry, vegetables, rice soups, Look Fun or Noodles in Soup, Noodle & Look Fun platters, Rice Plates, and two Desserts: almond tofu and tapioca with coconut milk — both onolicious!
Mei Sum’s prices range from $5.30 for six pot-stickers, $5.95 for eight pieces of crispy Gau Gee (always one of my favorites), to their priciest item, $23.00 for Shark’s Fin in Shredded Chicken Soup, and I do not know if the chicken was shredded before or after meeting the Shark. Most of Mei Sum’s dishes are a comfortable $6.95 to $10.95, their servings are generous and can easily feed two to four people.
On my most recent excursion I thoroughly enjoyed my crispy Gau Gee before sampling their newest addition, Scallops in a black bean sauce with onions and peppers, then traditional sweet & sour pork in a thick sauce, and finally a perennial favorite, Mei Sum Special Garlic Fried Rice, all for a comfortable $39.00, and four delicious steamed pork hash ‘on the house,’ a delightful lunch with enough leftovers for a day or so.
One word of caution, though, when it comes to spices. Mei Sum prefers to err on the side of caution. They provide salt & pepper and a variety of sauces on every table. So, if you wish to spice things up, go for it, but in no way will they risk setting someone’s palate on fire — even a request for ‘gonzo garlic’ generally results in garlic being served on a side dish. Hardcore Chinese food fanatics find this disconcerting but I am certain many a tourists find it comforting.
Mei Sum Dim Sum is open daily from 7:00 AM to about 9:00 PM, but when settling in late, it is good to call ahead or at least let them know you know what their hours are. When you dine at Mei Sum give a shout out to Vai Seong, who is one of several tireless staffers who will be happy to serve you.