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  • Writer's pictureMax McCrory

Endless Options at The Parlor

The Parlor Dim Sum, which recently opened in late August in Lawrenceville, offers upscale dim sum in a hip environment. Elevated dim sum is not in abundance in Pittsburgh, so I was excited to try this new concept from Roger Li. Li also owns Nanban, a casual ramen and fried chicken spot just down the block from The Parlor, which is one of my favorite restaurants.

When you first walk in, there’s a wall covered in mahjong tiles, which is a fun and creative way to spice up an entry way. When you enter the rest of the restaurant, it gives off an elegant vibe with the slate grey wallpaper and banquet seating. I went on a Tuesday night and it was fairly lively, which is a great sign for a new restaurant. Despite the restaurant’s busyness, my dining experience didn’t feel rushed or chaotic at all. The meal was well paced and I felt as if each dish had its moment to shine.

The menu is a good mix of dim sum (small bites such as dumplings and egg rolls) and larger dishes, such as noodles, wok-made dishes, plant-based options, and Cantonese BBQ and meats. They also offer a variety of soups and congee, which I didn’t get an opportunity to try.

The standouts of these dishes were definitely the roasted pork buns and vegetable spring rolls. The pork inside of the buns was so tender and melted the moment it hit my tongue. It also had a slight sweetness to it, which I appreciated. The dough used for the buns was so fluffy and light. I dipped these in the house made chili oil, that added the perfect amount of spice, which played nicely with the sweetness of the pork. I definitely wanted another order of these, but there was already so much more food coming.

The spring rolls were some of the best I’ve ever had. They must have come to us immediately from the fryer, as they were still extremely crispy and hot. When I bit into the spring roll, the vegetables still had a nice crispness to them.

The jade dumplings were filled with Napa cabbage, corn, spinach, and chestnut. These were light and fresh tasting. Potstickers are a favorite of mine and these pork and chive ones did not disappoint. They were perfectly steamed on top with a nice crispy bottom. The siu mai were perfectly steamed and the pork was well-seasoned, but these dumplings didn’t stand out. The pork rice crepes were light and airy. Just as the egg rolls were extremely well fried, as were the shrimp and pork fried wontons. They were the perfect flavorful, crunchy bite.

We opted for the soy egg noodles with yellow chives and celery. This dish wasn’t one of my favorites. While the noodles were perfectly cooked, the chives and celery didn’t add much to the dish for me. I felt it was lacking in flavor. It also took up room in my stomach that I wished I had saved for more dim sum instead.

I felt similarly about the crispy pork belly. Typically, this is one of my favorite dishes, but The Parlor’s pork belly was lackluster. The fattiness of this cut of meat took over and it felt like every bite was all fat and no meat. While the menu did warn me and say it was crispy, the outside of the pork belly was almost too crunchy. I did enjoy the smoky flavors of this dish, but it just didn’t deliver on texture.

The vegetable fried rice with bean sprouts, peas, and corn made up for the so-so noodles and pork belly. It was perfectly salted and you could taste the savory flavors of the wok it had been cooked in. It had some crispiness to it, but the vegetables still tasted fresh. We had some leftover and it tasted just as tasty at home the next day as it did in the restaurant.

I can never pass up dessert, no matter how full I am. The Parlor has a very limited dessert menu, as their focus is more on savory. I opted for the lava bao with sweetened duck egg yolk. Aa the name of the dish suggests, the egg yolk is thick and molten. The sweetness of the filling isn’t overwhelming. The bao was also perfectly fluffy, which complemented the texture of the egg yolk well. It was a delightful, small, sweet treat after such a large meal.

By the time I left the restaurant, I was extremely full and happy with my experience. While I do wish I had sampled more dim sum, I was glad I received a wider look at The Parlor’s expansive menu. I’m already planning my next visit , as there’s a few dim sum dishes I didn’t get to try, like the mai gai (sticky rice filled with chicken, sausage, and shiitake mushrooms) and the taro dumplings with pork shoulder. I’d also love a chance to sample one of their soups, such as the wonton noodle soup or the hot and sour soup.

The Parlor is the perfect place to go with friends or family, so you can all enjoy a variety of dishes from their impressive menu. Dim sum and good conversation are the perfect cures to chilly winter weather.

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