Umamiventure: Ocean Jewel Restaurant

A few weeks ago, we ventured on our first official Umami Mart field trip, which I hope we can organize once a month. The idea is to get people in the area, UM contributors and local eaters, to travel far and wide (an outer borough, OH MY!) for infamous eats.

In the five years I have lived in NY, I had never gone to Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, so a dim sum adventure seemed like the perfect choice. After some hard-core research, I finally decided on Ocean Jewel Restaurant, a place highly recommended to me by my co-worker Wayne, who grew up on the streets of Flushing. Nothing more real than word of mouth, wouldn’t you say?

With my fellow UMers, Troy Division and Tmonkey in tow (Hamamama, my Queensgirl, couldn’t make it), we set out for what was to be an awesome experience, from start to finish. Take my word for it when I say that the Flushing Chinatown is FAR superior to its Manhattan cousin: it is more spacious; less inundated with people, hence it is actually bearable; and the dim sum was the best I have had in all of NYC (In Manhattan, I generally go to Sweet ‘n Tart and Ping’s on Mott and Golden Bridge on the Bowery).

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves– let the droolfest begin!

About every 15 minutes, several little vans like this leave from Confucius Plaza in Manhattan Chinatown, whizzes you over the Williamsburg Bridge, speeds its way down the BQE and drops you off in Flushing in about a half hour. The best part? It’s only $2.50!!! There is no excuse NOT to go to Flushing!

Ocean Jewel is located in the heart of “downtown” Flushing. Right around the corner from the 7 train, and the little shuttle stop.

The restaurant is in a typical banquet hall style so it’s pretty huge. But despite it’s size, it was not so rowdy, well lit, the servers were all very friendly, we got our own table (I was fully expecting to share with strangers since there were only 3 of us, but they gave us our own!), and all very clean (I’m not such a stickler about “dirty”, but the cleanliness was a noticeable trait).

Such cute little critters. Now GET IN MY BELLY!

Allow me to start with my MUST HAVE dim sum item of all time, the siu mai. Steamed pork dumplings (sometimes they have shrimp in them or a scallop, but these didn’t) topped with roe. For me, these are the deciding factor of how good a dim sum place is, and on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best), I give these a 5! Seriously, they were perfectly salted, perfectly steamed, simple and not overloaded with other stuff. They were excellent.

Pan fried turnip cake- I love these. Packed with bits of carrots and chinese sausage, the turnip has a smooth potatoey texture, which mushes in your mouth wonderfully.

The three of us talked about how the best part of dim sum is getting to order random things on a whim- it’s always an adventure! Troy sporadically pointed to these steamed buns, with absolutely no idea of what was inside. We were delighted to find sweet egg custard inside. GENIUS! It was the perfect combination of creamy and fluffy. From now on, I will be ordering them every time. Good call Troy!
I always order shrimp or beef filled rice rolls (you know the one drizzled with special soy sauce that comes on a plate?), but when I cut into these, they were filled with all kinds of other goodness. Bamboo shoots, ground beef, carrots, oozing in some special sauce (I think I remember some vinegar bite). I had never had anything like it, it was truly yummy.
You can always tell how good a dim sum place is by their hot chili sauce (much like how I rate other restaurants by their butter). This stuff was spicy, but the sesame oil undercut the heat, so it wasn’t crazy or anything. EXCELLENT!
Ah, the beloved char siu bao– tangy, sweet bbq pork nestled inside fluffy white doughy goodness. Tmonkey flipped out upon his first bite- he thought it was the best thing ever. Like the siu mai, these are pretty standard, but when it’s special, you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot.
Another Troy selection- and it was another good one (he has just the right dim sum instinct- you just have to aimlessly point and go with it). These were fried shrimp cakes– really satisfied that craving for something deep fried. I get those cravings pretty often.

This is something I’ve only started getting recently, warm tofu seeped in sugar water. Really comforting and simple, a good palette cleanser and dessert (along with the egg tarts, of course!).

Some of my favorites– shrimp and chinese chive filled dumplings in a transparent see-through skin. They usually come as round balls, but these were gyoza style. Mmmm…
Shrimp cake filled eggplant, in black bean sauce. I LOVE eggplant- pair it with shrimp, and you can’t go wrong.
Another dish I had never had before- these were basically the siu mai without the skin. They never did come around with my other favorite, steamed pork ribs, so these satisfied that void. Fantastic creation!

Har gow are little shrimp filled jewel pieces. Ain’t she a beaut? And these had something magical inside along with the shrimp (they are usually just shrimp)– celery! GENIUS! Now, I really am not a fan of celery (it’s one of two things that I never eat voluntarily), but they added just the perfect crunch with the shrimp. Oh so delightful.

So there it is, our meal in pictures– Ocean Jewel was fantastic, Wayne was spot on. Dim sum is perfect for big groups (you would have a tough time getting the bill to go over $15 per person), and for when you have a hangover. I’m serious, there is nothing like a Tsing Tao and a char siu bao to make the night before go away. The next time you NYers are planning on dim sum, I HIGHLY recommend skipping out on Manhattan, and taking the 7 or the convenient shuttle to Flushing. It’s so easy and a great excuse to explore!

Side note: My parents and I went to this great place for dim sum in Cupertino, CA, last weekend (I was hungover! I could eat dim sum every weekend, no joke), called Dynasty. Inside Vallco Fashion Mall! The only reason I went there is because my absolute favorite dim sum joint in the area, Canton Delights, has closed for good!!! I was horribly upset. RIP, Canton Delights. Anyway, I recommend Dynasty to all you Bay Area folks.

*k*

Ocean Jewel Seafood Restaurant
13330 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 359-8600

7 train to Main Street (end of the line)

***
If you would like to join us on future Umamiventures, please contact us! umamimart@gmail.com

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12 Responses to “Umamiventure: Ocean Jewel Restaurant”

  1. Hamamama Says:

    I am kicking myself for missing out on the excursion. I was seriously drooling while reading the post — please plan another trip back to the jewel SOOOOON!!!

  2. Hamamama Says:

    I am kicking myself for missing out on the excursion. I was seriously drooling while reading the post — please plan another trip back to the jewel SOOOOON!!!

  3. erin Says:

    love the photos, kay! especially the fish tank one. wish i could have made it!

  4. erin Says:

    love the photos, kay! especially the fish tank one. wish i could have made it!

  5. kayoko Says:

    you MUST come on the next one, both of you, which i think will be at the Red Hook soccer fields! details to come…

  6. kayoko Says:

    you MUST come on the next one, both of you, which i think will be at the Red Hook soccer fields! details to come…

  7. lakshman Says:

    Kayoko,

    “Chicken feet” was conspicuous by its absence.

    I have to try Dynasty some time. Never heard of it before.

    Cheers,

    Lakshman

  8. lakshman Says:

    Kayoko,

    “Chicken feet” was conspicuous by its absence.

    I have to try Dynasty some time. Never heard of it before.

    Cheers,

    Lakshman

  9. hua Says:

    you like CANTON DELIGHT more than JOY LUCK??? I didn’t know Vallco was reopened.

  10. hua Says:

    you like CANTON DELIGHT more than JOY LUCK??? I didn’t know Vallco was reopened.

  11. kayoko Says:

    Lakshman- although i definitely always point aimlessly at the dimsum cart, i actually never do get the chicken feet. i will make the leap someday…

    Hua- yeah, i actually was always super loyal to Canton, and only went to Joy Luck once. Is that where you go?

    You both must go to Dynasty– it really was yummy. my dad actually told me that the head chef from Canton went there, which explains everything.

  12. kayoko Says:

    Lakshman- although i definitely always point aimlessly at the dimsum cart, i actually never do get the chicken feet. i will make the leap someday…

    Hua- yeah, i actually was always super loyal to Canton, and only went to Joy Luck once. Is that where you go?

    You both must go to Dynasty– it really was yummy. my dad actually told me that the head chef from Canton went there, which explains everything.

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