Plato Royale: Battle of the Dim Sum, Tropical Chinese vs. South Garden

Miami will never rival New York or San Francisco for supremacy in dim sum. We don't even come close, in fact. Locally, most dim sum aficionados head straight to Tropical Chinese when they are craving shrimp dumplings and pork buns. Recently, Short Order was tipped off that South Garden does an impressive spread, too. For the uninitiated, dim sum is the Chinese version of tapas. It's all about dumplings, buns and congee. True dim sum is served from a cart, which roams around the restaurant. Both Tropical Chinese and South Garden have carts on the weekends; during the week, diners can order off a special dim sum menu. We visited both locations (in strip malls, no less) to see who serves the best dim sum in Miami.

Tropical Chinese

Pros: This longstanding eatery is always packed and the dim sum carts are heaving with popular choices like shrimp dumplings, roast duck, pork buns, stuffed sticky rice and steamed Chinese broccoli. All of the dishes are flavorful, vibrant and luscious. The taro shrimp cakes were especially delicious.

Cons: You'll definitely have to wait for a table on the weekends and the service is abrupt when it's busy. By the time the dim sum carts make the rounds through the two dining rooms, some of the fried food can be cold and/or soggy.

South Garden

Pros: Mainly an all Asian crowd, which is always a good sign at a Chinese restaurant. There is a larger variety of dim sum here, especially more exotic offerings like salt and pepper squid head, clams with black bean sauce and steamed chicken feet.

>Cons: Not a lot of vegetarian options; even the spring rolls had pork in them. The dumplings were bland and lacking zest. The shredded duck with rice noodles was a hefty portion (especially for dim sum), but unfortunately suffered from a dearth of duck.

Verdict: While South Garden gets props for its more authentic fare (steamed chicken feet, anyone?), the taste quotient is just higher at Tropical Chinese. Short Order couldn't stop inhaling the dumplings at Tropical Chinese.&

Tropical Chinese
7991 Bird Rd., South Maimi

South Garden
10855 SW 72 St., Miami