This story is part of our Unsolicited Advice feature. Unsolicited Advice columns are brief, focused pieces of constructive criticism from a diner’s or customer’s perspective.
If twice-daily fresh dim sum out of the old Mai Village space sounds too good to be true, rest assured that sadly it is — at least for now. The recently opened Tapestry Restaurant at Western and University in St. Paul promises to bring a reliable dim sum experience to a metro with little real dim sum to speak of, but there are a couple of major kinks that need to be worked out first.
SUGGESTION #1: Put the Dim Sum on carts.
We visited Tapestry at 12:30 p.m. on a Friday. The dining room was about 60-70 percent full. We waited about 25 minutes to order from our menus and weren’t done with lunch until nearly 2 p.m. In the interim, our beverages (which is to say, three glasses of water and a hot tea) arrived after a long delay, a bottle of hot chili oil was requested and never arrived, and a single, straggling dim sum order arrived 10 minutes after everything else, and only after we inquired. We weren’t the only ones affected; diners at the table across from us complained twice about the wait, and the diners at the table behind us left before even receiving their food.
At a white tablecloth spot, 90 minutes would be a long but understandable duration for a meal. But dim sum sets a different expectation, which is that as soon as you sit down, you will be flooded by food. You will have to fight physically and emotionally to stem the tide. The food will be salty, greasy, fully flavored and filling, and if you’re not careful, you’ll explode.
A dim sum brunch or lunch can be over in 20 minutes if you have to jet, or stretch out to an hour or longer if you have time to luxuriate in dumplings. Tapestry’s pacing was glacial, the service disorganized, and the whole thing, seriously, would have been much faster and smoother if they quite literally reinvented the wheel and put everything on the sensible traditional rolling carts.
SUGGESTION #2: Seasoning, please.
We tried seven dishes at Tapestry, and they ranged from mild to almost completely flavorless. The main culprit was a seemingly unseasoned chopped pork filling (which we had in the Hmong Rice Rolls and the Fried Pork Dumplings). With plenty of soy sauce, it was palatable, but there wasn’t much to hold onto.
The Hot Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp were a bit more lively. They at least had some fiery fight from the jalapeño, but they still lacked much dimension or richness.
Across the board, Tapestry’s food seemed to lack seasoning, funk, spice, fight, and fatty richness, which left us somewhat hungry and not entirely satisfied.
Minnesotans have a reputation for prizing grayish-white slabs of nothingness, but over the past 10-15 years, that baseline sense of taste has changed radically and for the good. Spots like Young Joni and Hai Hai are crushing it with bold, hot, bright, deeply layered Asian-inspired flavors, and there’s no reason an ambitious new dim sum place couldn’t step on the gas in a similar fashion.
IN SUMMARY: A reliably tasty, fast, twice-daily dim sum experience at University and Western is a great idea, and it’s not an impossible task to reorganize service and kick up the flavors to get there. University Avenue itself is a bazaar of bold and intriguing dishes that should serve as inspiration for a menu revamp, and again, please put the dim sum on carts already.
Tapestry Restaurant, 394 University Ave W, St Paul; (no phone number)