The Parlor Dim Sum, which 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, who 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 entryway. The restaurant itself gives off an elegant vibe with its slate gray 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 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. It also offers a variety of soups and congee. I gravitated towards the dim sum menu as there were so many delectable dishes to try. It was hard to choose, but that’s the best part of dim sum; you can sample a variety of menu items as everything is meant to be shared.
My party and I started with the roasted pork buns, jade dumplings, pork and chive potstickers, vegetable spring rolls, and fried pork and shrimp wontons. The roasted pork buns and vegetable spring rolls truly stood out; the pork inside the buns was 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 fluffy and light; dipped in the house made chili oil, it added the perfect amount of spice, which played nicely with the sweetness of the pork.
The spring rolls were some of the best I’ve ever had. They came to us immediately from the fryer, and they were still extremely crispy and hot, including the vegetables inside.
The jade dumplings were filled with Napa cabbage, corn, spinach, and chestnut, and were light and fresh. The pork and chive potstickers did not disappoint; they were perfectly steamed on top with a nice crispy bottom. Just as the egg rolls were extremely well-fried, so were the shrimp and pork fried wontons. They were the perfect flavorful, crunchy bite.
We didn’t end up going with a rice dish, though a table nearby got the vegetable fried rice with bean sprouts, peas, and corn, which looked absolutely drool-worthy. We opted instead for the soy egg noodles with yellow chives and celery, which unfortunately wasn’t one of my favorites. While the noodles were perfectly cooked, the chives and celery didn’t add much to the dish. I felt it was lacking in flavor, and also took up room in my stomach that I wish I’d 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 while the menu did warn that it was crispy, the outside of the pork belly was almost too crunchy. The smoky flavors of this dish were enjoyable, but it just didn’t deliver on texture.
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. As 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. It was a delightful, small, sweet treat after such a large meal.
Leaving the restaurant, I was extremely full and happy with the experience, though I do wish I had sampled more dim sum. I’m already planning my next visit , as there are so many dishes I didn’t get to try, like the siu mai open-faced dumplings, rice crepes, lo 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 The Parlor’s 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.