Shu mai dumplings and salt-and-pepper squid
photos by TJ Turner
Jason: Minnesotans love dim sum, and it makes sense. It’s the variety of a Chinese buffet combined with the thrill of grabbing something available for a limited time only. Dim sum is usually served on carts roaming the dining room, and in the Twin Cities, I’ve seen it only during weekend brunch hours.
Joy: Now you can get it seven days a week at Tapestry. The dumplings and other traditional dim sum dishes are made entirely from scratch for lunch and dinner.
Jason: Tapestry originally opened in December after the Hmong American Partnership in St. Paul got a federal grant to provide jobs to refugees and low-income Hmong-Americans. When its “Asian fusion” menu didn’t catch on, they decided to try daily dim sum.
Joy: The room is still the gorgeous, large space from its days as Mai Village, complete with a babbling brook and bridge.
Jason: A caveat: Tapestry is slow. Especially compared to regular dim sum, where instant gratification is the name of the game. But because it’s cooked to order, the food is hot, fresh, and solid, overall.
Joy: Dishes like bao—bready steamed buns stuffed with pork—and the salt-and-pepper squid were feats of texture: chewy, tender, crusty, and fun to eat. Others did not work quite so well. The menu depicts a traditional crispy wonton, but what showed up was soggy, translucent dough around off-putting, under-seasoned, chewy filling. Also, those with shrimp aversions, beware: It’s in nearly everything. No one expects uninvited shrimp.
Stir fried beef chow fun noodles
Jason: As a shrimp fan, I was happy to see the crustacean fried and stuffed into a hollowed-out, lightly breaded halved jalapeño. The spice and brine were in harmony, and the same was true for the salt-and-pepper squid. I’m obsessed with the sesame balls. Inside a perfectly crispy exterior was slightly sweet and pillowy dough with a perfectly earthy punch of red-bean paste in the middle.
Joy: Even with a few hit-or-miss items, thankfully dim sum means there’s always more to order. We also sampled a few dishes from the back of the menu, with American/Chinese food like General Tso’s chicken, which came out as crunchy, sweet-coated chicken with steamed broccoli.
Shrimp stuffed hot peppers, sesame balls, and General Tso’s chicken
Jason: Yes, the bland and flavorless sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf was certainly a miss. Mostly, though, I found the misses easy to tolerate considering the incredibly low price point and the joy of having dim sum every day. None of the dim sum dishes was over $7, so we got to try 10 things for about $50.
Tapestry Restaurant Quick Tips
Huge free lot behind the restaurant at Western and Aurora
Walk-in only, or email for a large group
Dinner goes from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on weeknights there’s a sushi menu and Hmong dance floor.
394 University Ave. W., St. Paul, tapestryrestaurant.org