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Indy may be a long way from the rolling carts of dumplings and pork buns at Chinatown restaurants in bigger cities. Since mid-January, however, Szechwan Garden (3649 Lafayette Rd., 317-328-2888), the Lafayette Road Asian institution and recent Indianapolis Monthly Best Restaurants choice, has been offering customers a daily taste of dim sum, the midday snacks popular from Shanghai to Brooklyn that have come and gone at local Chinese restaurants. If recent weekend crowds are any indication, Indy diners are glad they have another dim sum option. And with more than 80 daily offerings, it’s no wonder Szechwan Garden has been filling plenty of tables with lively, hungry diners. A placemat-sized menu features everything from shrimp dumplings and spring rolls to more daring fare such as braised pork belly with lotus root and chicken feet in abalone sauce. Just watch for the items that are crossed off—therefore not available that day—and then make your choices among small, medium, large, and “special” items ranging from $2.85 to $4.50. At those prices, you can easily try some new dishes without wrecking your brunch budget. And don’t miss the back side of the menu, offering chef’s recommendations of larger dishes such as dried-scallop fried rice and barbecued spareribs. On a recent Sunday, we ordered the bean sprout and soy sauce chow mein, which was one of the lighter noodle dishes we’d had in town, with a nice crunch from green onions as well as sprouts. A generous portion of deeply golden duck came nestled in a bed of crispy rice puffs with a slightly tangy sweet dipping sauce. Chicken feet with “special sauce” weren’t exactly meaty and offered a few bones to work around. But a tasty sauce with an aromatic undertone of Chinese five spice makes this dish a nice novelty for Westerners. Juicy, pan-fried green chive cakes came plentifully stuffed with pork and vegetables, and pot stickers had just the right char on the bottom. Lightly sweet sesame balls with a red bean paste filling were a quite rich way to end the meal, but we told ourselves we’d save room the next time for an even more curious and gut-busting item: rice crepe with a deep-fried Chinese dumpling filling. With a such a wide and varied menu, we’d have plenty of other delicious tea-friendly snacks the next time we stopped in.
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