This weekend a late-rising Gothamist ventured into Manhattan's Chinatown in search of dim sum, only to find that the witching hour of 3:30pm had already arrived, meaning that popular dim sum palaces such as The Nice Restaurant were only serving off of their regular menus. Having visions of dumplings dancing in our heads, we refused to let our dim sum dream die, and were happy to discover that nearby Sweet-n-Tart Restaurant serves dim sum made to order on all three floors of its premises (cheat sheet: fancy tablecloth-style on the upper level, families in the middle level, and young single types in the basement).

Of course, made-to-order dim sum meant we would have to forego the adrenaline rush of snagging the last steamed pork buns off a cart whizzing by our table, but we were pleasantly surprised with how little we missed that aspect of the experience. Instead we found a more relaxed, quieter atmosphere in which we could enjoy chatting with our friends while choosing what to eat.

2004_08_food_sweettartdimsum2.jpgAnd eat we did: barbecued eel with Peking sauce, steamed beef rice rolls, Shanghai-style pan-fried pork dumplings, steamed vegetable dumplings, roast pork buns, scallion pancakes, and black chicken and mushroom pan-fried noodles. While none of these items disappointed, Gothamist was especially fond of the steamed vegetable dumplings (our friend said it was the best he'd ever had) and the pan-fried pork dumplings. The pan-fried noodles had touches of crispiness that gave great texture up against the soft mushroom and chicken slices, and the roast pork buns would have been perfect, if only the sauce weren't a tad too sweet.

To wash down this feast, in addition to tea we also got to choose from made-to-order fruit juices. Our group sampled the watermelon juice, the melon juice, and the "Hawaiian Escape" (a mix of watermelon, mango, and apple juices). With no sugar added, these drinks managed to be both refreshing on a steamy summer day and able to hold their own against the variety of foods we had ordered.

When it came time for dessert, we tasted a trio of ice cream flavors: mango (for that summertime feel), red bean (for some Chinese authenticity), and vanilla with strawberries (for a more classic approach to dessert). Unfortunately, these ice creams were all too cold and hard when they first arrived at the table, and the red bean flavor seemed to have sat too long in the freezer (ice crystals had begun to form). Even after the ice cream softened a bit, the overall quality was mediocre.

So while next time Gothamist will skip over dessert, we're happy to know that dim sum at Sweet-n-Tart Restaurant is ready and waiting for the weekend sleepyheads of New York.

Sweet-n-Tart Restaurant, 20 Mott Street, Chinatown, (212) 964-0380.

--Allison Bojarski