Since opening at the beginning of the year, Dian Xin has been wildly successful, and deservedly so. Created by the family that operated the beloved Little Chinatown in Kenner, Dian Xin is located on Decatur Street near the French Market. It’s a postage-stamp-sized Chinese restaurant offering dim sum, noodles, various soup preparations, vegetarian dishes, rice dishes, and entree selections—over 50 different selections in all—to satisfy the eager throngs that flock here on a regular basis to experience Hong Kong native Judy Ceng’s cuisine, including yours truly and many of the staff members of OffBeat Magazine which is located just a few blocks away.
The literal translation of dim sum is “to touch the heart” and Dian Xin’s savory Triple Stuffed Shrimp certainly spoke to mine. Slices of Japanese eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini are stuffed with a delicate shrimp “dressing” and are garnished with a tangy ponzu-style sauce. The Five Spice Fried Pork Ribs are a bit challenging, being served on the bone, but it’s worth the trouble. Basil Popcorn Chicken is basically the adult version of chicken nuggets, and of course, one of the most popular items. Salt & Pepper Wings were crispy and bursting with flavor as was the Salt & Pepper Squid. Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Balls were recommended by our server, and it did not disappoint. Classics such as the fried egg rolls and fried wontons stuffed with pork and green onions are perfectly rendered. Vegetable appetizers include a cucumber salad, seaweed and bean curd salad, chive cakes, and bacon-wrapped asparagus. The handmade dumplings are not to be missed, starting off with their delicate vegetable dumplings, the classic Shrimp Har Gow; shu mai stuffed with shrimp and pork; pan-fried potstickers; and steamed pork dumplings. There are only a handful of restaurants in New Orleans that offer dim sum, and Dian Xin is worth a special trip; it’s abundantly evident that these dishes contain top quality ingredients and are prepared using a delicate touch. Dian Xin also offers bao dumplings served in bamboo steamers, including chicken, pork, shrimp and pork, and crawfish and crab. The pan-fried tiny bao has the perfect amount of crispness.
Dian Xin has an interesting Chinese-style crepe preparation called Jianbing which consist of mung bean, rice, and wheat batter mixed with scrambled eggs, flecked with sesame seeds and flavored with chili paste, cilantro, hoisin sauce, and scallions. The options are chicken, stewed beef, shrimp, crawfish, oysters, or vegetarian.
The vegetable preparations served on large platters range from mixed vegetables to bok choy, broccoli, green beans, to snow pea tendrils all gently sautéed with minced garlic. If you dine at Dian Xin and overlook these items, you really are missing out on an integral part of the experience.
Soup selections range from staples like the delicious Won Ton Soup in a broth with bok choy; a spicy Hot & Sour Soup, and a couple of dumpling variations. Noodles are offered in many styles from a spicy chilled noodle bowl, to stewed beef, or even fried pork chops to accompany a bowl of noodles flecked with vegetables. Stir-fried Noodles with XO Sauce features shrimp, slivers of peppers and julienned vegetables in one of the fancier menu items.
Dian Xin has five different fried rice plates including chicken, beef and a combo version. My favorite was the Shrimp Fried Rice; however, it’s the Salted Fish & Chicken Fried Rice that is designated with the thumbs-up symbol on the menu.
It’s the special section where things start to get tricky. Of the 17 offerings, half get the thumbs up symbol (house recommendations), and others get one to three chilis depending on their level of heat. It’s here where you might want to put yourself in the good graces of your server and ask for recommendations. The Szechuan Chicken, flecked with an abundance of chilis, merits both the three chili and the thumbs up designation, in contrast to the Sesame Chicken which goes the other way. The Honey Chicken has satisfying sweet and spicy components, and then there’s the famed General Tso’s Chicken, inspired by Peng Chang-Kuei, a chef from the Hunan province who created the dish in the 1950s. The Salt & Pepper Pork Chops were delicious as was the Pepper Steak served with green bell peppers and sautéed onions, as recommended by our servers. There are several meat and vegetable combinations and if hard-pressed, I’d probably say the Chicken and Eggplant was our favorite. The sizzling Garlic Shrimp are a flavor explosion served on a super hot cast iron platter that emits a plume of steamy goodness.
In addition to the usual beverage selections, one can also order smoothies or premium hot teas such as golden buckwheat, white grape oolong, or peach melon green tea. Desserts include creme brûlée or the matcha chocolate lava cake.
Dian Xin satisfies the craving for authentic Chinese cuisine in the French Quarter, but its attention to detail, affable service, and absolutely delicious food make it worth a special trip by locals outside the Quarter as well.
Dian Xin, 1218 Decatur Street, 504-266-2828, Hours 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. except Saturday until 11 p.m. Closed on Monday.