Funny thing about being the resident Binondo girl is the fact that I have not eaten in all the restaurants you’ll find in Chinatown. And I’m sorry to my great ancestors, but that’s primarily because I’m not so fond of Chinese food because I grew up with sought-for Chinese restaurants as my neighbor.
But when a good friend, Art, shared his enthusiasm with his favorite restaurant in Binondo (one that I never heard of, I’m sorry). Daniel and I decided to drop by and try it out once the opportunity came.
Mei Sum is located along the street of Ongpin near the corner of Tomas Mapua St. The place is easy to find with its big red sign. We arrived around 5:30pm for dinner and the place had quite a bit of space left. Staff were attentive and assisted us to a vacant table and immediately served us with hot tea. After a bit of deliberation, we decided to order their Seafood Fried Rice, Mapo Tofu, Hakaw, and Art’s recommendation, Steamed King Fish.
Halfway in waiting, the staff made sure to update us that the Steamed King Fish was going to take a bit more time- something I was appreciative of as it was followed by the question of whether or not we wanted the rest of our orders served immediately or wait till the fish was ready. After about 20 minutes, all our orders came.
The Seafood Fried Rice includes a generous variety of different sea creatures- shrimp, squid, fish, and sea urchin among other ingredents. The rice is flavorful and filling yet mild enought to eat on its own without that umay factor. It didn’t overpower the viands nor got overshadowed, which is what often happens when you have a savory rice with other flavorful dishes. The rice grains had a bit of a dry texture.
Overall rating for me is 4.5/5
Mabo Tofu is one of Dane’s favorite dishes and we just had to try it. When we asked the staff they mentioned it wasn’t spicy, but it did have that hint of spiciness coming from the chili used. Fortunately it was just the right amount of kick for someone like me who is not fond of spicy food. Admittedly this factor took the dish up a notch since it created a break from its monotonous tune.
Mei Sum’s Mabo Tofu is good, and I do think it would be perfect if the tofu melts in your mouth, similar to how Mann Hann serves it.
Overall rating for me is 4/5
It is no question that Dane and I order Hakaw every time we dine in a Chinese restaurant. I had my fair share of hakaw-eating memories to take my standards for it upwards. Currently, my favorite is Lucky Rainbow’s Hakaw.
Mei Sum’s Hakaw, while being good, would not be on my top 5 list. The wrap was tasty, but was too thick and sticky which made the already-small serving of shrimp inside less appealing. The shrimp, though fresh, was also a bit bland for my taste. if you ask me, adding a little more ginger to it would make it much more delicious.
Overall rating for me is 3/5
I was excited for the King Fish because Art, one of the homecook chefs I trust, built it up so much. In his words – “dude you have to try their steamed king fish na sobrang mura. Steamed Lapu-Lapu costs a fucking arm and a leg, but steamed king fish tastes like Lapu-Lapu. And it’s so cheap in mei sum! buhay yun a before cooking.”
Imagine my excitement when I was served with this ruler-sized King in all its glory.
The fish is really fresh and I can’t emphasize enough how freshness can be a dealbreaker for seafood dishes. The meat was soft and was easy to debone without crumbling. For the taste, it seemed lacking for my palate that it didn’t seem like it was seasoned prior to steaming (even with the ginger, and onions it came with). While delicious and I would still recommend it as a must-try, it didn’t live up to the idea that was in my head after Art’s up-sell, even with the sauce it was served with. Nonetheless, it is one of the freshest and most affordable and delicious fish dishes I tried in a while, especially in the metro.
Overall rating for me is 4.5/5
We had to take out almost half of everything we ordered because we got pretty full. Serving sizes are good for 1-2 people if that’s the only thing you’ll be ordering, but it can be enough to share up to 3 without spending a limb.
Overall, our Mei Sum experience was great and I’m sad that it’s underrated especially among all the restaurants here in Binondo. Service is also spectacular, their staff are polite, attentive and accommodating. I would definitely be back to try out other dishes with my family and friends at another time.