Where to: Hei La Moon, a longtime standby for dim sum and more, which recently moved to a different Chinatown location.
Why: To check out the new digs and feast on dumplings. A festive dim sum meal is an ideal way to welcome in Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (and every other month too). And Chinatown, hit particularly hard by the pandemic, could use diners’ support.
The backstory: The nearly 20-year-old Hei La Moon used to be located at 125 Lincoln St. (along with that parking garage where the ramp feels like the ascent to an amusement park ride). A developer plans to put a new building there, so the restaurant moved on to the Food Opera space at 83 Essex St. The old Hei La Moon was a cavernous two floors decorated in traditional reds and golds. The new restaurant is smaller — not even as big as the former first floor — but still has around 180 seats. And its aesthetic is modern and bright, with orange and white walls, fringed tangerine-colored light fixtures, patterned tile floors, and decorative inset lights that shift hue from green to purple to blue to pink. There’s a bubble tea counter at the front. On a weekday, diners order from a menu, but weekends bring more carts and seating at an upstairs area. “It’s so cute here!,” exclaims a woman arriving for lunch with friends; no one would have said that about the old space, impressive as it was.
What to eat: All of the dumplings: shrimp hargau, pork shiu mai, steamed dumplings with bright green cilantro or chives shining through their translucent skins. All of the buns: steamed or baked, filled with roast pork or egg custard. Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, rice noodles with various fillings, stuffed eggplant, chicken feet, fried taro cake, sesame balls, egg tarts — and onward. Your dim sum favorites are here, along with salt and pepper squid, pan-fried noodles with shrimp, and more.
What to drink: Bubble tea! A variety of milk and fruit teas are on offer, plus smoothies with names like Matcha Forest and Mango Lemon Tea Party. Choose your own toppings from a roster of flavored bubbles and jellies.
The takeaway: This isn’t the Hei La Moon you’ve known and loved — but it is the Hei La Moon you (and future diners) are going to know and love. Change is inevitable, and the place does feel different. I’m just glad it, and Chinatown, and Boston’s multiple dim sum options live on.
83 Essex St., Chinatown, Boston. 617-338-8813