China Pavilion opens at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and within the hour, it’s packed. Tables are filled with mostly Chinese families feasting on delicious dishes like barbecue pork buns, crispy fried taro and pan-fried noodles. The lively atmosphere is more reminiscent of a Chinatown hangout than a Pembroke Pines storefront.The bustling restaurant is one of only a few in Broward known for authentic dim sum, served until 4 p.m. daily. Considering that Thursday ushers in the Year of the Rabbit on the lunar calendar and it’s practically Valentine’s Day -– dim sum loosely translates “to touch your heart” – it’s the perfect time to try the beloved bites. China Pavilion doesn’t use carts to show off its dim sum, but the menu has pictures of most of them, and you check off your choices on a sheet listing 73 items. (Don’t expect much in the way of advice or explanations from the busy servers, some of whom speak little English.) After devouring many delectable dishes here, we’ve barely made a dent in the lineup. Generous dim sum dishes arrive one at a time, and there’s often a short wait in between. If you’re not sure how much to order, don’t worry; you can add items if you catch a glimpse of something that looks good at another table. There are plenty of familiar choices, such as spring rolls and steamed dumplings, and since most items are under $5, you can afford to be adventurous. Steamed chicken feet, for example, are only $2.80, and there are people who can’t get enough of them. We’re not those people, at least not on this visit; we found them too bony and gelatinous. The most popular items, we later learned, are No. 1, steamed shrimp dumplings, and No. 38, baked barbecue pork buns. Another top choice is steamed pork siu mai dumplings that open at the top, all best enjoyed with oolong tea. We savored a large bowl of homey congee, a Chinese comfort classic of rice porridge available with a variety of add-ins. Ours came with steamed pork, strips of potent ginger and black bits of preserved egg that tasted a little like a fine cheese. We also loved crunchy fried rolls filled with chunks of mango and shrimp served with a citrusy, mayo-based dipping sauce. On one weekday lunch visit, also pretty packed, a favorite was the stuffed bean curd skin. The duck and roast pork rice paste wasn’t warm enough, though we loved the flavors. For dessert, we gobbled up rich baked egg custard tarts. The restaurant also offers a standard menu with dishes like moo shoo pork and subgum chicken, a more authentic Chinese menu (with English subtitles) with specialties like shark fin soup and roasted pigeon and, on request, a Peruvian-style Chinese menu that reflects owner Manuel Su’s heritage. The Year of the Rabbit is a good time to take a culinary leap at China Pavilion.
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