On The Table

Out of the Box: Dim Sum Box Is Redefining Iconic Chinese Dishes

Dim Sum Box is reimagining classics for a new generation of Houston foodies.

By Phoebe Gibson Published in the Fall 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

You won’t find crowded push carts full of dim sum delicacies rolling around Dim Sum Box, and there are only a handful of menu cards and pencils to choose from, but that’s the point. Here at Dim Sum Box, the traditional Chinese brunch fare is being reimagined for a new generation of Houston foodies.

Dim Sum Box, one of Katy’s newest fixtures at University Campus near I-10 and the Grand Parkway, is the brainchild of Gilbert Fung, 39. He descends from a notable line of local culinary talent. In 1990, his father, Hoi Fung, founded Fung’s Kitchen, a Houston landmark largely credited with introducing the city  to Cantonese cuisine. And Fung’s sister, Doris Fung, is a celebrated pastry chef and pastry arts instructor at Houston Community College.

With Dim Sum Box, Gilbert Fung is on a mission to tell his own story, redefining what dim sum can be while maintaining the elements that make dim sum dim sum.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own restaurant,” Fung says. “It’s always been Fung’s Kitchen for my dad—that’s his legacy. I wanted to build something for myself, too.”

Walking into Dim Sum Box feels like ascending into dim sum heaven. Practically everything is white and bright, from the soft yellow glow of the delicate light fixtures and the window walls to the free-hanging ceiling lattice. 

The aesthetics are Instagram-worthy, but there’s more to the story here. For instance, take a closer look at the ceiling, the carved backs of the restaurant’s wooden chairs, or even the Dim Sum Box logo. Notice anything yet? They’re all modeled after traditional dim sum dishes, like ha gow (shrimp dumplings). If you’re impressed, just wait until you see the wraparound bar’s delicate woodworking, crafted to reflect a smorgasbord of dim sum delights. 

Everything you see in Dim Sum Box has been thoughtfully curated and custom designed, Fung says. Together with Daniel Chen of Houston Construction Design, Fung dreamed up a modern, airy space reflective of the food he serves.

At its core, dim sum is a communal cuisine. Traditionally, it’s a Chinese brunch shared with family and friends on the weekends or special occasions. Think of it as the Chinese version of tapas, Fung says; the meal’s signature petite portions and bites are meant for sharing. After all, “food brings people together,” Fung says, and dim sum is no exception. 

Whereas traditional dim sum restaurants typically boast massive round tables and Lazy Susans for maximum shareability, at Dim Sum Box, you’ll find large rectangular tables that mimic family-style dining while also accommodating fast-casual diners. 

In addition, rather than placing an order through a paper form, as at most traditional dim sum establishments, Dim Sum Box diners simply walk up to the counter. This faster service style is a new way of experiencing dim sum, Fung says: skip the queue for a table and massive menu cards, and get straight to the good stuff with a rotating menu of about 50 offerings. And while those items include traditional dim sum staples like baked golden egg yolk lava buns and Peking duck, everything here is served up with a touch of Fung’s modern flair.

Fried garlic shao mai (shrimp and pork) dumplings

Take, for example, shao mai, shrimp and pork dumplings. Forget what you know about this iconic dish. At Dim Sum Box, these delicate dumplings are coated in a layer of Japanese panko bread crumbs and then fried to perfection, juxtaposing the savory stuffing with the delectable crunch of the fried chili garlic topping. Even the well-known ha gow (shrimp dumplings) get the special treatment at Dim Sum Box. The fryer once again works its magic on the texture of these traditionally soft, chewy morsels, adding just a hint of crackle in each bite. 

Overall, Dim Sum Box aims to offer more than just dumplings; it’s about dumpling culture, too, Fung says. Dumplings are the easiest Chinese food to eat, he explains, and at Dim Sum Box, both the uninitiated and the connoisseur will find something to revel in.  

Although the restaurant officially opened for in-person dining just ahead of Lunar New Year 2022, Dim Sum Box already has regulars. Fung’s Kitchen devotees have been frequenting Dim Sum Box to get their dumpling fix, Fung says, adding that they find a sense of familiarity from the shared menu items to the familiar faces of the kitchen and waitstaff, some of whom came over from Fung’s Kitchen. (The Southwest Freeway restaurant was damaged in a fire last year and is set to reopen soon.) 

“My parents worked in the industry for over 40 years. They’re like the typical ‘American dream’; they came here, they worked seven days a week, and they built a career and their family,” Fung says. “They put so much heart into what they do.”

At Dim Sum Box, Fung is doing the same, just on his own terms. From the carefully crafted interior to the delicious eats, conveying just a bit of story and meaning in every bite, in every detail, is at the heart of Dim Sum Box. 

Even the glowing neon sign is more than just a photo op. The pink “you touch my heart” script is actually an ode to the late Grandma Fung, with whom Gilbert shares some of his earliest dim sum memories. Although Grandma Fung didn’t speak English, she was a steady fixture at Fung’s Kitchen, he recalls, welcoming customers through big and small gestures. To top it off, the sign is also a play on the meaning of dim sum, which roughly translates to “eat your heart’s desire,” according to Fung. 

 At Dim Sum Box, you can do just that.

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