Whenever you feel the need for some new flavors in your life, a drive down Williams Boulevard in Kenner usually does the trick. The strip malls here are hotbeds for restaurants from first-generation immigrants cooking delicious food from around the world.
Judy Ceng, a restaurateur who built a following in Kenner for traditional Chinese food, now has a new restaurant in the French Quarter that satisfies the same kind of cravings.
Dian Xin (1218 Decatur St., 504-266-2828) opened in late January, along a stretch of bars and shops near the French Market and en route to Frenchmen Street.
It’s a tiny joint with a dozen tables, a fresh make over and a menu full of dim sum, noodle soups, stir fry dishes, salt-and-pepper style fried seafood and some rarely-seen house specialties.
Ceng is a native of Hong Kong who for years ran the Kenner restaurant Little Chinatown, which is known for its traditional Chinese flavors. Ceng said that after her husband retired, they sold the Kenner restaurant last year and took some time off to travel.
“We went to many cities around the country, and we saw how popular this kind of food is,” she said. “We thought people in New Orleans would like it too.”
Dian Xin is another term for dim sum, and this menu starts with a selection of dumplings and other small-plate snacks and appetizers that would be at home in a more traditional dim sum parlor.
For instance, the xia long bao are tender, dollop-shaped dumplings that burst with juice, filled here with pork or a minced mix of crab and crawfish.
One particular specialty here is jian bing, a thin, stuffed crepe made with a batter of mung beans, flour and rice and speckled with egg. They’re filled with fresh herbs, chili paste, a variety of meat or seafood and a layer of fried wontons for a crunch between it all. At Dian Xin it’s served like a burrito and would make easy street food if taken to go.
Salt and pepper squid – part of a progression of salt-and-pepper dishes that are deep-fried and then wok-fried – are ultra-crisp, peppery and deeply savory.
The Dian Xin menu runs through a variety of stir fried greens, braised tofu, garlic shrimp, dumpling soups and noodle soups.
The new restaurant is a family affair with relatives running the front and the back of the house. Ceng’s nephew makes the dim sum, just like he did until recently back home in Hong Kong. Her daughter works the dining room, fielding questions from an enthusiastic crowd of early adopters who have already flocked to the place.
The Decatur Street address was once Wink's Buttermilk Drop Cafe, and was more recently a falafel joint called Jerusalem Cafe.
Ceng's first restaurant Little Chinatown remains open in Kenner under new ownership.
Dian Xin serves soft drinks, smoothies and a selection of hot tea, including a golden buckwheat tea with an earthy, nutty flavor.
1218 Decatur St., 504-266-2828
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