Monday, April 12, 2010

On Time Seafood

When we lived in San Francisco, one of our favorite lunch routines was dim sum. Dim sum is sort of like Chinese tapas, or little plates. Our usual spot for dim sum is Shanghai Lil’s, which is quite good (see my previous review), but I had heard there were other places to go, so I wanted to see what else was out there. It appears these days, there is just one other place (please let me know if I am mistaken) to go, which is on the west side, called On Time seafood. So off we went.

It is another one of those restaurants in a somewhat neglected strip mall. I was surprised though by how nice the interior was relative to the outside. Very, very clean, and not your standard Chinese restaurant interior. Decent upholstered chairs and a row of booths along the walls. Also, one of the first things I noticed were the fish tanks in the back, with live fish, lobsters, and get this, Dungeness crab. Wow, it was hard not to say, “screw the dim sum, let’s get a crab!” But I didn’t. But I am going back for a crab very, very soon. This is the first place I have seen live Dungeness crab in Indy and I can’t wait to eat one. These are by far my favorite.

Anyway, the dim sum, overall, was very good as well. You are given a written menu to check off what you want, as well as a nice card with pictures of all the items. Nice touch, particularly since it appeared there was only one person working in the entire place that spoke English and the place was pretty crowded. Although many of the customers were also speaking Chinese, so maybe it isn’t that necessary.

We ordered the shrimp dumplings (I am just going to use the English names here for ease of typing), the spring rolls, pan fried chive cakes, the pan fried shrimp roll, and the fried sticky rice with mixed meat. The shrimp dumplings were very good. Just your basic dumpling wrapper with whole pieces of shrimp inside. Hubby and I were discussing why it is that some are good and some are not, because they seem pretty simple. But we have had some bad ones. However, these were really good.

The next thing I tried was the pan fried chive cakes. I think these may have been my favorite. The filling was just mainly chives, but the dumpling wrapper was pan fried and had nice crisp sides to it that had a wonderful flavor. There were some other things mixed in with the chive mixture which made it quite tasty. Sometimes I have had them and they taste just too much like grass. These were superb.

The spring rolls were fine. They gave us the crunch factor we needed to balance the soft dumplings. The fillings were just standard though and a couple of the pieces of pork inside were a little gristly for me. I certainly think the spring rolls at Shanghai Lil’s are better, but these do the job.

We also had the pan fried shrimp rolls which were really good. This was more of a chewy wrapper that had a bit of filling with a bit of shrimp in it. They were then lightly pan fried. So they had a bit of chewiness to them which was nice, as well as a bit of the crunch. We both really liked these as well and put them on the “would definitely order again” list. They weren’t super shrimpy, but had a nice and more unusual flavor.

We never actually got the shrimp and cilantro dumplings. We were twice brought out a set of dumplings, sent them back the first time, because they were clearly not shrimp and cilantro (some sort of meat in there). The second time they brought out the same thing, and we just decided to eat them anyway. They were pretty good, but I didn’t think they were as good as the other things. Hubby said he would order them again if he could figure out what they were. I think, based on a process of elimination, that they may have been the Chiu Chow dumplings which are stuffed with pork and various other ingredients. They were fairly apologetic about not being able to get the other dumplings for us, and declared they must be out of them.

The final thing we had was the fried sticky rice with mixed meat. Ok, this was not good. Or I should say, we did not like it at all. As soon as it was placed on the table, I wanted it removed just for the smell. But I bucked up and took a bite, and realized the taste was right in line with the smell. Now I am very sensitive to smell, but when hubby started physically moving away from it in the booth, I knew it wasn’t just me. I can’t tell you what was in it (mixed meat apparently) and I can’t tell you what the offensive ingredient was. But after a little research, I have seen a recipe discussing the Chinese sausage giving it its characteristic “aroma” so maybe that was it. But I really don’t know. It was sort of a fermented seafood-y scent to me I think. Anyway, the owner came by and asked us if we didn’t like it (because we had barely touched it and moved it to the edge of the table) and we said no. She promptly offered to cook us something else and to take it off our bill which I thought was very professional. So many places don’t do this unless you ask. And I wasn’t going to ask, because I thought, maybe it was just something that wasn’t my taste, but that other people might like. She also, without prompting, removed the shrimp and cilantro dumplings we never got from our bill, even though we did eat the ones we did get. She was extremely apologetic right up until the moment I walked out of the door which I thought was sort of refreshing.

Now, there’s no booze at this place (not even Chinese beer) so hubby has taken it off the evening meal potential list, but they have a nice dinner menu as well with those aforementioned crabs. We’re just going to have to go split one of those for lunch one of these days. And we will do dim sum there again as well for a change of pace. We will just stay far far away from that fried sticky rice.

On Time Seafood Restaurant
3623 Commerical Drive
Indy 46222

On Time Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. There is a place that serves dim sum (or used to, at least) on Georgetown Rd. north of 38th Street, west side of the street, big sign, standing alone in its parking lot. I don't know what it's called now -- used to be Yummy -- and I haven't had dim sum there in a few years.

    We live on the west side and this place you've reviewed is even closer to us. I had no idea there was another dim sum place nearby! I'll have to give it a try with The Huz.

  2. On Time (which used to house Great Garden) is definitely the best place in Indy to get dim sum since Shen Yang (which used to be Yummy's) closed last year. To read more of my thoughts on the place, check out my blog:

    A question for you, though: what kind of sticky rice did you order, exactly? Was it the sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf? If so, I'm shocked that you didn't like it! I have taken 4 or 5 of my friends to On Time since it opened and the sticky rice in a lotus leaf has been a favorite of every single person. Maybe you're talking about a different sticky rice conconction, though.... Or maybe my friends just have more tolerance for "fermented seafood-y scents". :)

  3. Yummy became Shen Yang and then had another change of ownership/management, I just can't remember the 'new' name at this moment and am not 100% sure the place is still open. Haven't eaten there for many months. Yummy/ShenYang was good for a while then also began going downhill...

    Erin, "On Time Seafood" is the place I mentioned to you before that was called Great Garden. GG was one of the best places for Chinese food until it was repossessed by the landlord and chained shut. OTS is the current reincarnation/reopened restaurant in that same space. Greatly remodeled too. The dim-sum put out by GG was better, the dim sum (and other dishes) put out by OTS tends just slightly towards American gooey-dom-ness (to coin a word), at least those I tried.

    I suspect he "smell"/component you and your hubby found repulsive in the sticky rice may indeed have been lap cheong, even perhaps of the liver variety... I suppose they could be an acquired taste - I myself find them delicious and (nicely) fragrant. Perhaps this might count as one of those things that Western folks "don't like" in "Chinese food eaten by Chinese folks and that is not offered to them in Chinese-American restaurants"? :-) :-) Another possibility may be a special kind of nut that is often included in the dish. I imagine you don't mind the smell of reconstituted DRIED thick-fleshed shiitake (called Toong Koo, or if they used the special variety, Far Koo) that should also be a component of the dish? This has a strong smell and flavor too.

    (In a way, there is no such thing, really, as "Chinese Food" - rather, there is food/cuisine of Canton, Hainan, Szechuan, Shanghai, Peking, Fukien, etc etc.)

    I just saw the response by "Me". Yes, reflecting for a moment more, there is no longer an open restaurant where Shen Yang was.

  4. Me: no, this was not the sticky rice in the lotus leaf. This came out in a glass bowl with a plate on top which was then flipped over and the bowl removed (and thus, the rice retaining the bowl shape. Next time maybe I will give the lotus leaf rice a try instead.

    huiray: hubby and I actually had the conversation about "Chinese" food you are talking about that day at On Time. That you can't really call anything just "Chinese food" with so many different styles and provinces. Even saying "American food" would be difficult in my opinion without stereotyping. And if you ever try the sticky rice I would love to know what you think, although it is always possible it just could have been a bad batch as well. I will likely never know, because I will certainly never order it again.

  5. Erin,

    Sure. I'll try the sticky rice on my next visit.

    BTW, do you like durian? :-)

  6. Just another thought - did the smell of that sticky rice dish resemble anchovies in some way?

  7. pretty sure it wasn't anchovies because I like anchovies (even had some last night with dinner).

  8. OK. I asked because they may have also put in Cantonese-type salted dried fish, which often becomes slightly fermented. Very strong smell and taste. I like it, but this is one of the great no-nos for Western folks.

  9. We went for dinner and I gotta say this plays rocks! We had a Hot and Sour Seafood Soup with shrimp Scallops, and Lobster. The crispy duck was just ok but not bad, and the highlight of the meal was a whole roasted flounder in a hot pepper chili sauce that was awesome! I'll go back for dim sum for sure! I did notice that they changed the sign, in your pic it says seafood restaurant and at the place it says Chinese restaurant.

  10. Dried prawns.

    Erin, I think that's what you were smelling and tasting in that sticky rice dish. I took a swing past "On Time" today for Dim Sum.

    There is lap cheong in it as well, but it is of the pork variety and I don't think it was this you found objectionable. The dried prawn smell was distinct and the prawns (whole) clearly visible in the dish.

    These dried prawns (har mai) is a widely-used ingredient in many dishes, many of them of the Southern chinese provinces and of SE Asia. I use it myself in various dishes, especially in something called "Tai Yee Ma Kar Lui" :-)

    As zwilks said, the place has changed its name to read "Chinese Restaurant" instead of "Seafood Restaurant". It also seems to have been remodeled again, with restoration of the open seating layout that Great Garden had. Hmm.

  11. Went there for lunch yesterday and it was fantastic. Just had a lunch special, pork curry. It was great. Two people even checked with me to make sure I did not need a fork. Strange. Not much English going on here. A business party came in and I overheard something about chicken feet. I would love to go back and check out the dim sum with someone who knows what to order. The dim sum menu at the register was not all in english.

  12. They do have a dim sum menu with English descriptions and even pictures. I particularly love their Szechuan dishes (containing "numbing spice"/málà).

  13. This place has changed ownership (according to other online reviews) and is now called Lucky Lou('s) Chinese Restaurant. Same location, same interior.

    We went for lunch with a friend and had a good experience. We didn't get the dim sum menu until we asked; others there were ordering from the main menu. The waiter spoke some English but was not the one who answered our questions about ordering—first time!—so we misunderstood. No problem, he knew what we meant, and everything turned out fine. The woman who answered our questions appeared to speak little English but came by to check on us and make sure we were enjoying everything, which was nice.

    We chose deep-fried shrimp balls, sesame balls (sweet), sweet potato pie (sweet), spring rolls, pork dumplings (shui mai & ha gao, I think), pan-fried shrimp dumplings, peppered beef short ribs, and chive dumplings. We all had different favorites and various items we weren't crazy about but overall everything was good. We agreed that we'd go back again and try some new things.

    Another group was cooking their food at the table. The waiter saw us watching and said it was Chinese hot pot (I think). He explained that there were two sides in the pot, one had a kind of soup and the other a spicy sauce. (I heard the woman order "half spicy, half not spicy" so I guess that's what she meant.) I've never been to a fondue restaurant or Korean barbecue place but I imagine this was similar to that. I was intrigued.

    I liked that the menu has pictures so you can see what you're getting, which will help us even more when we return.