ALEX SPRINGER

It’s probably appropriate to confess that I didn’t have Red Maple (2882 W. 4700 South, 801-747-2888, redmaplechinese.com) on my radar until all you lovely City Weekly readers gave it your “Best Chinese Food” stamp of approval during last year’s Best of Utah. As a longtime fan of our local Asian food scene, I felt a bit chagrined that paying a visit to this West Valley favorite wasn’t higher on my priority list. That said, I’m happy to say that I have seen the glory that is Red Maple, and am happy to be counted among those of you who bestowed last year’s Best of Utah Award to this establishment. Y’all seem to know what you’re talking about.

Red Maple has been around since 2010, though it moved to its current location in 2013; before then, diners found the place on 3300 South and Redwood Road. Back then, its claim to fame was its weekend dim sum menus, which helped bring this traditional Chinese celebration of pillowy steamed pork buns, delightfully chewy sesame balls and barbecued chicken feet in black bean sauce into the local spotlight. Based on my visit, the years have only honed the Red Maple team’s dim sum skills into picture perfect food that begs for seconds, thirds and fourths.

While their whole dim sum menu remains up for grabs, Red Maple has suspended dine-in hours in favor of takeout and delivery. You’ll have to wait for the dim sum experience of ordering hot food directly from a tiny cart that bounces from table to table like a delicious pinball, but rest assured that Red Maple’s takeout game doesn’t diminish the flavors at all.

It’s listed as a starter, but the dim sum sampler ($9.50) is a meal unto itself. It’s comprised of Red Maple’s most popular dim sum items: shrimp dumplings, shumai and steamed barbecue pork buns, or bao. As these are the items I tend to binge during any dim sum outing, I was excited to crack open my takeout box to see all six of these lovely, plump balls of flavor staring up at me.

Anyone new to the dim sum experience will want to start here as variations of shumai, dumplings and bao are foundational menu items. The offerings at Red Maple are exactly what anyone craving the soft pop of shrimp flavor or the fluffy texture of steamed dough are looking for. I can often get overwhelmed during a traditional dim sum experience, so having this curated list of favorites on hand is perfect for those looking for a snapshot of the menu.

Venturing into Red Maple’s vast menu of traditional Chinese favorites, I couldn’t resist an order of pon pon chicken ($9.50). The earliest bricks of my Chinese food foundation came from the Chinese-American takeout joints that can be found brightening the corners of commercial strip malls throughout the country, so sweet-and-sour chicken evokes all kinds of nostalgia for me. Pon pon chicken is yet another variation on that formula. It’s a sweet, sesame sauce that douses golden chunks of whatever deep friend protein you prefer, but it’s also got a chili pepper kick that reins in the sauce’s sweetness. Like most Chinese dishes, its origins are a mashup of traditional culinary practice—Sichuan, in this case, which is where the heat comes from—and adaptation to American audiences. The end result is something familiar that adds a welcome dose of spicy flavor to the mix.

I also couldn’t pass up the chance to check out Red Maple’s Singapore Rice Noodles ($11.95), since the dish is touted as one of Singapore’s signature dishes. I’m a sucker for any menu description that makes such claims, as I’m not totally sure if and when I’ll ever actually get to Singapore. This dish is a mammoth tangle of thin rice noodles, which have adopted the ochre tint of the yellow curry powder that creates the foundational flavors of this entrée. Within this tangle, the diner can dig up goodies like stir-fried shrimp, slices of barbecue pork, bean sprouts and onion. I appreciated the sheer amount of shrimp hidden within all those rice noodles—most seafood dishes trick you with the promise of bountiful shrimp, only to burn you with two or three. While I love the size and overall flavors of this dish, the curry powder application was a bit heavy-handed for me. It’s not overly spicy, but the cumin-heavy notes definitely start to overwhelm the dish.

On top of a solid menu of Chinese favorites and a dim sum menu that can stand proudly among the state’s finest, Red Maple offers family meals that are perfect for those looking for something new to share with a big group. These family meals range from $66 to $250 based on the number of people you’re looking to feed, and they include clams in black bean sauce, golden pumpkin seafood soup, stuffed crab claws and whole pan-fried fish. Red Maple doesn’t skimp on their portion sizes, so picking up one of these thoughtfully curated party menus is a great way to liven up any gathering.

If you’ve yet to experience why Red Maple is one of City Weekly readers’ favorite places for local Chinese food, now’s a great time to introduce yourself.