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Dim Sum Garden(s): A tale of confusion

Two restaurants with the same name but different owners.

In September, Dajuan "Sally" Song and her mother, Shizhou Da, moved their Chinatown restaurant, Dim Sum Garden, from 59 N. 11th St. to 1020 Race St.

This was good news for fans of what many people regard as Chinatown's best soup dumplings - including Jose Garces, who buys them wholesale for his Atlantic City noodle bar. The swankier, spacious storefront is a big step up from the fluorescent-lit shop in a noisy tunnel beneath the Hilton Garden Inn.

But then in December, the "Dim Sum Garden" sign flipped on again at 59 N. 11th St. The kitchen bustled with workers and the doors opened, with newspaper clippings touting the food appearing on the glass. The menus were the same, including the prices.

Three blocks away, Sally Song was steamed.

She believes that someone was trafficking on her good name. But although the women had built up a huge following and had built a wholesale business as Dim Sum Garden, she and her mother were not the original owners.

They had bought Dim Sum Garden in late 2008, about a year after it opened.

Those who visited the old location asking why there are two restaurants with the same name were told that the original owner had returned.

In fact, a previous owner, Tom Guo, is back at 59 N. 11th St. But he told me that he is an employee, helping out the owner, whom he declined to identify. City records identify the owner as Mei Ying Gao.

A lawyer-friend of Song's wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Gao several weeks ago, demanding that Gao change the name of the 11th Street restaurant and remove the news clippings from the door.

But Guo said the owner had no reason to change the name.

Song said she was vexed by people ordering from her but arriving at 11th Street to pick up their orders.

In legal terms, there is a clear difference between the businesses, despite the same names outside and on the menus.

Song set up the new restaurant on Race Street under the fictitious name "Dim Sum Garden Philly" and in November trademarked the name "Dim Sum Garden."

On 11th Street, the buns and dumplings go out the door under the legal name "Philly Dim Sum Garden."

Today, I noticed that the newspaper clippings had been taken down from the door on 11th Street. In its place was a sign written in Chinese, offering buns and dumplings for wholesale.