Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cai

Location: 2100 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60616
Cai on Urbanspoon

A Quick Word:
When searching for dim sum restaurants in Chinatown, they tend to be either too expensive or not very tasty.  However, Cai seems to be the perfect balance between cost and quality. We came on a Saturday morning and were greeted with a large crowd and a short wait.  But after being seated, we ordered all the dim sum we wanted (via a menu rather than waiting and stalking the carts).  The dishes tend to be amazing or something I wouldn't order again so be ready for some hit and miss.  But when you get your check and its cheap, you understand why.  The atmosphere is BUSY, but the dining room is beautiful.  Cai is good, but not as amazing as Triple Crown Seafood.  Reservations are accepted so I suggest making some.

The Dim Sum Menu                                              

What We Ate:

Simmered Chicken Feet with Peking Sauce

This is one of my favorite dim sum dishes at any restaurant.  And Cai does a good job with these.  They are stir fried lightly in a peking sauce.  If you never have eaten these, make sure to use your teeth to get the skin/cartilage off the bones and be sure to not swallow any of the small bones.

Ha Gow

These are some of the simplest dumplings out there.  It is just a shrimp wrapped in a light rice wrapper and steamed until cooked.  It is one of the best preparations of dim sum because it focuses only on the shrimp.  Dip it in the chili sauce and enjoy.

Shrimp and Pork Shumai

These are the stereotypical dumpling that most people have tried.  But when you actually get them from an authentic dim sum restaurant, you will never order them at those fake places again.  Here, the meatball is made out of ground pork and ground shrimp with a little bit of vegetables (mushrooms, water chestnut, carrots).  They top it with a little masago.  Once again dip these into the chili sauce and you will definitely order more and more.

BBQ Pork Bun

With all the bao restaurants opening up, the most authentic is still when you come to Chinatown.  These are not perfectly round because these are hand made, not machine pressed.  They are steamed until the crack open to expose some of the amazing bbq pork.  These are not gelatinous at all so its much different than ordering from the bakeries.

BBQ Pork Rice Crepe

These are another staple that most dim sum restuarant offer.  Unfortunately, at Cai, they are a little dry.  These rice crepes are filled with BBQ pork and some scallions.  They are topped with some kind of soy sauce, which doesn't do the job to moisten the crepes.  They are extremely sticky and just not that enjoyable to eat.

Lo Mai Gai

This is one of the larger dishes we ordered.  The little lotus leaf wrapped package is stuffed with sticky rice, a little shredded chicken, and some seasoning.  They steam it for a while and they come out extremely hot.  Another one of my favorites.

Stuffed Bean Curd Skin with Pork and Shrimp

These are my brothers favorite dumplings.  Some places call them "Three Happiness Dumplings" probably because of all the ingredients inside.  Anyway, the name describes it all.  Shrimp, pork, and a bean curd skin.  These are served piping hot... hotter than other dishes so be careful.

Crispy Taro w/ Chicken

This is probably my favorite dish we ordered.  Taro root is a huge part of dim sum with different dumplings and cakes being the main focus.  In our case, we ordered a mashed taro ball, mixed with chicken, and deep fried to make a light outer coating.  This may be one of the most technically difficult dish that some restaurant don't even attempt.  Cai does a great job with it.  A must have!

Beef and Chinese Broccoli Chow Mein

My family loves chow mein.  We order this dish at every restaurant we go to.  And it always is delicious.  The pan fried egg noodles are extremely crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  It is topped with beef and chinese broccoli.  Make sure to mix it all together so you get some of the crispy noodles and some of the softer, sauce-soaked ones.  It isn't as good as Triple Crown's chow mein, but it does the trick.  This is ordered off the dinner menu so the price is significantly higher at $10.

Sesame Ball with Red Bean

These are sort of the dessert dim sum.  Simply red beans stuffed inside a rice ball coated in sesame seeds and lightly fried.  It is super sweet so don't try ordering these if you are craving something savory.

Hot Tea

Just some amazing jasmine tea to start of the meal.  It helps "cut the fat" when eating so sip it throughout your meal!

The DOs/DON'Ts:
DO:
- I would call ahead and make reservations if possible.  Lunch time, especially on weekends, can be a mess at the restaurant.
- Make sure to make an order and not just rely on the carts being pushed around for dim sum.  Not only will the food come out more fresh, you will actually find a better variety by ordering.   But feel free to do both.
- There are no prices, but small, medium, and large plates are how they are categorized and I believe it is $2.50, $3, and $3.50 respectively.  My family of 5 (pretty big eaters) spent around $50 so maybe 3 dishes per person?
- If they forget a dish that you ordered make sure to let them know.  With so many small plates, confusion is bound to happen.

DON'T:
- They may ask you to share a table with someone else... I wouldn't so just pass and wait for the next table.  The turn around is fairly quick so just being patient.

How far would I walk for this food?



2 comments:

  1. Hey! Have you been to Phoenix for dimsum? If so, how would you rate Cai in comparison?

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    Replies
    1. Hey angelica... first of all thanks for checking out my blog.

      I have been to Phoenix a bunch of times (before I started my blog) so no pictures... sorry.
      Anyway, Phoenix has great dim sum but it is more expensive than Cai. The quality of the dim sum is definitely higher at Phoenix, but I don't think it is worth the price. (They do have this BBQ fried dumpling (shaped like a football) which is incredible)

      The restaurant, in my opinion, is much nicer inside Phoenix. They are both real busy but I feel like I waited much longer at Phoenix.

      Any other questions let me know! Thanks.
      Joe

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