As long as the culinary community is giving international praise for the cuisine made available to us here at home, let’s not forget a “heartfelt” thank you to the Canton region of China for the introduction of Dim Sum into our neighborhood.
Dim Sum is very closely interwoven with the Chinese tradition of “yum cha” or drinking tea. Historically, tea houses became an integral cultural component necessary in accommodating exhausted travelers journeying along the famous Silk Road. As tea’s medicinal ability to aid in digestion became more widely accepted, tea house’s began offering a variety of small plate snacks, and the tradition of dim sum was born.
In the West, dim sum came about as a natural result of 19th century Chinese immigrants – most of whom were from the Canton region – settling on the East and West coasts. Some believe that dim sum inspired the whole idea of “brunch” – combining breakfast and lunch into one large midmorning meal.
Traditional Dim Sum restaurants offer patrons a series of rolling steam carts designed to bring an extensive array of authentic dishes to them. As carts rolled by, diners could see and smell their options as well as ask questions before deciding on any small plate. Today, many restaurants have dispensed with the cart system. Instead, menus and pencils are provided so diners can mark off their selections and quantities. The food is still served at the table in steamer baskets to keep it warm.
In keeping with the contemporary style of Dim Sum service, we welcome Silver Crystal in West Warwick to the party! That’s right, you heard correctly, Dim Sum in West Warwick. The days of chicken fingers in a neon red sweet and sour sauce with canned pineapple and maraschino cherries may be a fleeting memory.
With twelve people at our table and a plethora of dishes ranging from steamed shrimp dumplings to fried chicken dumplings to steamed barbecue pork buns to congee (rice porridge), we sampled for hours. The dishes were all served freshly prepared, steaming hot and incredibly flavorful. The best thing about ordering dim sum is that each plate averages in cost from $2.85 to $4.25. This will allow you the freedom to try many things without the worry of getting stuck with an entrée that you don’t like.
Three cheers for Silver Crystal and Dim Sum in Rhode Island. You saved me a trip to Boston!
One of the ongoing hot discussions we have over here at Fork in the Rhode is what to review and what not to review. Our big thing is to seek out the less recognized, out-of the way, off-the-grid places that make Rhode Island unique and special when it comes to culinary adventures.
When David called to tip me off of a dim sum place in our backyard, I got very excited. When he told me the Providence Journal recently reviewed it, I sunk back in my chair. But then I thought about dim sum again and having to travel to Boston or New York to get authentic dishes. I then strategically planned a drive-by… code name: Operation Try Sum dim sum on the Run. I ordered just 2 dishes off the dim sum menu: Shrimp Dumplings and Pea Pod Leaf dumplings. For the kids, the usual beef teriyaki and plain chicken wings. When I got home I was really struck on how tender the steamed dumplings were. The rice wrapper was extremely fresh. The wrapper did exactly what it was supposed to do: deliver the goods to my palate! And boy did it ever. The Pea Pod Leaf dumplings were just as good with the pea pod leaves giving a whole new flavor profile to a steamed dumpling. The surprise of the feast went to (believe it or not) the beef teriyaki. One of the most tender (not the usual dried out, chewy type) and flavorful appetizers.
Rhode Crew member David soon mobilized an emergency Fork in the Rhode review with some special guests that are very familiar to the world of dim sum. Soon after we arrived we were escorted to a large table. What was really nice about this review session was that I truly felt like a guest as I sat back to listen and watch the ordering taking place in a Chinese dialect unbeknownst to me. Very exciting! Soon after the ordering took place, the table started to fill up with dim sum. The dim sum never stopped coming. Dish after dish, I thought I would have to call for a replacement pair of chopsticks!
If I were to review every dish we ate, this review would be very long and time-consuming. Considering what I get paid for being a contributor and founding member of Fork in the Rhode, I should have written one, short paragraph for the review 😉 Anyway, after the meal ended several observations were made:
- I’ll never have to drive to Boston again for great Dim Sum
- Pinch me…is this really West Warwick?
- Yes the steamed shrimp and pea pod leaf dumplings are that good!
- And the beef teriyaki is to die for too!
- The chicken feet are still a great mystery to me but put me in a Dim Sum moment and Andrew Zimmern has nothing over me!
- More on those Chicken Feet…the group did say there could have been more flavor or spice to compliment the dish.
- Great assortment of dim sum. Although there aren’t dim sum carts rolling around like you would find in some big Chinatown districts, you can count on some extremely fresh, made to order dim sum that will send you straight to Shangri-La .
My recommendation to you… head over to the Silver Crystal. Go right for the Dim Sum menu or skip through the traditional “American” Chinese food entrees in the regular menu and head for the back to the “Chinese Special” dishes. Order and then sit back and let your taste buds take you away to another world.
When my fellow Rhode Crew members Dave and Scott said “lets go for Dim Sum”, my first reaction was to get ready for a trip to Boston for an afternoon “delight”. To my surprise, Dave mentioned that there he had heard a few good things about a place for Dim Sum right in West Warwick. Being curious, we all said we’d give it a try. Little did I know at the time that Dave had invited some guests to dine with us, and not just for a quick Saturday lunch, but rather to make an afternoon of it. And an afternoon it was. He had invited his good friend Yiguang and his wife Ying. Yiquang is originally from the Canton Region of China and his wife from Bejing. Additionally, they brought along some of their friends to help us navigate through the extended Dim Sum menu. The afternoon food fest was about to begin.
The ‘party’ started the moment we walked through the door where we were graciously greeted by the owner of the Silver Crystal Chinese Restaurant. From that moment on, I was only a “guest”! It was like they took us into their home and meticulously prepared everything from scratch, and served us with the utmost of care. The ordering was done by one of Dave’s friends, and I tell you the food did not stop coming for two hours straight. I never picked up the menu. To give you an idea of how much food there was, the round table we were seated at was a large round table, with a super large lazy susan in the middle which was about five feet in diameter, giving each one of us about one foot of table space around the perimeter of the table. The lazy susan could not fit all the food. In fact, we filled the lazy susan twice over.
The Dim Sum was so plentiful I lost count of how many dishes we had. My best guess was there had to be about 20 different plates ranging from the Fried Chicken Dumpling (one of my favorites), to the excellently prepared Fried Pepper Salt Shrimp; and I swear there was Fried Calamari on the table, although I can’t find it on the menu as I write this review, to the Steamed BBQ Pork Bun, and the very different, but very tasty, Pan Fried Turnip Cake (another favorite of mine).
From the owner, to the wait staff, to the restaurant itself, “Crystal” is truly a gem right in West Warwick. This is a keeper!
Silver Crystal – 289 Cowesett Avenue West Warwick, RI 02893 (401) 822-1818
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