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Winsor Dim Sum Café

lipoff Mar 15, 2010 04:47 PM

Went to the Winsor Dim Sum Café for Dim Sum this weekend. And wow. Nearly everything, from start to finish, was terrific.

I'm always saddened when people insist on going to a Dim Sum Palace, like China Pearl or Hei La Moon, for Dim Sum, as if crowds, carts, and mediocre food are what makes Dim Sum authentic.

The Winsor Dim Sum Café menu is primarily Cantonese, but definitely has many Shanghainese dishes tucked in there, along with a small section of Northern style dishes. Normally, I prefer the latter, but as I was with a group from Hong Kong and Japan, we stayed mostly on the Cantonese side.

I won't list everything that we had, but did want to mention some of the highlights.

Beef tripe with turnip (radish?) was excellent --- a hearty stew that seemed just right for a cold and rainy morning. The nian2 gao1 (rice cakes) were just terrific, and one of the most authentically Shanghai dishes I've had in the US. Much better than Evergreen Shanghai's version in New York, and a more typically Shanghainese style (albeit not quite as good) as Shanghai Gate's in Allston. The chicken bun was moist, tender, and flavorful. Stuffed eggplant wouldn't have been out of place as a $12 appetizer at an Italian restaurant (it was even plated artfully!) The fried silverfish had a nice texture (but no taste) by themselves, but were served on a bed of shredded lettuce and a fiery hot mixture of chopped jalapeño peppers and chopped chives. We ate that one down to the bare plate and would have ordered another dish if we weren't already so stuffed. Red bean stuffed sesame balls were remarkably not oily. Lotus seed paste buns were moist and pliant.

The various dumplings we ordered were nothing special, although nothing bad. Same goes for the scallion pancake. The plain congee was a little tasteless (but then again, when is plain congee not tasteless?), but the sweet tofu (dou4 huar1) was also disappointingly tasteless, although it had a beautiful silken texture. The stuffed radish cakes were flaky but too coarse --- there are many varieties of these radish cakes, and I think next time I should order differently, if I can remember exactly which one we ordered this time.

And the tea was good! One of our party was vegetarian, and this is a good place for a vegetarian.

Service was surprisingly indifferent even though we were speaking Cantonese, but then again they let us linger for two and a half hours on a Sunday without complaint. There was a short wait when we arrived at 12:30, but no one seemed to be waiting at all by 1 PM. Maybe the heavy rain kept people home though.

  1. h
    harryharry Oct 23, 2010 09:11 AM

    Is this the place that is upstairs? If so, I've been there and liked it better than either of the big "halls" I've been to - I'm going to Boston tomorrow and want to make sure we go to the right place!

    6 Replies
    1. re: harryharry
      barleywino Oct 23, 2010 12:10 PM

      There are several "upstairs" dimsum places-- china pearl on tyler st, chau chow city on essex st, empire garden on washington st... winsor is just a few steps up from tyler st.

      1. re: barleywino
        h
        harryharry Oct 23, 2010 12:58 PM

        it's small, no cart service, I think the stairs go up to the left - and I think the same street as peach farm - hmmmm maybe i can look on google earth?

        1. re: harryharry
          barleywino Oct 23, 2010 09:34 PM

          That's winsor

          1. re: barleywino
            9
            9lives Oct 24, 2010 03:56 PM

            Fine meal today ...shu mai, sharks fin dumpling, shrimp/chive, stuffed eggplant, pan fried dumplings and turnip cakes...all excellent

            btw, if you want to impress an out of town friend with your chow creds, take them into Ho Toy Noodle next to Chau Chau City to buy some frozen dumplings..not your usual shopping experience..:)

            1. re: 9lives
              Dave MP Nov 11, 2010 06:31 PM

              Can you say more about these frozen dumplings?

              1. re: 9lives
                h
                hargau Nov 11, 2010 11:09 PM

                Next time your in there buy a bag of the broken fortune cookies. They sell whole ones too but the broken ones taste better to me. Last i checked it was $1 for a huge bag of them. These are rejects from when the folding machine isnt working right. Many are just flat discs. Really really fresh and crisp. so good.

      2. o
        onrushpam Jul 17, 2010 03:28 PM

        I'll be in Boston in a couple of weeks and plan to visit this place with my sister and nephew who have never had DimSum.

        There will be 4 of us and all are fairly adventerous eaters. So, if you were to put together a menu for 4 from their choices, what would you choose?

        5 Replies
        1. re: onrushpam
          barleywino Jul 17, 2010 05:23 PM

          if they've never had dimsum, they might enjoy the "cart" experience more (where servers push carts around and you point at whatever you like) rather than the format at Winsor (where you order off a menu). A good place for this (easy parking too) on weekends would be (New) China Pearl in Woburn, just off I-95 (rt 128) just south of I-93, maybe 15 minutes north of Boston. Try going early if possible to avoid waiting (before 11:30am).

          -----
          China Pearl Restaurant
          288 Mishawum Rd, Woburn, MA 01801

          1. re: onrushpam
            StriperGuy Jul 18, 2010 01:23 AM

            I love Winsor, and even without the carts it's not a bad place for a dimsum first timer. In Boston, Hei La Moon has decent dimsum with carts as well.

            -----
            Hei La Moon
            88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

            1. re: StriperGuy
              o
              onrushpam Jul 18, 2010 10:17 AM

              We won't be in town on the weekend, coming in on Wed. evening and leaving on Sat. morning. So, we'll really only have 2 days, plus a Saturday trip to Concord (one of my favorite places) on our way to the Berkshires. Then, we'll have one evening on the way home the following week.

              All my dimsum experiences have been in the company of Chinese speakers and only once in a cart place. All the other times were in places where you choose off a list. I think I'll feel more comfortable ordering off a list, assuming there are some brief descriptions and not just the dish names on the list. Plus, I'm afraid the cart places might not be busy enough to provide good variety/quality on a weekday. But, I'm open to being convinced otherwise!

              I'm still looking for "must order" items, whether at Winsor or one of the cart places.

              1. re: onrushpam
                f
                femmevox Jul 18, 2010 02:17 PM

                I always enjoy their hargau (shrimp dumplings). There's also a crab dumpling which actually comes in a little bit of soup--enjoyable and I've never had (or seen) it elsewhere.

                1. re: onrushpam
                  lipoff Jul 18, 2010 03:07 PM

                  I understand the appeal that "cart places" have from an atmosphere standpoint, but I think if you are most interested in the food Winsor is the place to bed (whether or not it had carts!)

                  As I mentioned in my original post, some of my favorites there are:

                  White Turnip and Beef Entrails
                  Shanghai Fried Rice Cake
                  Steamed Chicken Bun
                  Fried Stuffed Eggplant
                  Spicy Salted Silver Fish
                  Chinese Fried Dough In Rice Noodle

                  And for dessert:

                  Deep Fried Sesame Ball
                  Lotus Seed Paste Bun

                  You can find their menu on-line (via menupages) and so can ask us here if you have any questions. We had a vegetarian among us that day, and so ordered a little less heavily on meat containing dishes than we otherwise would have. If you like pork and shrimp, you can order lots of dumplings, buns and rice "rolls" containing those fillings.

            2. nsenada Jul 17, 2010 02:27 PM

              Finally made it here. I thought it was overall, excellent. I also detected strong similarities with Great Taste - they had the same deep fried ribs, though Winsor just gave us a giant plate of meat, with no rice (worked for me). They clearly know how to fry, the scallion pancakes, salt and pepper squid, and fried stuffed eggplant were amazing, and fresh out of the fat.

              Dumplings were also very good, we had shrimp, and shrimp and scallion. Potstickers were really excellent, they were longer and thinner than most, and I think hand formed. The pork buns were the best I've had recently, the meat didn't have the nasty piggy flavor you sometimes get.

              The eye opener for me was the deep fried sesame ball filled with sweet bean paste. I've only ever had them from bakeries, where they get cold, and the oil is all congealed and nasty. I always wondered what anyone ever saw in them. Now I know - when they're hot out of the fat, they are awesomely outrageous (duh - should have figured). A new dessert obsession for me, for sure.

              -----
              Great Taste
              201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

              1. c
                Chocomom Apr 2, 2010 04:28 PM

                We did not enjoy our meal there.

                When we first walked in there was a strong aroma of cleaning solution, we weren't detered by it since our hunger won out.

                We had ordered shui mai, lotus wrapped chicken rice, meat filled fried dumpling, rice noodles wrapped around minced beef, rice noodles wrapped around fried dough cruller, and I'd ordered the veggie steamed dumpling but accident when I wanted the item below. Told them that but the lady walked away and never return nor a I saw her and had to ask another server for our bill. The service was so lacking in everything. I had spoken to everyone in Cantonese even when they tried to speak english to us.

                Shui mai was ok, the lotus chicken/rice portions was very small, the fried dumpling had the same filling as the lotus rice, both rice noodles were ok but the fried dough was just cooked too long and was hard and greasy, All these dishes were lacking in flavor.

                My accident order of the veggie dumpling was a disappointment also-it was full of bamboo shoots and overseasoned with white pepper.

                1. m
                  mikeinboston Mar 20, 2010 08:57 AM

                  Really like Windsor and thank the 'Hounds for pointing me in their direction. As I try new items on their menu, I also always augment with the more standard items that I know I enjoy. On my last visit, I asked for an order of the House Pan Fried Pork Dumplings and was told they aren't making those anymore. Perhaps I misunderstood? I would suspect that this item would be popular for them (I know I liked their preparation)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mikeinboston
                    barleywino Mar 20, 2010 10:22 AM

                    that would be too bad-- one of their better items imo!

                  2. g
                    Guinness02122 Mar 19, 2010 05:29 PM

                    Winsor, Peach Farm and New Jumbo Seafood are my favorite places in Chinatown. Taiwan Cafe and Wai Wai are good also.

                    -----
                    Peach Farm
                    4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                    Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
                    7 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Guinness02122
                      StriperGuy Mar 20, 2010 09:07 AM

                      Try Best Little Restaurant for a totally different and excellent cuisine. New Shanghai is also worth a whirl.

                      -----
                      New Shanghai Restaurant
                      21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                      1. re: StriperGuy
                        g
                        Guinness02122 Mar 20, 2010 07:07 PM

                        Right! I forgot them.

                    2. s
                      secondbreakfast Mar 19, 2010 08:55 AM

                      Quick question on Winsor's size -- it be big enough to take a party of 6-8 on a weekend at brunchtime? Or is that just asking to wait all day? I've had good luck being seated reasonably soon at Hei La Moon with a group that size, but obviously it's a waaaay bigger space than Winsor.

                      -----
                      Hei La Moon
                      88 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: secondbreakfast
                        StriperGuy Mar 19, 2010 09:11 AM

                        You might have a bit of a wait. I have seen the weekend wait be 10 minutes, or 45 so...

                        1. re: secondbreakfast
                          barleywino Mar 19, 2010 09:19 AM

                          they take "reservations" but it's like Legal Seafood, it just means that you get the first available table after you walk in

                          1. re: secondbreakfast
                            s
                            secondbreakfast Mar 19, 2010 10:36 AM

                            that's great to know - thanks.

                            1. re: secondbreakfast
                              9
                              9lives Mar 19, 2010 10:43 AM

                              I got takeout today about noon and every table was taken. No one waiting.

                            2. re: secondbreakfast
                              i
                              ilovedessert Mar 19, 2010 12:14 PM

                              You can try calling ahead to let them know that you're coming with a relatively large party. That way, they can try to keep a big table open, rather than having multiple parties share one. Also, try to get there by 10:30am if possible. It tends to be busiest between 11am-2pm on the weekends.

                              1. re: secondbreakfast
                                s
                                secondbreakfast Apr 2, 2010 12:38 PM

                                Hey thanks (belatedly) for this advice... in the end, we showed up with 8 people around noon and didn't wait more than 15 minutes. Food was a lot of fun, including a tripe dish that I really liked, though not everyone at the table was willing to give that one a shot.

                              2. Jolyon Helterman Mar 16, 2010 02:42 PM

                                I really like the food here, including some of the dishes you mentioned.

                                Pan Fried Rice Noodle with XO Sauce is excellent.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jolyon Helterman
                                  m
                                  mikeinboston Mar 20, 2010 08:55 AM

                                  Really like Windsor and thank the 'Hounds for pointing me in their direction. As I try new items on their menu, I also always augment with the more standard items that I know I enjoy. On my last visit, I asked for an order of the House Pan Fried Pork Dumplings and was told they aren't making those anymore. Perhaps I misunderstood? I would suspect that this item would be popular for them (I know I liked their preparation)

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