Dim Sum comes to Brattleboro

This past weekend we got a chance to go to Cai's Dim Sum Tea House, which is a dim sum extravaganza put on at the C.X. Silver Gallery on Western Avenue, Brattleboro, Vermont. The gallery has been open for several years, but they just this spring started a monthly "Tea House" where dim sum is served from 11am to 8pm. Of COURSE we had to go, since I heart dim sum so much.

What we found was a real revelation for me and my dim-sum preconceptions. There were no stacking steamers, no thick, heavy dumplings, and actually none of the items that I usually conjure up when I think "dim sum." Instead, there was a series of unique "small plates" packed with fresh, light flavors. The main notes in many dishes seemed to be ginger, hot chiles and cilantro. And several of the items were cold, which is also not something I expect from dim sum--but which was very welcome on a bright summer morning. (OK, it was 12:30, but I felt like we were just getting going after a late July 4th nite!)

Wide shot of the whole table.
Top row from L to R: Vietnamese spring roll, mango yogurt drink, shao mai dumplings,
marinated Chinese eggplant
Middle row from L to R: Dan Dan Mian (Sichuan hot & spicy noodles), chicken & celery dumplings, Chinese spring roll, Stir fried rice noodles with tofu & vegetables & turmeric, marinated beef with tea egg
Bottom row from L to R: Marinated tofu, fellow diner's plate with spring roll dipping sauce, Cai's chicken with turmeric & maple syrup

Close up of Dan Dan Mian (L) & chicken celery dumplings (R)

Close up of marinated beef with tea egg

We really loved the Dan Dan Mian, which was a cold noodle dish with lots of spice and complex flavors. (I circled almost everything on the menu labeled HOT.) The chicken & celery dumplings were also excellent, and we were fascinated by the marinated beef and tea egg. They both seemed to have an anise-y flavor that worked well with the solid texture of both the beef and egg. The egg seemed to be smaller than a chicken egg, not sure what it was. I was also a big fan of the marinated Chinese eggplant, another cold dish that just melted in my mouth (and was also HOT--hooray). My dining companion really liked the stir-fried rice noodles. Our smallest member had no problem polishing off a tasty fried spring roll and was interested in the neat cross sections of the pale brown tea egg.

Basically we loved the food and are enamored of the whole idea of a dim sum tea house in our town. We got to sit outside on the porch on a gorgeous day. We sipped jasmine tea with our meal. It felt like we'd lucked into an invitation to a special family occasion with the host turning out her favorite dishes, rather than being at a restaurant. The cool gallery setting didn't hurt. They accept credit cards too! Recommended--don't forget to call ahead for reservations. Let's keep this thing going!

Special thanks to Someone Special, who not only had the idea, made reservations and treated us, but also went home after we ordered because I FORGOT MY CAMERA and retrieved that item. This post is brought to you by him. <3


KennyT said...

I like dan dan mian too!^^

"Prof. Kitty" said...

It's so good! It doesn't look TOO complicated either... maybe I can figure out how to make it at home.