Winsor Dim Sum Cafe, Boston’s Chinatown

Winsor Dim Sum Café is a small restaurant situated on Tyler Street, in the heart of Boston’s Chinatown.  Unlike most of the Dim Sum places in Boston, at Winsor there are no carts of food being wheeled to your table.  Instead, you will find a paper menu with check boxes next to each item, similar to many sushi menus.

This is probably for the best, as the dining room is far too small to accommodate food carts anyway.  This also means that all the food at Windsor is made to order and brought right out to your table, rather than languishing on a cart.  We don’t often get to eat Dim Sum, but when we do get the chance, we usually sample as much as we can.

The Crispy Spring Roll was a very good standard fried spring roll.  It had a nice crisp exterior and came with a soy-based dipping sauce on the side.

The Steamed Pork & Peanut dumplings had a soft and slightly elastic dumpling surrounding a filling of minced pork, scallions and either boiled or braised peanuts. While the flavor itself was mild, the crunchy bits of chopped peanuts provided a nice change in texture from the soft dumpling and filling.  The pork filling tasted fresh, with a bright note from the scallions.

The Fried Shrimp Balls were probably the most impressive looking item we ordered, and they were certainly the most expensive.  Sadly, they were also our least favorite.  They look fantastic, like some sort of deep-fried comet entering our atmosphere, trailing crunchy bits in its wake.  The outside wispy parts were crispy and tasted as deep fried as they looked.  The inside consisted of artificial crabmeat and small shrimp that tasted a bit past their prime.

Congee is like porridge made from rice, and is often eaten at breakfast.  If you ever wondered what mom’s chicken soup would taste like mixed with oatmeal, order the Chicken Chinese Congee.  It may sound weird, but this flavor combination works surprisingly well.  It was thick and smooth, with chunks of white meat chicken and a hint of chicken broth flavor.  The congee needed a little salt, but that was easily remedied by a splash of soy sauce.

Tripe is a pretty challenging ingredient.  We’ve had fantastic tripe, and terrible tripe, and often don’t agree on which was which.  Winsor’s Beef Tripe with Ginger & Scallion had a delicious broth that was both bright and earthy tasting at the same time.  The tripe itself was described by EA as “The best rubber glove I’ve ever eaten!”  KD said that it reminded her of chewing on a Super Ball as a small child.  Strangely, KD is a fan of this dish, and while EA is happy to have tried it twice, he’s ready to move on.

Because just one order of pork dumplings is never enough, we also had the Deep Fried Pork Dumplings.  They had a very thin, very crispy crust and sticky, gooey interior. They weren’t really what we were expecting, perhaps a little on the sweet side, but still very good.

The Pan Fried Turnip Cakes may not sound all that exciting, but give them a chance.  There was a beautiful heavy sear on the cakes, with a deep roasted turnip flavor, almost reminiscent of cauliflower.  The middle was so soft it was almost mushy, contrasting nicely with the crispy outside.  There was something comforting and familiar about the flavor, it reminded us of southern cooking in a soul-food kind of way.

A bowl full of chicken feet can be a bit intimidating, but the Chicken Feet with Black Bean sauce were excellent.  These appeared to be fried first, then braised in the sauce, giving them a nice shiny glaze. Most of the meat is really skin and tendon, but everything was rendered down, turning them into a tender, gelatinous treat.  They had a sweet and smoky flavor not that far off from American barbecue.  If you appreciate pigs feet stew or rib tips, these will be right up your alley.  They do have a bunch of small bones, but they are well worth the effort that goes into eating them.

The Baked Roast Pork Buns (only available on the weekends) are a very good option for the Dim Sum neophyte who might not be ready for chicken feet or tripe.  They consist of a sweet, soft roll, comparable to a Portuguese sweet bread roll, filled with a roast pork mixture.  To approximate the flavor of the pork, think of a very high quality version of what most Chinese restaurants serve as “Boneless Spare Ribs”, but much better.

Winsor Dim Sum Café has a picture menu that shows most of their dishes, very helpful for the Dim Sum newcomer.  Get there early on the weekends to avoid a long wait, and don’t be surprised if they seat you at a table where people are already sitting, as they have a few large communal tables. Winsor is a great place to sample new and interesting foods without paying a ton of money.  The most expensive dish we ordered was $5.95!

Here are some interesting looking books on Boston’s Chinatownas well as San Francisco’sand New York’s

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