Monday, November 11, 2013

King's Garden: Great Dim Sum Closer to Home

I have a long, lingering obsession with dim sum. I remember my very first dim sum experience at Golden Unicorn in New York City. It was life-changing. I knew it was the beginning of a deep and profound love. In the years since, I have developed a particular affection for Jade Asian Restaurant in Flushing, Queens and enjoy dim sum there every single time I'm in the city (that's several times a year). It's the best I've had so far, and I'm sticking to it! I've been there on several visits since my initial review, and have enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

I don't live in New York City anymore, and although a handful of dim sum meals a year is fantastic, I really wanted to find something closer to home. I actually love making dumplings myself, and have made quite a variety in my kitchen over the years, from pan-fried vegetable dumplings and har gow (shrimp dumplings) to less traditional pan-fried sweet potato and pork dumplings, and beyond. I have an obsession with making my own dumplings (completely from scratch), but there's still a part of me that craves the variety of a dim sum experience that is far too time-consuming for me to replicate.

Steamed Stuffed Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves

From my research, there's really only a few Chinese restaurants in Rhode Island that offer dim sum menus. These are different from the Chinatown experience of selecting dishes off carts as they roll through the aisles of large expansive dining rooms with communal tables. With a smaller market for dim sum, it makes sense to offer paper menus and make the items to order. That's what you'll find in Rhode Island.

Steamed Char Siu Bao (Roast Pork Buns)

After reading some great reviews, I headed to King's Garden in Cranston, RI with my cousin for his first dim sum adventure (I love introducing people to dim sum!). They offer a typical Chinese-American menu, in addition to a dim sum menu and an authentic Chinese menu. We were here specifically for dim sum, so we asked for that menu and ignored the others.

Chao Chow Dumplings

Free tea is a tick in the plus column for King's Garden. There's usually a charge for tea and water (an albeit small one) at typical dim sum restaurants in Chinatown. We checked off our choices on the paper dim sum menu, and shortly thereafter we were scarfing down a variety of dumplings and such.

Fried Mashed Taro Dumplings

We tried seven different dishes. My all-time favorite dim sum staple is steamed char siu bao, or roast pork buns. I order this at every single dim sum meal. The version at King's Garden is great, although it has a bit less filling than my preferred dumplings at Jade Asian. Otherwise, the texture and flavor is spot on. It was a relief to discover these live up to my expectations.

Inside Steamed Char Siu Bao

Another standard at dim sum is har gow, or steamed shrimp dumplings. The ones here are full of plump shrimp, and once again do not disappoint compared to the ones I've grown accustomed to.

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)

The third "usual" order during this visit was steamed stuffed sticky rice in lotus leaves. The steamed packets usually contain a combination of sticky rice, pork, chicken, Chinese sausage, and mushrooms. I was very happy with what was presented at King's Garden. The flavor of the rice and all of its "fillings" was spot on, and it had a great texture.

Inside Steamed Stuffed Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves

We also ordered some Shanghai dumplings, aka soup dumplings. They were smaller and less soupy than some I've had in the past (namely at Joe's Shanghai in NYC). They still had an excellent "juiciness" to them and great flavor. I was very happy with these even though they are atypically small compared to what I am more familiar with.

Shanghai Dumplings

Chao Chow dumlings were also on the menu. I have actually made a version of these in my kitchen (although I haven't yet shared the recipe), and I was curious to see how the restaurant version compared to what I made. Filled with a combination of pork, jicama, and peanuts, these super-chewy translucent dumplings were very similar to the dumplings I had made, and yet the filling was chunkier and the skins were thicker and somewhat gummier. They are a bit off the radar compared to more traditional dumplings, but I was really pleased to see these on the menu and would happily enjoy them again in the future.

Inside Chao Chow Dumplings

Fried mashed taro dumplings are another fun expedition. I had enjoyed these once in the past at Jade Asian, and ordered them again here at King's Garden. A very thick, almost gravy like mixture with ground pork makes up the filling for these gossamer yet fluffy taro dumplings. Although the mashed taro is not really seasoned, and the crisp crust is fairly greasy, the filling is very flavorful and balances out this dumpling really well.

Inside Fried Mashed Taro Dumplings

The last dish we tried was new for both of us. We finished up with the pan-fried turnip cake, which isn't really made with turnips. It features a combination of grated daikon radish, rice flour, and Chinese sausage. The texture almost flaked like fish, and the flavor was somewhat sweet with a bit of sharpness from the cooked radish. Although we were both intrigued by this dish, it wasn't quite as exciting as some of the others at the meal. I'm glad I tried it, but it wouldn't top my list of favorites by any means.

Pan-Fried Turnip Cake

I'm really glad I've found a stand-in for my dim sum desires in between trips to New York City. I was very pleased with the quality of the dishes as well as the prices (all in the $3-range). It's minutes from my home, and I can assure you I will be returning for more.

More of the yummy filling inside the lotus leaves.

King's Garden
90 Rolfe Square
Cranston, RI 02910
(401) 467-8916


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