Golden Spoons Review: China Village

| 23/06/2017

CNS Local Life(CNS Foodie): Spoiler alert: I love Chinese food of all styles and regions. However, I admit to being less than enthusiastic about the authenticity and quality of the fare being served at Chinese restaurants in Cayman. Still, it was with some excitement and cautious optimism that I brought some companions with me on a recent Sunday to sample the dim sum on offer at China Village, in Plaza Venezia. Translated as “touch the heart”, to me the tasty morsels are little bits of heaven.

Meant to savour over a long breakfast or lunch, dim sum is usually served in cavernous restaurants by little old ladies pushing carts full of steaming hot dumplings, ribs, buns and assorted other fried and baked goods. Each time you choose something from a cart, your card is stamped and, at the end of the meal, the stamps are added up to calculate your bill.

Of course, Cayman does not have that sort of demand, so instead of carts, we were handed a laminated menu with photos of all the items on offer, which is very helpful for novices. Then the food was served right from the kitchen to our table.

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Selection of dim sum

Dim sum is only offered on Sundays from 11am-3pm. We arrived at 11:30, so we could take our time. The restaurant was practically empty then, which concerned us, but by 12:30 the place was about two-thirds full, so our timing was perfect. The staff was friendly and attentive and very helpful in answering any questions we had. There was even traditional Chinese music playing on the sound system.

We ordered freely from the menu, and that is one of the benefits of dim sum – each dish is small so you can sample quite a bit, especially if you bring along some friends.

Before I discuss the food, I would like to share what one companion advised, knowing my great attachment to dim sum: try to judge the food on its own merits instead of how I expected it to taste, and I did attempt to do that to some degree.

Our choices included a variety of dumplings and buns. Generally speaking, these tended to be heavy on the dough side and light on the filling side. The steamed chicken buns were flavourful; the steamed BBQ pork buns were tasty but the meat was not the traditional “char siu” filling that distinguishes that dish. The steamed pork dumplings had lots of meat, but not much flavour, and the dough was a bit chewy.

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Steamed BBQ pork buns

We had better success with the congee, which is basically a thin rice porridge filled with and flavoured by all sorts of wonderful things.

The pork congee got a qualified thumbs up. It was full of flavour from the mix of ingredients, with the expected sprinkling of chopped spring onions on top, but it was a bit heavy on the ginger. There was no such qualification for the chicken congee. The proportion of ginger was spot on, the meat was tasty and the piping hot liquid had a lovely mix of flavours.

The sticky rice contained pork and Chinese sausage, which I love, and never think about how unhealthy it is when I eat it, but the rice itself was surprisingly tasteless; it should have absorbed the flavours of the filling when it was steamed.

One noteworthy failure was the roast pork rib, which was very tough, almost crispy, and slathered in barbecue sauce, a far cry from the falling-off-the-bone version with the barbecue flavour cooked into the meat.

When eating dim sum, I always try the chicken feet, which is actually a family favourite. Clearly, this is not everyone’s cup of tea, as it were, and that’s fine, though it is usually amusing to eat this dish with people not familiar with the delicacy.

There is no denying you are eating the foot of a chicken; it may be dressed up in sauce, but its identity is clear. I have only seen this cooked in a black bean sauce, which is divine, but China Village served it in a spicy peanut sauce. In this case, as promised, I can say that this combination worked even though it wasn’t what I expected.

We finished up the meal with a traditional sweet – sesame balls. The fried dough was the perfect consistency, chewy and crispy at the same time, not too sweet, with a lotus paste filling and, of course, covered with sesame seeds. Though I was expecting red bean paste, I happily let that slide. If we had more room, we would have ordered more.

Our billed totalled $83.50 for three people, for 13 dishes and two bottles of Tsingtao beer (one of my favourite Chinese brews), which was served in chilled glass mugs. Nice. Gratuity was not included.

All in all, we enjoyed the experience, and really appreciated that the staff let us take our time, despite the restaurant filling up around us. Armed with the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, I will be more selective in my choices next time. I also think that I shouldn’t let my years-long love affair with dim sum turn away those interested in partaking.

Preparing dim sum takes a lot of work and I give China Village great credit for making the effort every Sunday.

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Category: Golden Spoons Review

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  1. John Lin says:

    My wife is Chinese and we regularly eat real Dim Sum in Hong Kong when we visit.
    We went to China Village for dim sum lunch with friends. We have not been back.
    My wife reckons it is re-heated from frozen. You can get the same in Fosters or Kirks and it is nicer.