Dim sum like it hot
Caie’s Oriental Cafe770 S. Meadows Pkwy.
Reno, NV 89521
During the weekend of Street Vibrations, I did everything possible to preserve my sanity and avoid a terrible shanking. This meant renting tons of videos, drinking in my living room, and eating at restaurants far, far from downtown—lest I run my mouth at someone in leather who turned out not to be a business executive.
I’d eaten at CaiE’s Oriental Café once before. I went with my wife, and we had the mu shu pork ($8) and sweet and sour chicken ($8.50). Neither of us liked our meals very much. While the price and size of the meals made the experience pretty easy, the chewiness of the meats didn’t.
However, I had to come back to try the dim sum. Dim sum is available every day, but they have an expansive menu from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. CaiE’s brings a 30-year master dim sum craftsman in on the weekends. He prepares the plates himself, and his recipes are available only at CaiE’s and another fine establishment called Costco. This time I went with my friend Mike, which was bold, as he’s a pretty devout meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.
There’s nothing too remarkable about CaiE’s décor, but you get the feeling the owner, who presided over the dining and kitchen areas, invests a lot of herself in the place. She’s even covered one whole wall with a series of her paintings.
I eased Mike into the whole affair with pork potstickers (three for $3.75), an unadventurous choice, but great. He liked the lightly pan fried and slightly chewy exterior, and I liked the salty pork and cabbage filling. We also tried the har gow, or shrimp dumplings (four for $4.50), vegetable spring rolls (three for $3.75), pork noodle rolls (three for $5.25), baked barbecue pork buns (two for $3.75) and the fried egg custard buns (three for $3.75).
I thought the noodle rolls a little odd. They have a skewed ratio of almost flavorless rice noodles to barbecue pork filling and a total unwillingness to be picked up by chopsticks. The spring rolls tasted great, with a flaky exterior housing crunchy vegetables. And the shrimp dumplings were dainty, little translucent flour pouches pleated by hand. If you’ve never had dim sum before, you must try the baked barbecue buns and fried egg custard buns. The baked barbecue buns blend the salty and sweet experience craved by pregnant women and stoners the world round. The soft bun is baked to a golden brown and hides a wonderful jelly-like concoction of barbecued pork. The egg custard bun was very similar to the barbecue bun, but crunchy, sprinkled with sugar, and filled with a sweet, thick egg custard. Just thinking about them, I feel a craving coming on.
Mike and I constantly compared opinions, and the servers were on top of everything. With every bite and every comment, every emptied glass and plate, someone seemed to be standing there. It made me anxious, considering I spill stuff on myself when using chopsticks.
Eating dim sum is a lot of fun. It’s truly a shared dining experience, and ordering tons of tiny portions allows you to be adventurous in your choices. I just wish Mike hadn’t weaseled all the good stuff.