Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Good Dim Sum in the Suburbs

If you're like me, you love dim sum. But if you're also like me, there are those occasional days when you don't want to schlep down to Chinatown to get it. Especially if it's raining or you're just not in the mood to buy a roast duck or bbq pork bun on the way back to your car.

Fortunately, we've discovered dim sum at lunchtime on Saturdays and Sundays at Far East Cafe in Woburn. We've been going there for a while for the dinner buffet (I confess I've never ordered anything off the regular menu--the buffet is well-stocked and fairly priced). A friend turned us onto the dim sum, for which I'm grateful.

Far East is set back in a somewhat unprepossessing office park called Cummings Park, behind a Bank of America and near the CompUSA, but judging by the crowds of mostly Asian families we see there on the weekend, we're onto something here. Unlike standard dim sum, most of the items are served on the buffet, including classics such as dumplings, egg custard tartlets, roasted meat, and some of the best rice congee I've ever tasted. (Don't miss the steamed feast rolls. Mmmm....) There are also special items you rarely see, such as tea eggs, which are something I've loved for 20 years and used to have to make myself. They also have several somewhat more exotic (for non-Asians) items such as tripe and cuttle fish.

The buffet is replenished frequently and also features standard buffet items such as chicken wings, fried rice, lo mein, sauteed vegetables, and really good chicken teriyaki that the restaurant labels "amazing chicken." And for those of us who can't quite let go of dim sum tradition, a few carts circulate through the dining room with items such as har gow (shrimp in wrappers), pork shiu mai, and sticky rice. You just point and receive--as much as you want.

And that's where Far East Cafe really comes up a winner: The price can't be beat--under $10 for adults (and kids over 10) for everything, including tea. That's for both the buffet dim sum and the circulating cart items. And free parking. (Dinner buffet is slightly higher and while good, doesn't include most of the specific dim-summish--dim sumesque?--items.) So the restaurant may not be as spectacular to look at as Empire Garden, but you'll like it. I'd bet my supply of tea eggs on it.


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