Thursday, July 26, 2012

At a dim sum lunch in Fort Lee, tea is 95 cents per person

Small clams in black bean sauce at Silver Pond Seafood Restaurant in Fort Lee.

Editor's note: Silver Pond Seafood Restaurant closed, but has been replaced by Aquarius Seafood Restaurant, which also serves dim sum.


"Yum cha" is Chinese for "drink tea," another way to describe the meal called dim sum -- where servers circulate with small plates of food and offer them to customers.

I recall dim sum lunches in Honk Kong and in San Francisco's Chinatown where the waiters rolled carts through the dining room and sang out descriptions of the food they were hawking.

At Silver Pond Seafood Restaurant in Fort Lee, the servers emerge from the rear kitchen carrying small plates of food on trays, approach customers at their tables and ask whether they want one or two of them.

Pan-Fried Chive Cakes.

Fried Salt Pepper Shrimp.

I started going to Silver Pond for dim sum lunches more than a decade ago, usually as part of a group of  five or six people. 

But as prices increased, dim sum became a pricey meal, especially for one or two people.

After an absence of several years, I returned on Tuesday, and discovered the restaurant now charges 95 cents a person for tea.

I took my bill and credit card up to the counter and asked the woman at the register how long Silver Pond has been charging for tea, but she didn't answer.

The food is as good as I remembered, but service has suffered. 

I had to ask two waitresses for a second small plate of spicy red chili paste and hot mustard four or five times before I got it.

Shrimp with Bean Curd Roll.

After I inadvertently spilled tea in this small dish, I had to ask repeatedly for another.

On Tuesday, we ordered four small plates: Pan-Fried Chive Cakes ($3.95); Shrimp with Bean Curd Roll ($4.95); Fried Salt Pepper Shrimp ($5.95) and Clams with Black Bean Sauce ($9.45).

The bill for two people was $28.05 before the tip.

My only complaint was the black bean sauce, which had been thickened with too much corn starch.

The dim sum menu lists more than 50 items.

Such other small plates as Turnip Cake and Spring Rolls are $2.95 each, and Chicken Feet and Egg Tart are $3.55 each.

Compare today's prices to the range in 2004: $2.75 to $8.60. 

We saw the owner, Kam Lee, in the dining room on Tuesday. I was told he opened Silver Pond about 22 years ago.

Silver Pond also has tanks filled with live seafood, including fish. 

I remember a wonderful two-course meal made from a grouper that was taken out of the tank and dispatched in the kitchen.

Silver Pond Seafood Restaurant, 230 Main St., Fort Lee; 201-592-8338. Cash and American Express cards only.

Dim sum is served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tea is 95 cents per person.

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