If non-Chinese know any dim sum place in Chicago’s Chinatown, it’s probably the multi-level Phoenix, which meets the expectations for a big bustling place with rolling carts delivering containers of hot food. There’s another, quieter kind of dim sum restaurant, though, which has more of the feel of a neighborhood coffee shop— one where the food is cooked to order. Shui Wah was perhaps the best of these in Chicago’s south side Chinatown, a claim which requires the admission from this Chicago loyalist that being the best here nevertheless doesn’t really put you in the league of New York/San Francisco/Vancouver etc. But Shui Wah was an honorable place making pretty well crafted food, and if any place of its ilk deserved to be an LTHForum Great Neighborhood Restaurant, it was the one, winning the site’s designation in 2009. (There was also the weird fact that at night it became a kind of pop-up restaurant— an entirely different staff used the facility at night to make food in the style of the city of Chiuchow/Chaozhou.) Alas, LTHForum also reports this week that Shui Wah has closed; the owner/cook has retired and the restaurant’s last day of operation was Monday.
Ordering off the paper sheets at Shui Wah enabled/dared us to go beyond the usual dim sum cart offerings like steamed pork buns and shrimp dumplings, and we would say that Shui Wah’s turnip cake was one of the dishes that most contributed to expanding our horizons of what Chinese food was about over the past decade. (Note Shui Wah’s presence on this alt-universe Taste of Chicago we conjured up once.) We wish them the best in retirement, and will remember them fondly as we hunt for new things at newer places like Cai and Ming Hin. [LTHForum]