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Burlington's Café Dim Sum to Expand Next Door and Add Shabu-Shabu

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Dim sum dishes at Café Dim Sum (from top left, clockwise): spareribs, chicken feet, shu mai and bok choy. - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Dim sum dishes at Café Dim Sum (from top left, clockwise): spareribs, chicken feet, shu mai and bok choy.
Ever since chef/co-owner Sam Lai and his wife, Li Lin, opened the tiny, 20-seat Café Dim Sum at 95 St. Paul Street in October 2021, they've been overwhelmed with demand for their traditional small-plates menu, which includes shu mai and chicken feet. A planned expansion into the space next door will help.

After a two-month closure for renovations, Café Dim Sum will reopen this summer with triple the seats, a dedicated takeout door and an additional menu of shabu-shabu, Japanese-style hot pot.

 Café Dim Sum will close at the end of April with the goal of reopening in early July. Lai will do much of the work himself. "I'm a carpenter, too," he said.



The couple had been eyeing the suite next door in the same building since they learned earlier this year that the previous tenant, Bare Medical Spa + Laser Center, would move.

"It's been pretty much chaos since we opened," Lai, 44, said. "We sell out every day. People were waiting two hours for a table."
The expanded space will allow for dim sum takeout, which has not been available since shortly after the restaurant opened. "It will be the quickest takeout you can find," Lai said.

All dim sum customers will move down a line of steam tables and coolers selecting from dishes such as shu mai, sesame balls, char siu buns and mango coconut pudding. They can then either have their choices packed for takeout or bring them back to their table. The menu will vary, with a daily roster of 20 to 30 items.
Sam Lai serving cucumber salad - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Sam Lai serving cucumber salad

Shortly after reopening this summer, Lai said, he plans to launch a new evening menu of shabu-shabu. Diners will cook their own meals in a pot of hot broth set on a burner in front of them. The setup will not be kid-friendly, the chef said.

The name shabu-shabu comes from the Japanese word for "swish," referencing the quick motion of moving each thinly sliced ingredient through the broth, Lai explained.

Café Dim Sum will offer at least two different housemade broths in one divided pot, with seafood, meat and vegan options to choose from. All come with vegetables and a choice of rice or noodles, plus a base dipping sauce of housemade soy sauce, garlic, chile and toasted sesame oil.

Lai is considering providing a sauce station where customers would be able to customize their sauce with additional ingredients. "If people don't abuse it," he said with a grin.