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China Jen Roseville MN experience

Paz and I decided to try this place out after seeing the review in the Strib, and we are sold! We just got a bunch of appetizers and one entree, and everything was top-notch: cold noodles with sesame sauce, soup dumplings (they call them steamed pork pao I think), spicy wontons, scallion pancakes, even the kung pao chicken was great. One thing that I really loved was that they did not ask how spicy we wanted the items listed as spicy: they brought them out, and they were truly spicy but manageable. They were nice there too. It is in a cruddy strip mall next to an Outback Steak House off Snelling and County B.
Love them!

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  1. In a post on the Texas board not too long ago, I referred to myself as a spineless glutton for chow punishment or something to that effect. Once I get an item of food in my head, I pretty much can't rest until I've sought it out and eaten it. Quite often, this leads to gross disappointment, the worst of which occurs when a MSP restaurant claims to offer corned beef or pastrami sandwiches, claims that they are an honest-to-goodness deli, throws BBQ brisket on a menu or something along those lines. Today's fodder for heartbreak was the above mention of soup dumplings and their possible existence here in MSP. It's useless for me to resist; that part of my spirit is relentless. So I figured a good compromise would be to get up at the crack, bike a brisk 25 miles, then compromise a good solid workout by driving across the metro for no other reason than to check these "soup dumplings" for myself.

    I was also hesitant because of the mention of the name -- "steamed pork bao". I've been teased by offerings of "steamed pork bao" so many times that I've honestly considering taking language courses just to acquire the ability to properly ask "yeah..but are those XIAOLONG BAO?" and comprehend the answer in great detail. The gravest offender is Shanghai Circus/Big Bowl Express in Byerly's which offers the doughy Shanghai buns, not the juicy, soup-and-pork-filled dumplings I've come to love but can only get in New York City or San Francisco. If only I could have asked in Mandarin, but I doubt anyone at Shanghai Circus could have reciprocated.

    Anyway...off to Roseville and China Jen. Pulling up, I developed a Plan B so as not to waste a lunch hour journey clear up to Roseville (roast beef sandwich at Maverick's). But my optimism heightened right away: Menu item A9 "Juicy Pork Dumplings" (on the regular menu, not the takeout one). My mind was thinking that sounded much more promising than "steamed pork bao". One order STAT!

    As it turns out, this is the closest thing to real live NYC soup dumplings I've had in years. They're about half the size, not quite as flavorful in the pork, and with half of them (eight per order), the tiny amount of soup inside had already worked itself out of a hole in the skin. But the four that made it to my mouth with soup safely tucked inside were close enough to satisfy my jonesing for soup dumplings. Bravo China Jen! Now please move to Eagan...thank you.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      The size of the xiaolong bao is a good sign, as the traditional Shanghai version is much smaller than the NYC version a la Joe's Shanghai.

      I've been on a xiaolong bao quest for almost 15 years, but haven't hit Roseville MN yet.......

      1. re: Gary Soup

        I actually liked the size as it enables you to put the whole thing in your mouth vs. the "deconstruction method" you have to use at Joe's Shanghai (although the all-in-one-bite method bears the risk of destroying your mouth if you don't wait for the soup to cool some). If they can manage a little sturdier skin and hold a bit more soup, these would be an excellent version. Even as they are, they'll be a standard item on my order when I get up to Roseville for Chinese.

        1. re: MSPD

          Hey, that's my MO. I call it the "cherry tomato" approach. Close your mouth and mash down, and you get all the good stuff yourself instead of squirting it all over someone else.

    2. I'm so glad you had a good or at least acceptable experience there. Did you get anything else there? We just found ourselves back there last night and got a lot of the same things as we did the previous time: kung pao chicken, spicy wontons, cold sesame noodles. It was to go, so we could not get the soup dumplings (from hard experience we have learned that they don't travel well).

      1 Reply
      1. re: AliceS

        I also tried the salty fish, bean curd and chicken hot pot. It was good enough to order again or try other hot pots, but I didn't eat too much as I was prepping to run a five mile race this morning and kind of spacing out my meals. I'm also a sucker for salt and pepper squid so if I get back up that way, I'd probably do the bao and squid.

      2. Went for the 3rd time in about 1.5 wks, got some of the same stuff (best kung pao chicken in the TC) and some new. The "Dun Dun Noodles" (AKA dan dan noodles) are similar to the cold sesame noodles, but served warm, and we actually liked them better. The BBQ pork was more a Paz thing, it was too chewy for me, but he liked it a lot.
        Love the spicy wontons. By the way, wontons traditionally do not refer to those scary cream cheese things, just so everyone knows; they are usually meat-filled.

        1. I was able to convince my husband to try this place tonight, as I am utterly disappointed with nearly everything we have north of 694. (see my other post if you have ideas)

          Anyhow, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I took the above recommendations and those of the strib and dug in.

          Firstly, the server approached us to find out if we'd been there before, and did we hear that they were in the strib. I also mentioned chowhound, and he knew all about it!

          We started with the steamed pork pao, and cream cheese wontons. Yes, I had to humor my husband. Needless to say, the pork pao were very good, IMHO, and honest to god, so were the cream cheese wontons. They had pepper in the cheese and were so freshly fried, light and crispy.

          I have to admit, while I've been to HK several times, I'm not as adventurous as I could be. That said, I had the chicken with black bean sauce; which was good, but I don't like green peppers and that was half of this dish. Otherwise, top notch. Not too salty, but plenty saucy.

          My husband had pork with garlic sauce which was wonderful. The veggies were julliene instead of chopped, and the sauce had just the right amount of spice.

          I was being my regular nozy self as other table were served, and the folk behind us, who to my ear were speaking cantonese, ordered the beef mandarin, and then another table ordered this beautiful fish dish, which according to the server was sole filet. It was fried and looked so golden delicious. Maybe next time.

          I bet if I was willing to ask our server his opinion, he would have given it. Unfortunately, just after we got there, about four more tables came in, and the servers got a bit busy.

          All said, we'll be back. Maybe not in the next week, but likely in the month. We've been looking for good asain up north without having to try every nasty chowmein place. Thanks to all for their recommendations.

          1. went back again yesterday. Repeated the spicy wontons and the scallion pancakes (those are great for the chowbaby, but be warned, they arrive piping hot, so some cooling was needed), as well as the dan-dan/dun-dun noodles. Instead of the kung pao chicken, we got the garlic pork, which was recommended above, very good, though I could have done without the celery. Paz is sick, so he got soup, off the chef's specials in the front of the menu, it was a chicken noodle celery soup, which was ok, but not great. It was much like a Japanese soup, with thick udon noodles and a very mild broth.
            They are getting very busy at this place, and will need to hire more help soon I think; as it is they were quite overwhelmed.