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Gourmet Dumpling House

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They opened today at lunch and I had to drop in just to see the menu and try something. The first thing that became obvious to me is that they are not a dumpling house/stand/whatever the term may evoke in the listener's mind.

They do have a very diverse menu though with many items that you don't typically see on the menus in Chinatown in an attempt to live up to the restaurant's Chinese name as Limster indicated in a previous posting. There is a healthy dose of Taiwanese dishes and it would not surprise me if they were owned by the same people who own Taiwan Cafe as many of the lunch specials are familiar (and I saw one or two of the wait staff from Taiwan Cafe there)

-Lunch specials are all $7.25 with daily soup, white rice and scallion roll though the Chinese text indicates that you only get to pick one out of three items - I could be reading the Chinese wrong however, mine is rusty at best.
-Rice/Noodle plates run the gamut from $2.50 for the ground pork on rice to $7.95 for two fancy noodle/seadfood plates.
-Appetizers section really shows that they have dishes from many parts of China: Shanghai style smoked fish, roasted pig tongue and heart, Taiwanese style sausages, five spice beef, pork ears in chili sauce, XO tongue and tripe in chili sauce
-Buns: Taiwanese style pan-fried dumplings (shandong guo tie), XLB/XLB w/crab, pan-fried XLB (sheng jian bao), veggie buns, shandong bun (shandong man tou), scallion roll (chong you hua juan), fried buns with chives (jie cai he zi)
-Dumplings: you can get them boiled or pan-fried in any of the following four flavors - Pork/Leek, Pork/Cabbage, Beef/Celery and spinach (steamed). It is noted that all buns and dumplings take 15 minutes to prepare.
-many other things that is beyond my ability to summarize.

I've uploaded scans of the menu here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avial/se...

I got an order of the pan-fried XLB to go and not to my surprise, they were just buns with XLB meat in the middle with no pan-fryed goodness on the bottom. Not to mention that they didn't have the thin skin of an XLB either like it should - which leads me to wonder why is that I have yet to find a single place in the US that serves 'sheng jian bao' like they do in Shanghai where they take XLBs and just pan-fry them. Places in HK, NY, Boston all want to take steamed buns and give them a little sear on the bottom and pass it off as the real deal.

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Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

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    1. Thanks for the report. It is very helpful.

      Their lunch specials are exactly the same as Taiwan Cafe. I am pretty disappointed because I was looking for a specialized dumpling place.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sheila

        I think we all are. It's the curse of this town that places can't really specialize in a single food and survive well. What I would do to have a pulled noodle joint in this town again.

        1. re: avial

          omg they had that? I would LOVE to have freshly made noodles as well.

      2. Many thanks for the great recon! Will have a look at the place when I get back from a weekend of SF chowhounding.

        BTW, there's pretty informative shen1 jian1 bao1 discussion on this thread: (see especialy the 2 posts I've linked to)
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44213...
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44213...

        2 Replies
        1. re: limster

          Thanks for the pointers to the long XLB thread - it surprises me to hear that the experience of others is that SJB is typically a bao zi made from leavened dough because my experience has been that they do not use leavened dough - at least not in Shanghai. Will have to do more searching...

          Perhaps this picture describes it best, the caving walls of the SJB are a sign of the thinnes of the dough: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Sh... from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shengjia...

          1. re: avial

            Stopped in last night and had a very good meal. I'd definitely go back.

            FRIED SPICY WHOLE GREEN PEPPERS ($7.95)
            These turned out to be five or six longhorn peppers stuffed with ground pork, then breaded and deep fried. A few were very spicy, the others were pretty mild. A nice combination, and a dollop of the vinegar (on the table) and a dash of salt and they were great as a shared appetizer. It's sorta funny that the menu didn't list the pork.

            PORK AND LEEKS DUMPLINGS ($5.95)
            These were bigger, looser, and slightly softer than the ones I've had at Qingdao Garden. They were good, though I'm not sure which style I prefer. The loose filling was nice----moist ground pork, leeks, ginger, lots of garlic. Served with a vinegary dipping sauce.

            SAUTEED PORK JULIENNE WITH BAMBOO TIPS ($9.95)
            This is my new favorite dish in the shrimp/yellow-chives vein. The bamboo shoots are shredded to look exactly like yellow chives, and along with the tender shredded pork, the whole dish gets that caramelized, smoky flavor from the high heat. A little greasy, but in a good way. And a welcome kick of spicy heat.

            They had a few beers in the cooler. Service was very friendly. I agree with the poster above who noticed a Taiwan Cafe Brand Vibe. Who knows?

        2. I went Saturday night for dinner with 5 friends before catching a movie at the Loews and was underwhelmed along several dimensions - size of dish, flavor, service.

          XO Tripe in Chili Sauce/6.95 - not spicy enough, barely a drizzle of hot oil, weird combination of slices of meat and pieces of the tripe or tendon

          Pickled Cucumbers with Garlic/4.95 - small chunks of cucumbers pickled with garlic and chilies, topped with some kind of chili paste or sauce - not pickled long enough and not enough chili paste/sauce to add that necessary tinge of heat, you would think it would be hard to mess this one up...

          Steamed Pork/4.95 - slices of bacon boiled perfectly with a hint of garlic and covered in a sweet sauce with diced garlic, sauce was a bit too sweet for our liking but tasty nonetheless

          All three varieties of dumplings - dumpling skins were overcooked across the board being too soft and falling apart - it was pretty clear that when they were able to bring these out minutes after ordering that they had them boiling in a pot already or had par-boiled them too far and just warmed them back up. Vinegar/soy sauce was also not as strong as any of us would have liked, granted there was soy vinegar on the table but we weren't given our own individual bowls for mixing our own sauce.

          Sauteed Pea Pod Stems with Garlic/11.95 - probably one of the better dishes, it was simple and well done, good hint of garlic, pea pod stems were had a good crunch to them.

          Ma Po Tofu/7.95 - served on a plate as a single layer of tofu cubes covered in sauce, I typically prefer my ma po tofu with a good amount of chili and/or sichuan peppercorn heat swimming in a bath of ground pork. This was a single layer of tofu cubes on a plate with a slightly sweet chili sauce that also had some Chinese black bean sauce in it to give it a salty flavor, not amazing in my book

          Home Style Braised Eggplant with Basil/8.95 - large slivers of eggplant that were cooked to the right doneness but the sauce covering them was way way too sweet, the basil did add a nice counterpoint to the sweetness but it did not save this dish

          Braised Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Sauce/9.95 - small 'logs' of pork chop meat excluding bones covered in a sauce that closely approximates the sweet and sour sauce used in the mainland. Not glowing orange, not too sweet, a good hint of vinegar. I would still think that Shanghai Gate's sweet and sour pork ribs are my favorite rendition of this but it's not an apples to oranges comparison I suppose.

          Washed down all of it with 3 big bottles of Qingdao beer. They also have Harbin which I prefer, but only in 12oz bottles. The service was somewhat off, granted it was their 3rd day in operation, the wait staff often did not know what tables the dishes were going to - we watched as our beer almost was delivered and poured for another table. The size of the portions given the prices also seemed off when compared to other Chinatown institutions, perhaps it was that they choose to plate on large 14" round plates instead of the more typical and smaller oval plates for dishes like vegetables - the impression was that it was a small portion of food. I did see a lot of people ordering House Pork Chops over Rice which looked like a literal mountain of rice with a mountain of pork chops on top - I will be definitely getting it for lunch some time during this work week.

          There are a lot more items I would like to try but I think I will have to be much more selective given this first round of dishes that were not so wonderful.

          1. went last week for lunch. had xlb and the pork belly lunch special. thin strips of pork belly in a soy based sauce over diced preserved vegetable. different than what i expected but very good. didn't get the free soup and scallion roll mentioned on the menu but i didn't care. certainly no expert on xlb but they tasted fine to me. not as good as wing's kitchen though

            1. My husband and I just "discovered' this place last night though we live blocks away. We've been out of town then the Red Sox were kicking ass...so anyway. We had four dishes and loved them all. http://leatherdistrictgourmet.blogspo...
              XLB we had were delicious and steamed and soup was great.
              Try again if you were disappointed.
              I would agree with some of the comments that there are no true dumpling houses like the ones we love in Toronto.
              - Jacqueline

              1. I went today for lunch with a friend and we couldn't help but to notice that the menu was ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME as Taiwan Cafe. We thought it might have been the same owner as mentioned in another board but I asked the owner and they said they are completely different. Except that a few of their chefs are from Taiwan Cafe. He even added that they have a few new creations that they hear Taiwan Cafe is going to imitate soon [because we took their business]. (Ironic because they practically copied the ENTIRE menu).

                Also, to me, the name had implied that it was a dumpling specialty place but it definitly wasn't and FYI the chinese name has NOTHING to do with dumplings. It's something like "Nanjing Flavors/Tastes."

                My friend ordered beef noodle soup: beef too hard, she says she's had much better ones, and the soup was very soy-saucey.

                I ordered thinly sliced bamboo shoots w/pork over rice. It wasn't spicy enough and not enough flavor. The rice was very hard and the food was thrown on the plate - it looked so messy! The guy next to me ordered the same thing and his was presented much nicer.

                This place is worse than Taiwan Cafe, and TC is not even that good to begin with. Its super greesy and salty - nothing like LA's Taiwanese food - and of course cant even compare with Taiwan food.

                1. Wow, that is a huge menu. I wonder if they're shooting themselves in the foot by trying to offer a little of something to everyone, rather than focusing on quality with a smaller menu. Their name reads nanbei fengwei (mandarin) or naambak fung mei (cantonese) (of tastes of the north and south), so it seems they're meant to be a Chinese smorgasbord of sorts.