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Dec 27, 2008 02:26 PM

Gourmet Dumpling House ChowDown, 12/27/2008

A crew of 13 people descended this afternoon on Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown to sample in more depth from the offerings at this place; my curiosity had been piqued after a quick dinner three weeks ago.

For reference purposes, the thread that started it:

I'm reconstructing what I can remember of what I ordered, plus what the other folk ordered on their own. A few CHers were in the party, hopefully they can add in whatever I've left out. All references are from their take out menu.

A18 Pei Pa Tofu (PiPa Doufu): these are the tofu-and-egg fritter/hushpuppy things that I had the last time. I was hoping for the crispy fried tofu, but they switched it for this one instead. Still good, if hushpuppies are your kind of thing.

A26 Scallion Pancake (CongYou Bing): I can't claim to be an obsessive with these, because I'll pretty much eat anything fried with onions and flour in it. I thought these were OK, fried fairly crisp, not greasy at all, a little light on the scallions for my taste, but then the last batch I had at another joint was something else.

A28 Taiwanese Style Pan Fried Dumplings (ShanDong GuoTie): Oddly enough the Chinese name identifies these as coming from Shandong Province, not Fujian/Taiwan. These never made it to my side of the table.

A30 Mini Steamed Buns with Pork and Crabmeat (XieFen TangBao): the infamous XLB (XiaoLong Bao, or soup dumplings), with crab meat. One of the densest packings of crab meat that I've ever had in my XLB, though on the second try, perhaps there was something strangely missing in the delicacy of the flavor. (I also backed in by complete accident into a Shanghai joint in midtown Manhattan called Evergreen about two weeks ago, and was taken aback by the XLB that I had there.


B39 Taiwanese Style Sauteed Rice Cake with Pork and Vegetables (TaiShi Chao NianGao): One of my long term addictions, the savory rice cake, which is served up here in just the perfect texture of al dente, without needing to leave the dish swimming in a deep pool of grease and oil. Delicate, beautifully balanced meat and veg filling to go on top too.

D3 Oyster Pancake with Gravy (known to me only by its Taiwanese name, which sounds something like O-A-Jian): Another of my street food addictions from my time in Taiwan, the oyster omelette which is offered up on every other street corner in TaiPei. Again, it's hard for me to be objective about this dish, because I've eaten it in more forms than I want to think about. Good texture and flavor, though I have had versions of this that were more generous with the oysters.

D11 Sauteed Eel with Yellow Chives (JiuHuang ShanYu): A Shanghainese classic dish, not quite served up in classic Shanghainese style (a large pool of raw garlic and oil would be needed for that), but an expert, flavorful version of this dish.

D35 Sauteed Beef Julienne with Long Horn Pepper (Xiao LaJiao NiuRou Si): A beef stir fry with a matched julienne of sweet and hot green peppers to match. Seeds were left in, so this dish had a fair amount of heat to it, though it was a little bit of a one-note wonder compared with some of the Sichuanese glories that I've had elsewhere.

D36 Beef with Scallions (CongBao NiuRou Si): A beef take on a fairly standard lamb-based dish. Not bad, but in this company, fairly plain-Jane take which might have been helped with more varieties of onions (maybe leeks and actual scallions as opposed to just sliced onions).

D40 Beef Julienne with Chinese Watercress in Sa-Cha Sauce (KongXinCai ShaChaNiu): Probably of the three different beef strip dishes, this one is my favorite, though that might just be because I'm a sucker for the watercress-like KongXinCai (literally empty-heart vegetable, looks like a long hollow green grass stalk).

D63 Simmered Seafood and Tofu Hot Pot (HaiXian DouFu Bao): A Cantonese classic, with a delicate thickened white sauce surrounding a batch of moderate sized shrimp, scallops, artificial crab, chunks of octopus or squid (not sure which) and brown-exterior tofu. I love the delicacy of the flavors and found myself not being able to stop eating this, though I don't know that this is to everyone's taste.

E1 Sauteed Chinese Watercress w/Garlic (QingChao KongXinCai): Part of an illustration of my addiction to KongXinCai, I ordered this dish with and without beef and ShaCha sauce. This version is a straight up stir fry with oil and garlic which came off as expected.

E12 Sauteed Chinese Mushrooms Over Greens (DongGu Pa CaiXin): Shiitake mushroom caps in a soy-based braise surrounded by a floral-petal like arrangement of baby bok choy. I didn't get around to trying this one, though it's a fairly standard flavor (one I like, but I was busy with other stuff).

E15 Braised Tofu with Scallion and Vegetables (HongShao Doufu): A brown-sauce braise with the same brown coated tofu that figured in the small hotpots, and a mix of bamboo shoots, carrots, broccoli florets, and water chestnuts. Solid and dependable.

White rice was ordered but never arrived (for the second time; an awfully peculiar quirk, but then I guess I do tend to get carried away with my ordering). Total bill with tax and tip worked out to $15 per person. No desserts to speak of.

The take-home punch line: I think that maybe a title like "Gourmet Snack House" would be closer to the target on this place. They aren't really a dumpling house at all, but seem to serve up a variety of treats from a range of Chinese coastal cuisines (in this case, Shanghai/Zhejiang, Fujian/Taiwan and Guangdong) with expert skill, though not aiming for the rarefied or the sublime. The Chinese name of the place (NanBei FengWei) translates as "All the flavors of north and south" which implies that they can handle anything from any region. I didn't really put them through their paces on Sichuan cooking, because I have my doubts as to whether they could really execute MaPo Doufu in a Chengdu-worthy fashion. But it's a really solid place for a simple, cheap, satisfying meal.

Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

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  1. how did you like the xlb at Evergreen? That place (on 36th? near 5th iirc) used to be my go-to place for xlb about 10yrs ago (when i lived about 15 minutes away by Path train) but i haven't been there for ages so they may have gone downhill...

    2 Replies
    1. re: barleywino

      Very good -- lots of lovely crab essence, a hot steaming soup which blended well with the vinegar. Fresh brewed dragon well (LongJing) tea was also a nice touch, and the sesame balls (JiuLiang TangYuan) are the best that I've had since my year long sojourn in China a decade ago. Just wish the prices weren't so shockingly high (though I suppose commonplace for that part of town).

      Shanghai Cafe in Manhattan's Chinatown remains my go-to on the East Coast, Wing's Kitchen in Boston's Chinatown remains my go-to in the immediate area, but it's good to have Evergreen and GDH as alternatives if need be.

      1. re: barleywino

        The one's I ate at Jo Jo Taipei in Allston were the best I have ever had including places in NYC.

      2. It was great having a taste of so many things - thanks, Dr.J, for such a nice ordering job! My favorite was definitely the eel; I could have easily eaten a whole plate of this. I also was very happy with the pan fried dumplings (sorry you missed out on these, Jim!) and the oyster pancake. BTW, the greens with mushrooms had a delightful, "wow" presentation - a dark circle, surrounded by what looked like melon balls, like a huge green sunflower on the plate!

        1 Reply
        1. re: fredid

          Yes, that eel thing is something else isn't it? The first time I had it in New York, I was grossed out by the site of what looked like worms on the plate.

          But then I tried it. And I haven't been able to get enough of them since (the aforementioned Evergreen, sadly, was fresh out of eel when I was there two weeks ago).

          The sunflower presentation for the black mushrooms and baby bok choy is actually fairly standard for this dish, and as I noted, it's typically only the shockingly worst restaurants that botch this one (though I guess you can wind up with mushrooms that have seen better days).

        2. For me, this was a ChowDown where the company was more memorable than the food. I'm really glad to have finally gotten around to trying this place, and it's always good to have another spot in the Chinatown rotation (especially now that New Shanghai is gone), but I'm not sure I would make a special trip to eat here. It was all perfectly nice, but nothing really knocked my socks off.

          I think my favorite dishes were probably the rice cake, which is always a favorite of mine, and the Chinese watercress with garlic, ditto. I was actually kinda disappointed in the XLB: the soup was lacking in flavor, the skins were a bit too thick and tough, and I never thought I'd say this, but they were actually a bit TOO big. I think they would have been much tastier at about two-thirds the size. I was also disappointed by the beef with longhorn peppers, but that was partially because of a miscommunication in ordering (the drawback of being at two tables, along with barely even getting to say hi to half our group!): I'd asked for the whole stuffed longhorn peppers that had been discussed in a previous thread, but that got lost when it was shouted across the room. Oh well, next time.

          4 Replies
          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            So how does one get on the list for these chowdowns i always miss :(

            1. re: hargau

              Hey Hargau - We happened to meet at the FuLoon Chowdowns! You could do your own ChowDown (!) Just pick a place and a time and post it! (Details below)(And we'll come!)

              We also have a small chowcrew - It's gotten a bit unwieldy, but you or others can contact me through my profile (click on my user name to get my address) and we can see if we can add a few more! T

              Here are some links with how-tos from an earlier post:

              Hope this all helps!

            2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              totally agree about the xlb. couldn't even finish mine. enjoyed the pork xlb during my initial visit much better

              1. re: galangatron

                Some excellent dishes (IMO) to try next time at Gourmet Dumpling House:

                Twice Cooked Pork
                Beef with Ladies Fingers
                Sauteed Chinese Lettuce
                Julienne Pork with Bamboo Shoots

            3. I get really frustrated with this website sometimes. It's posts and posters like this that keep me coming back. Great post.

              I went to GDH today for lunch just because I had a XLB craving and the mention of the eel dish above(which I may never have had because I didn't recall seeing it on the menu). The place was packed as usual during lunchtime and there was a ten minute wait for a table. I almost conisdered leaving and going to Wings for their XLB but I really wanted to try the eel dish. I am glad I waited. They stuffed the two of us into the little table right next to the host stand. Was it comfortable with the 38 degree wind whipping up our backs? No. Did it matter once the food came? No.

              The XLB were awesome, even better than last time. I have considered Wings to be my favorite(the broth has a haunting aroma and just a little better flavor and the wrapper is more delicate(although sometimes it's a crapshoot because the wrapper breaks and you get no broth.)) The wrappers today were much more delicate and there was more crab meat and liver than I remember from the past. Not a single tear in any wrapper and each of the dumplings gave forth a whole spoonful of broth. Superb!

              We also ordered the Eel with yellow chives, Sauteed beef with lady fingers and Sauteed Chinese Lettuce. After seeing two orders of Pan fried little soup dumplings(A31) we inquired as to what they were and ordered them also.

              When that eel dish hit the table and I took my first bite I was really psyched. Could quite possibly be my new favorite dish in Chinatown. Spicy hot(unexpectedly so) green peppers, tubular slices of eel, tons of green chives, slightly sweet, slightly salty. Just dead on delicious. I haven't had the luck of having this dish in Taiwan so I can't comment as above but I'm definitely going back for more.

              The sauteed lettuce turned out to be cut up leaves of cabbage. It was excellent also with very light sauce and lots of dried chili cut up into it. My description won't do it justice but is definitely worth a try.

              The beef and lady fingers(okra) was spot on also flavorwise. I think the beef was a little dried out but it didn't stop me from eating it. The okra was lightly cooked and just yielding its slightly slimy(in a good way) texture.

              The pan fried little soup dumplings were neither little or soupy. They were however delicious. It's basically the steamed (bread like) bun filled with pork and leeks then the bottom is pan fried and oil tossed over the top. Too hot to touch when they hit the table. You definitely need a utensil to pick them up. The dough was light and fluffy and the filling was similar to the filling in the Taiwanese style Pan Fried Dumplings.

              All of that food for $45 plus tip.

              GDH has slowly become my go to place in Chinatown.
              I still have favorites at other places and will keep visiting them too.

              The next dish I am going to try was at the table next to us. Pork bellies with preserved vegetables in brown sauce. It looked great. I can't wait to try it.

              As an aside. The kitchen store on the corner is now vacant.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Wursthof

                Believe it or not, I think Wing's actually makes a better stir-fried eel than GDH. I believe it's called "Fried Eel" on the menu (#93, or QingChao ShanYu on though I don't recognize this on this menu). Similar savory sauce, but a sublime mix of oil and raw garlic atop the eel that makes it unforgettably Shanghainese.

              2. That was a beautiful post - thanks.

                By some miracle, we didn't have the kids (3 of them) last night, so my wife and I headed into Boston to jump around a bit (chiantown, south end, north end), but started the night at GDH. Didn't go crazy ordering since we had some other food ahead of us that nigh, but ordered:

                pork/leek steamed dumplings (my rule: if a restaurant has a food item in it's name, get some of that food item) - pretty decent - I've been to china just under 10 times, including shanghai - these tatsed homemade....

                fried calamari - let down - these tasted slightly better than the stuff you get outside of Chinatown at bars - New Jumbo Seafood still is the tops in my opinion. If you are in Hong Kong - For about $1.25, there's a street vendor/juice lady right down the street from The Marco Polo that will forever be my gold standard.

                roasted pig's heart - although my wife couldn't look me directly in the eye when I ate this (about 30 slices?), this was pretty awesome and served simply over some lettuce, a couple pieces of cilantro and some soy sauce. A first for me.

                Can't wait to go back and dig into the other appetizers...

                Sutton, MA

                freid calamari

                1 Reply
                1. re: markadamowicz

                  "Roasted pig's heart"?!? Well, we certainly missed that one - or we would have ordered it! Had ox liver on a skewer in Flushing this weekend - really great!

                  And by the way, the ChowGang is hoping to get down there in April or so - maybe, other Boston hounds would enjoy meeting up with us down there! (If you might be interested, email me - click on my screen name and look at profile - please indicate "NYC trip" - and I'll email you when we have a possible weekend)