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Dumpling cafe, Chinatown

gourmaniac Sep 6, 2010 10:47 AM

Dumpling Cafe (Washington St. at Kneeland) has been open a week and the red-ribboned flower arrangements line the storefront. It is a Taiwanese place and stands up well to the Taiwan Cafe and Gourmet Dumpling House. For lunch, I had the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) and the 3 cup chicken lunch special which came with a light soup and rice. The XLB were excellent. Six large and flavorful dumplings with good thin skins (housemade). The 3 cup chicken was good but lots of bone bits in the chopped chicken legs. Soup was a nice light broth with pork, soft tofu, seaweed and chopped tomato that had enough texture to make it clear that the soup hadn't been standing all day. Prices are about the same as the other Taiwanese places (maybe a little more) and it had a good crowd of locals. Noodles and dumplings at other tables looked good and it's worth another visit. I must say, a Cantonese lad like me appreciates all the good new Chinese places representing other regions.

Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

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  1. y
    y2000k RE: gourmaniac Sep 6, 2010 11:00 AM

    Thanks for the report! I wanted to try this last week when I went to see Wicked, but the MBTA bus was 30 minutes late and I didn't have enough time. I can't wait to try this place out!

    1. p
      peelmeagrape RE: gourmaniac Sep 6, 2010 05:11 PM

      Thanks for the tip! We had dinner there today and enjoyed all 4 items we ordered: steamed vegetable dumplings, pan-fried meat dumplings, crab and silky noodle clay pot and Taiwanese style eggplant. The crab dish in particular was a stand-out - very strong crab flavor, but fresh and light.

      8 Replies
      1. re: peelmeagrape
        galleygirl RE: peelmeagrape Sep 6, 2010 05:55 PM

        Any pork in the crab clay pot?

        1. re: galleygirl
          Jolyon Helterman RE: galleygirl Sep 6, 2010 06:28 PM

          agreed, XLB were excellent—nice, thin skins and yummy broth

          1. re: galleygirl
            peelmeagrape RE: galleygirl Sep 7, 2010 11:51 AM

            Not that I could see/taste.

            1. re: peelmeagrape
              peelmeagrape RE: peelmeagrape Sep 7, 2010 05:01 PM

              Edit: I just heated up some of the leftovers and see that I forgot to mention one ingredient that I don't recognize which might be pork and which my DC guessed might be tripe. It's sort of a paper-thin tube that has been sliced into inch-long sections. It doesn't seem to have a strong flavor but maybe it's just that the flavor is married with the rest of the dish? Sorry I can't be more helpful.

              1. re: peelmeagrape
                hargau RE: peelmeagrape Sep 7, 2010 06:05 PM

                tofu skin?

                1. re: peelmeagrape
                  tatsu RE: peelmeagrape Sep 7, 2010 06:21 PM

                  fu zhu, sometimes translated as "dried tofu sticks"

            2. re: peelmeagrape
              gourmaniac RE: peelmeagrape Sep 7, 2010 08:29 AM

              yes, the crab and silky noodle clay pot caught my eye. Are the silky noodles bean thread (glass) noodles or something else? Also, pieces of crab in shell or just crab meat?

              1. re: gourmaniac
                peelmeagrape RE: gourmaniac Sep 7, 2010 11:55 AM

                Yeah, they're the thin, transparent bean thread noodles. Same kind that are in the steamed veggie dumplings. It's all pieces of crab in the shell.

            3. theparegorickid RE: gourmaniac Sep 6, 2010 09:56 PM

              grilled chicken skin, meatballs and duck tongues
              say no more
              maybe this will help scratch the yakitori itch

              Dumpling Cafe
              695 Washington Street
              Boston 02111
              (617) 338-8858, (617) 338-8859

              1. z
                zcicala RE: gourmaniac Sep 7, 2010 12:47 PM

                I was reading the menu and it appears to be nearly identical to the menu of Gourmet Dumpling House. Who else calls XLB "mini juicy dumplings"?

                Its certainly not a bad thing to have a second GDH, but I would be pretty surprised if it ended up being too much different than the original.

                Still, I'll undoubtedly check it out in the next couple of days.

                Gourmet Dumpling House
                52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

                5 Replies
                1. re: zcicala
                  hargau RE: zcicala Sep 7, 2010 01:54 PM

                  Its a pretty common thing to call them. Formosa taipai for instance calls them "little juicy steamed pork buns" http://formosa-taipei.com/menus/Nashu...
                  Winsor calls them "house mini steamed pork buns" http://boston.menupages.com/menuproce...

                  1. re: hargau
                    jgg13 RE: hargau Sep 7, 2010 02:12 PM

                    I figured he meant exactly "mini juicy dumplings". the juicy/steamer/steamed theme is indeed pretty common.

                  2. re: zcicala
                    Mike5966 RE: zcicala Sep 7, 2010 02:25 PM

                    Pretty funny... I laughed to myself when I saw "mini juicy dumplings" on Dumpling Cafe's menu, too. I've never had XLB outside of Boston's Chinatown. Are there any places elsewhere like in NYC that have much larger XLB? The mini juicy dumplings at GDH were a pretty big to me (won't fit on a spoon).

                    1. re: Mike5966
                      tatsu RE: Mike5966 Sep 7, 2010 04:11 PM

                      well one of the better known xlb places is Nan Xiang XLB in Flushing and here's pics of course. they barely fit in the ceramic soup spoons, as you can see in the pics.


                    2. re: zcicala
                      galangatron RE: zcicala Sep 8, 2010 11:36 AM

                      the xiao long bao with pork are called "mini steamed buns with pork" on the menu

                    3. galangatron RE: gourmaniac Sep 8, 2010 05:42 AM

                      stopped in yesterday for lunch. had the grilled chicken skin, grilled duck tongues, xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings), and the taiwanese-style pork belly lunch special

                      loved the grilled chicken skin and grilled duck tongues. threaded on small bamboo skewers and slathered in sauce. the chicken skin wasn't as crisp as i had hoped (next time i would ask for "extra crispy") but there were a few pieces with some nice char

                      the xiao long bao were good too. served in a bamboo steamer with the requisite slivered ginger and black rice vinegar. thin delicate skins *filled* with ground pork and hot soup broth. i've never had xiao long bao filled with that much broth

                      the only disappointment was the taiwanese-style pork belly lunch special. chunks of braised pork belly in a soy-based brown sauce over wilted yu-choy. the pork belly could have been braised a little bit longer and sauce was too salty

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: galangatron
                        Mike5966 RE: galangatron Sep 8, 2010 06:15 AM

                        Sounds delicious. The last order of XLB I had at Gourment Dumpling House two weeks ago had three or four dumplings that had already been deflated of their soup broth interior by the time the steamer arrived at the table. Very disappointing... The moment when the broth spills into your mouth is a joy that can barely be described in words, so the more broth the better.

                        I'm also super excited about the grilled skewers. What kind of sauce were they slathered in?

                        1. re: Mike5966
                          galangatron RE: Mike5966 Sep 8, 2010 11:35 AM

                          a sweet bbq sauce

                        2. re: galangatron
                          gourmaniac RE: galangatron Sep 8, 2010 06:56 AM

                          so much broth that I had one explode onto my shirt. nasty stain by the way but so worth it! I was a little disappointed the rice plate that i had so perhaps not a strength of the place. Need to check out the grilled menu as well. This might be the izakaya/yakitori type place that we have been missing in Boston.

                          1. re: gourmaniac
                            Mike5966 RE: gourmaniac Sep 11, 2010 06:42 AM

                            Now I know why you had a nasty stain. The broth here is of a much deeper brown color than those at GDH.

                        3. KWagle RE: gourmaniac Sep 9, 2010 12:16 AM

                          I stopped by tonight--any place that's actually open till 2AM (and they were willing to seat people after 1:30 and were taking orders for carryout as late as 1:55) is worth at least checking out. I had the preserved pork with leeks, which the hostess insisted was not pork belly, but which was in fact fatty pork of some sort, which she claimed was cured in their kitchen. Aside from a couple of pieces of inedible (by me) pork skin, it was quite good.

                          I'm going to go back soon to try the twice-cooked preserved pork, but I suspect that GDH will continue to be my first choice, because they do some very good Sichuanese dishes, and I'm just not that into Taiwanese food, certainly not enough so to support *three* such places within half a mile of each other. I'd rather have a great Cantonese restaurant (which Peach Farm really isn't anymore) with a fully translated menu.

                          I haven't figured out the Chinese name of this place, but I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with dumplings. And I'm not sure how the idea that these places are related--it wouldn't make sense to open restaurants that compete with each other from basically across the street.

                          ~ Kiran <entropy@io.com>

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: KWagle
                            Seamus7 RE: KWagle Sep 9, 2010 09:13 AM

                            I went on Tue(09/08/10) for lunch, had the xlb with crabmeat, the Taiwanese pan fried dumplings and Taiwanese style pork noodles. Married to a Taiwanese woman so I am into this and it approaches the quality of what I have had in Flushing NY and in Fremont CA/Milpitas/SF for Taiwanese. A very welcomed addition.

                            Update just tried to get in at lunch, line out the door. Might be because it's new and Shiny.
                            But, it seems to have "community support".

                            1. re: KWagle
                              kobuta RE: KWagle Sep 11, 2010 08:06 PM

                              The Chinese name (on their website at least) is nan bei he in mandarin or naam buk wo in cantonese. It means south-west harmony.

                              1. re: kobuta
                                KWagle RE: kobuta Sep 12, 2010 01:51 AM

                                南北和 ? Isn't that south-north harmony? I gotta say, that font on their carryout menu is worse than most handwriting.

                                1. re: KWagle
                                  Seamus7 RE: KWagle Sep 13, 2010 02:17 PM

                                  I showed the takeout menu to a friend from the PRC who does not speak English that well, she said "the Chinese name is" North/South" as in being from the North and the South."
                                  so I guess that matches?

                                  1. re: KWagle
                                    kobuta RE: KWagle Sep 14, 2010 04:24 PM

                                    Yes, you're correct ...north, not west. Must have had airlines on my mind...

                              2. Mike5966 RE: gourmaniac Sep 11, 2010 07:03 AM

                                Had dinner here last night. Chicken meatballs were succulent and delicious, as were the duck tongue skewers. You get four skewers with each order, and they come out hot and with nice brown carmelization and tiny spots of char. Sauce is very subtle, very similar to a good yakitori. I'd never had duck tongues before and they were delicious. They definitely don't have that offal-y flavor that beef tongues, for example, have. They had a nice gelatinous, chewy, and meaty texture, and had the palate bone running through the center of each tongue. Delicious, especially when dipped in the spiced soy-vinegar sauce and/or the chunky red chili sauce that came with them.

                                Also had the twice-cooked pork which the waitress described as "very tender" but wasn't really. It came as slices of slightly chewy (in a good way) pork belly that seem to have been braised or boiled/poached on their own first, and then stir fried with cabbage squares, dried red peppers, leek, and some kind of mild green chili pepper. Looked humble on the plate but was delicious and ended up being my favorite item of the dinner.

                                Xiao long bao with pork (no crab) were indeed thin-skinned as described by other posters. While the size of the dumplings were about the same in comparison to the ones at GDH, these somehow had more meat, more broth, and more flavor. The only downside to the thinness of the skins is that they are much more delicate to handle. The waitress brought out metal tongs to pick them up with but on two different tries the teeth of the tongs punctured the fragile dumplings, leading to the dreaded premature-spillage-of-broth-into-the-cheesecloth-on-the-bottom-of-the-bamboo-steamer scenario. This type of spillage is irrecoverable. I used my fingers to pick up the remaining dumplings for fear that I might spill more of the precious broth.

                                Last dish was some stir-fried snow pea pod stems which were a little underseasoned and a little overcooked, but no biggie. Overall, for about $35 before tax and tip, a super-satisfying meal.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Mike5966
                                  yumyum RE: Mike5966 Sep 12, 2010 08:47 AM

                                  I'm glad I'm not the only one experiencing premature soup spillage with those XLB! I tried to use the tongs as well and broke the first dumpling ... then was more careful with the next. I thought they were very good, and yes, soupier than most I've had elsewhere in town.

                                  Also tried the crab and silk noodle hot pot -- that was a knockout dish for me. Almost impossible to get the little nuggets of meat out of the crab shells (at least in polite company) but the flavor had permeated the noodles and broth so much that it hardly mattered. The texture and flavor of those silky noodles was delightful.

                                  The salt and pepper fried pork chop was just okay. Much better, and more even fry jobs at Tawian Cafe and Mulan, for example. Still, Dumpling Cafe is worth more exploration -- the array of dishes on the other tables looked promising.

                                  1. re: yumyum
                                    gourmaniac RE: yumyum Sep 13, 2010 01:22 PM

                                    I went with a group today so I could try more things. We had the crab and silk noodle hot pot today and concur with yumyum and others. Very tasty noodles and I wasn't worried about polite company re getting to the crab meat (think Darryl Hannah eating lobster in Splash). Also had the xlb (this time with crab meat) and the soup had an orangeish tinge but otherwise couldn't tell much difference that the xlb with pork. Also scallion pancake was good and a generous portion and the shrimp with edaname was tasty.

                                    1. re: gourmaniac
                                      Mike5966 RE: gourmaniac Sep 13, 2010 01:45 PM

                                      I've gotta head back and try this crab and silk noodle hot pot. I am also intrigued by the other items marked as "Taiwan Style" such as the Taiwan Style Grilled Chicken Leg, Taiwan Style Noodle Soup w/Pork and Vegetables, and the Taiwan Style Braised Eggplant. So many things to try... possibly headed back there tonight.

                                  2. re: Mike5966
                                    Seamus7 RE: Mike5966 Sep 13, 2010 02:21 PM

                                    I use the back of the tongs to loosen them, then slide the soup spoon under them.
                                    Take a small bite while holding spoon with one hand and holding dumpling with chopsticks in the other hand, then pour ginger sauce in through the whole. Try to place entire xlb in mouth for flavor explosion.
                                    xlb technique developed after many ruined ties.

                                    1. re: Mike5966
                                      KWagle RE: Mike5966 Sep 15, 2010 12:27 AM

                                      As part of my attempt to get caught up on my backlog of Chinese eating, I stopped by for the twice-cooked preserved pork. Once again, the overall dish was quite nice, but the pork itself was a bit too gristle-y or skin-y for my taste. Interestingly, the dish had squares of smoked tofu in it, which is something I rarely encounter.

                                    2. ScubaSteve RE: gourmaniac Sep 27, 2010 05:15 PM

                                      went here yesterday around 3pm.

                                      the space is nice, new and clean. i understood what some people were saying about the slant to the floor but we were seated in the back half so it wasn't even noticeable.

                                      we started with the grilled duck tongues, chicken skin and chicken meatballs. the chicken skin while having a good flavor was pretty flabby with no discernible char, ask for this one to be Well Done. the duck tongues were OK but rather small. Taiwan Cafe's duck tongues are much larger and plumper making for a greater meat to cartilage/bone ratio. the meatballs were decent but would of benefited from some type of dipping sauce.

                                      for dumplings we got the juicy pork with crab, the beef with chive and the pork. all were very good but the juicy dumplings (aka XLB) arrived with most already being punctured which is one reason why i like my XLB with a thicker skin than most, i think Taiwan Cafe's are Spot-On.

                                      we also got the beef with long horn peppers and while packing a bit more heat than Taiwan Cafe's didn't have the level of flavor. an order of watercress with garlic was just OK. the greens went dull green rather quickly and the whole dish could of used a shot of vinegar or at least some salt.

                                      the rice was serviceable.

                                      we'll definitely be back to explore the menu a bit as it's pretty large.

                                      1. 9
                                        9lives RE: gourmaniac Sep 28, 2010 04:59 AM

                                        A few of us hit this place last week. We had the soup dumplings, crab and silk noodles hot pot and a flounder dish. All were delicious. We tried to order the preserved pork mid- meal but apparently the waitress didn't hear us.

                                        I had the Taiwanese hot sour soup to go for lunch yesterday and it was also a winner. As an aside, I tried to pick up a few taro rolls at Hing Shing; but they were closed til 9/30. So was Ho Yuen Bakery?...same sign..I never knew they were connected. Picked up an even better version at Great Taste.

                                        I really like the Dumpling Cafe and need several more trips to work through the menu, lots of interesting things.

                                        Great Taste
                                        201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: 9lives
                                          gourmaniac RE: 9lives Sep 28, 2010 07:28 AM

                                          Glad you liked it 9lives and ScubaSteve. I still need to try the Yakitori stuff at dumpling cafe. I prefer the XLB at Dumpling Cafe vs Taiwan Cafe because of the thinness of the skins but leakage is a potential hazard. Great Taste has my favorite version of taro rolls (woo gok) and I find Hing Shing's version to be heavy and greasy (though tasty). Other things I like on the bakery side of Great Taste are the big steamed bun (dai bao) and the sticky rice (lo mai faun).

                                          Great Taste
                                          201 Main St, Milford, MA 01757

                                          1. re: gourmaniac
                                            Mike5966 RE: gourmaniac Sep 28, 2010 12:00 PM

                                            I liked the chicken meatballs and the duck tongues, but the "Grilled Chicken Teriyaki" which I was hoping would be similar to the preparation of the other two was definitely not. It ws dry and leathery, and also too salty. It comes out on a skewer but it is a totally different beast. On the other hand, "Taiwan Style Grilled Chicken Leg," which does not come on a skewer was an outstanding (and large) single piece of deep fried boneless dark meat chicken. Very crispy, perfect seasoning, tender and moist, delicious with the hot chili sauce.

                                            1. re: Mike5966
                                              ScubaSteve RE: Mike5966 Sep 28, 2010 03:54 PM

                                              On our visit they brought us the "Grilled Chicken Teriyaki" by mistake and since we didn't order it we sent it back. Glad we did now.

                                        2. kobuta RE: gourmaniac Sep 28, 2010 06:38 PM

                                          My family hit this place on Sunday for dinner too and really enjoyed the meal. Had 3 orders of the XLB - 2 regular and 1 crab, one at the end of the meal when my 5 yr old niece insisted on more dumplings. I thought the filling was bit too meaty - would've preferred less filling, but I thought the soup and overall flavor were excellent. I also prefer the thin skins; it should take a deft hand to get the dumpling without spillage, and to be rewarded with a mouth scorched with the piping hot soup. I have the peeling roof of my mouth as proof of my dumpling clawing skills.

                                          We also started with scallion pancake and oyster pancake with gravy. The oyster pancake was only ok - the sauce was too sweet for my liking, and while the egg texture was good, I thought the oysters brought too much of an oceany taste. I wanted better balance.
                                          The scallion pancake was one of the best, if not THE best, rendition I've had in a long time. My pet peeve with scallion pancake is the over fried or deep fried preparation most places have. This scallion pancake was actually just lightly pan fried, and resembles an actual rich, tasty layered "pancake". If I had to nitpick, I would only ask for more scallion flavor.

                                          We then had the beef with long peppers, their 3 cup chicken (listed as 3 essence chix), the fish head clay pot, stir fried pea pod stems and their Taiwan style braised eggplant. Love the flavors and the kick to the beef with long peppers, though my parents found it a tad too spicy. It was just right for my taste, and the kick was a good complement to the rice. The egg plant and pea pod stems were well done and good, though perhaps nothing to write home about at the end of the meal. Everyone loved the taste of the 3 cup chicken, but we also found it a bit too boney (and we all grew up eating bone-in chicken). My last 3-cup anything was in Taiwan so perhaps an unfair comparison, but I really wanted a touch more basil and actual sauce to the dish, similar to the one I had in Taiwan.

                                          My biggest disappoint though was the fish head claypot, if only because my expectations were so high. The taste was decent, but it had no where near the depth of flavor the dish has at Taiwan Cafe. A good soup simmered for a long time packs a rich flavor -- this broth was weaker and seemed like a bit of a rush job. It also didn't have bean thread/vermicelli in it, which should be standard in claypots IMO. I was glad to see it still come in the mega-monster sized pot that feeds at least 5-6 ppl, but the dish is definitely better at Taiwan Cafe.

                                          All in all, still a great meal and no one felt like anything was to be avoided. Looking forward to going back and trying more things.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: kobuta
                                            beetlebug RE: kobuta Sep 28, 2010 06:45 PM

                                            I had a light dinner with a friend here tonight. We also had the XLB, regular, since I'm really allergic to crab (sob). And, I wasn't impressed. The skins were beautiful but the meat was too heavy and too meaty. Proportionally, there was something just off about it.

                                            We also ordered the scallion pancake and it was just ok. Clearly homemade, but underfried. Really underfried. It was very pale and no crispness. Because of time constraints, we didn't send it back. But, the sauce was delicious. One of the best dipping sauces I've had.

                                            The huge winner was the noodle soup. Snow cabbage and pork noodle soup with the shanghai noodles. The noodles were a work of beauty. Homemade and uneven in it's width. Perfectly toothsome and it soaked in the flavors of the delicious broth. The broth was meaty flavor without that fatty taste. It tasted like pork bones that had been simmered for a long period of time but then defatted. The perfect combo of flavor and richness. I would go back to try the different noodle soups and fried noodles with the shanghai noodles as the base (you get a choice).

                                            1. re: beetlebug
                                              yumyum RE: beetlebug Sep 29, 2010 08:59 AM

                                              The XLB with crab are indeed lighter in texture than the pure-pork ones. Those last night were very dense and just not quite right. I still think I prefer Taiwan Cafe's version, even with the thicker skins. The scallion pancake was very tasty but as Beetlebug said, very very lightly fried. I agree with Kobuta that the standard deep fried number at most places can be too greasy, but this was just too light. There must be a middle ground. That said, the fry job on their s&p pork chops wasn't great either, so maybe frying isn't their thing.

                                              The noodles, though. The noodles! We actually ordered D4, which is "Noodles with pork and special mustard greens" and the unevenly cut shanghai noodles were our first tip-off that these would be good. Very good. The broth was lovely, the noodles were the perfect texture, and the bowl as big as your head was $6.

                                              I hope more hounds will explore the menu. I think there is a lot of possibility here for greatness.

                                              1. re: yumyum
                                                tarohead RE: yumyum Sep 30, 2010 09:19 AM

                                                I went yesterday. I thought the scallion pancakes didnt have enough scallion/scallion flavor

                                                KLB were good, especially for Boston but not as good as Joe's Shanghai in NYC. The skin punctured which was partly our fault. Also, the broth is not as good as Joe's. I will have to try the Crab ones though because I prefer them over the pork anyway. Not bad though!

                                                We had fried rice cakes which were good.
                                                Overall- 3/5 stars, 4/5 for Boston chinese food!

                                                1. re: tarohead
                                                  Kinopio RE: tarohead Sep 30, 2010 01:23 PM

                                                  Went yesterday as well. Had the steamed veggie dumplings, braised tofu w/ scallions and veggies, seafood noodles soup. DC also had the pork XLB(pescatarian here).

                                                  The tofu dish was solid. Nothing extraordinary but give me that with some rice and I could eat that meal twice a week.

                                                  The seafood soup was huge with a good amount of seafood(shrimp, clams, fish, squid) but the broth was kinda plain to me. Its certainly not bad but I like some spice to my broth like the hot and sour wonton soup at Sichuan Gourmet. I put jalapeno or habanero into pretty much every soup I cook at home, including stuff like Minestrone.

                                                  Veggie dumplings were plain tasting as well. I liked the thinness of it and it still held together well but taste wise I prefer the veggie dumplings at Mulan or the ones I make at home.

                                                  DC loved the XLB. None of them ripped between the trip from steamer to mouth.

                                                  Good service, nice space. Would go again.

                                                  Sichuan Gourmet
                                                  1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                                  1. re: tarohead
                                                    KWagle RE: tarohead Sep 30, 2010 02:30 PM

                                                    Boston Chinese food now includes several REALLY good Sichuan options, good enough that we might once again have better Sichuan than NYC does (they keep opening new places down there, though, and some of them, like "Wa Jeal" are very good.)

                                                2. re: beetlebug
                                                  kobuta RE: beetlebug Sep 30, 2010 07:59 PM

                                                  This definitely is where expectations differ on scallion pancake. I had never ever had crispy scallion pancake until I had them at restaurants in Boston. All previous versions were homemade, or elsewhere, and they are always this light. I think crispy scallion pancakes are just wrong - sorry!

                                              2. meuri RE: gourmaniac Oct 1, 2010 05:31 PM

                                                Was at Dumpling Cafe tonight - agree with the assessments on the pork xiao long bao (very densely porky, great soup and delicate skins) and oyster pancake (the right amount of crispy and soft, with a not-too-sweet sauce but not enough oysters!). Also ordered chao nian gao (stir fried rice cake), which was great. The rice cakes were a little soft but other than that everything was flavored exactly how my grandma used to make it. My DC got a bowl of beef noodles, but things kinda fell down there. The noodles were great, the best I've had in Boston beef noodles, I wouldn't be surprised if they were hand-made, but the broth was dilute, bland and boring. No spice, no anise, just eh (Shangri-La in Belmont is still my favorite, since I like star anise). The beef was tough and not very balanced (pieces were either all tendon or all meat, and none of them tender). Not a bad addition to Chinatown, though.

                                                1. y
                                                  y2000k RE: gourmaniac Oct 22, 2010 04:06 PM

                                                  I finally got to try this place today for lunch. Problem is, it was just me and there were so many items I wanted to try!

                                                  In the end, I got the pork XLB, and appetizer A17 called "Steamed Taiwan style meatball with gravy". I'm not too familiar with taiwanese snacks, so I don't know if it came out authentic or not. The meatball is one gooey mess (in a good way). It's actually a big glob of gelatinous stuff, with diced pork and diced shiitake mushrooms in the inside.

                                                  As for the pork XLB, I like the thin skins. I didn't even bother with the tongs - it's much safer to pick them up with chopsticks and soup spoon. Flavor was good but a bit too salty for me. And I agree w/others about the pork filling being too dense.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: y2000k
                                                    9lives RE: y2000k Oct 22, 2010 04:42 PM

                                                    We were there there today about 1PM...pork/crab xlb, Taiwanese fried dumplings...kidney in seasame, bitter melon, and double cooked pork. We enjoyed it all; though I've never been a fan of bitter melon,Kidney..outstanding! I think their thin skinned xlb is best in CTown.

                                                    That meatball sounds good..next time.

                                                    We hit Q Pot after; another report that I'l do.

                                                    1. re: y2000k
                                                      y2000k RE: y2000k Oct 27, 2010 08:11 AM

                                                      Gave Dumpling Cafe a second visit in under a week, this time for solo dinner. I had a bowl of noodle soup this time (D4: noodle soup with mustard greens and beef). Since there was a choice of noodles, I picked the white Shanghai noodles.

                                                      I'm afraid to say that it was rather disappointing. It was bland-tasting, even the preserved mustard greens don't have its usual pungency. The broth was bland, and the white Shanghai noodles were too soft, not chewy at all.

                                                      Did all of you get the Taiwanese (yellow) noodles? Perhaps that's better?

                                                      I don't think I'll be going back for solo dining; but I wouldn't mind returning if I'm with a bigger crowd so that we can try some other dishes on the menu.

                                                      1. re: y2000k
                                                        barleywino RE: y2000k Oct 27, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                        i tried the noodle soup with pork chop, it was extremely bland, and the taiwan noodles (which worked well on another occasion as a foil for the sauce in their jia jiang mein) did not help the soup.

                                                        1. re: y2000k
                                                          gourmaniac RE: y2000k Oct 27, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                          I also agree on the noodles (and rice plates) that they are disappointing. I went with a group and enjoyed ordering snacks. xlb (great as always), seafood dumplings, jellyfish (not enough sesame oil), taiwanese grilled chicken leg (excellent but fried not grilled), peapod stems in garlic sauce (fine), and scallion pancake (good).

                                                          1. re: y2000k
                                                            Mike5966 RE: y2000k Oct 27, 2010 08:55 AM

                                                            I once ordered the same bowl of noodles (D4: Noodle Soup with Mustard Greens and Beef) based on the waitress' recommendation. I agree the broth was a little bland, but we got it with the Taiwanese noodles which were chewy and just right. Overall, I still enjoyed the dish, and for barely $6 it hit the spot for me on a cold afternoon, late in the day after having skipped lunch.

                                                            I think having a good noodle soup on the menu is of critical importance when I am deciding whether I can go to a place in Chinatown solo or not. I'd have a hard time ordering XLB without wanting to order two other things off the menu I can't finish to round it out.

                                                            1. re: y2000k
                                                              beetlebug RE: y2000k Oct 27, 2010 09:29 AM

                                                              That's too bad about the noodle soup. I haven't been back since my earlier visit (post above) but that bowl of noodle soup was the highlight. Pork and mustard greens with the shanghai noodles. The broth was so good that night. Very rich and full of flavor. I wonder why the discrepancies. Maybe luck of the draw as to when they make the broths?

                                                              1. re: beetlebug
                                                                beetlebug RE: beetlebug Oct 27, 2010 09:32 AM

                                                                Now that I'm thinking about it, I had a different noodle soup. It wasn't mustard greens, it was snow cabbage with the shredded pork. Xue cai rou si mien. Shouldn't make a difference on the broths though.

                                                              2. re: y2000k
                                                                jgg13 RE: y2000k Oct 27, 2010 09:30 AM

                                                                I had nearly the same soup yesterday - the one w/ pork & mustard greens, and agree with everything you said (although I had the taiwan noodles). It wasn't bad, but wish it had more flavor. Also, it was nuclear hot and my mouth is still burned from it :)

                                                            2. MichaelB RE: gourmaniac Nov 11, 2010 07:20 AM

                                                              I've been having a strong dumpling craving lately and finally managed to get here this week with a friend. We had: soup dumplings with pork, grilled chicken skin, shrimp pancake with gravy, mustard greens with tofu and edamame.

                                                              The soup dumplings were very good but not quite as filled with broth as others seem to have experienced. Relatively thin skins, very tasty broth and meat. I didn't notice the meat being too firm as others have noted, but maybe that's just how I like them; my XLB experiences are limited. These weren't quite as good as the ones I had several months ago at Jo Jo Tai Pei, but still excellent.
                                                              The grilled chicken skin was great - mindful of the advice above, I asked for extra-crispy, and the texture was excellent - not really crispy except for the very edges, but perfectly chewy-tender, without that gross bouncy mouthfeel of undercooked chicken skin. I now want to have every grilled thing that they do.
                                                              The shrimp pancake was kind of a loser for me, but my friend LOVED it. I liked the crispy edges and some of the scrambled-eggy center, but otherwise it was too greasy and had way too much gooey rice-flour pancake-batter texture in the middle for me. My ideal would be both more crispy and cooked through, and less greasy (maybe just better drained after cooking), but the Taiwanese ideal for this dish and mine may not coincide.
                                                              We ordered the mustard greens and tofu to have some green complement to all the meat and fried food - the edamame aren't mentioned on the menu but I should have realized that it's basically the same dish as at Taiwan Cafe; not exactly what I was hoping for. That said, it was a good version, but somehow just less delicious than the one at TC - less savory sauce, not enough mustard greens, not quite as nice a texture on the tofu skins.

                                                              In any case, I'll definitely be back for that grilled menu and more soup dumplings, and to try some of the other dishes people have recommended.

                                                              1. Ferrari328 RE: gourmaniac Feb 22, 2013 11:12 AM

                                                                Decided to try this place for lunch today and optimistly went looking for on street parking but had finally to give up and pay for parking. I had the Twice Cooked Preserved Pork and this is how it should be done, twice cooked pork belly, not sure what the preservation adds but it had a nice firm texture. Cabbage and leeks added a nice crunch and the Halapenos added a nice bit of heat. The smoked tofu was also nice and I even did eat the tofu. The sauce wasn't your normal brown glop but a tangy, glossy bean paste and chile sauce.


                                                                1. MC Slim JB RE: gourmaniac Feb 22, 2013 11:45 AM

                                                                  Travel & Leisure called Gourmet Dumpling House one of America's best Chinese restaurants today. I still prefer Dumpling Cafe, and the lines at GDH aren't getting any shorter now. Hit DC for lunch, decided to revisit the Szechuan-style flounder question again. It definitely doesn't pack the heat of the GDH version, but it does indeed have a decent hit of Sichuan peppercorns (sorta visible in pic).

                                                                  Those "best X in the US" lists are always stupid, with a lot of obviously second-hand research. One of the 26 places listed was Lexington's Taipei Gourmet, which wasn't even on my radar.


                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                    croutonweb RE: MC Slim JB Feb 22, 2013 12:54 PM

                                                                    I have the same opinion on DC vs GDH on the Szechuan style fish. I tried Fuloon's version (see pic) this week and I've never had so many Szechuan peppercorns in a dish, but it was neither overbearing nor numbing. Definitely a contender with the Chinatown spots.

                                                                    1. re: croutonweb
                                                                      joth68 RE: croutonweb Feb 22, 2013 02:24 PM

                                                                      How are the peking rav's at fuloon? They look pretty good based on your picture.

                                                                      1. re: joth68
                                                                        Jenny Ondioline RE: joth68 Feb 22, 2013 08:15 PM

                                                                        Tender and juicy, as I recall.

                                                                        1. re: joth68
                                                                          croutonweb RE: joth68 Feb 25, 2013 09:45 AM

                                                                          I tried one. It was pretty good. Thick skin with a good filling. The dipping sauce that they came with was a bit too intensely soy. I think that normally the ginger soy sauce that comes with them at other places is somewhat diluted. This tasted like straight up full-salt soy sauce with some ginger.

                                                                          1. re: joth68
                                                                            keith RE: joth68 Feb 25, 2013 10:49 AM

                                                                            I like the Peking Ravioli at Fuloon, but they do add a touch of spices to the filling (not sure if it's five spices or just star anise) which makes them a bit non-traditional. Love the skin and the crunch though...

                                                                        2. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                          Jolyon Helterman RE: MC Slim JB Feb 23, 2013 08:05 AM

                                                                          I absolutely love the velvety texture of that flounder dish, but I always think it needs a little more heat and, weirdly, salt. Even still, it's near the top of the non-rotating portion of my list of must-haves at DC.

                                                                          I need to try Taipei Gourmet. Brother-in-law lives out there and it would be nice to have a solid...anything nearby.

                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                                            passing thru RE: MC Slim JB Feb 25, 2013 11:18 AM

                                                                            Dumpling Cafe is very much underrated, imo.

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