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Oct 16, 2010 02:31 PM

Taiwan Cafe vs Gourmet Dumpling House

I apologize if this has been discussed elsewhere already, but I didn't find any recent discussions about this.

I went w/ a friend to try Gourmet Dumpling House the other night, only to find that it was very crowded, with a queue of people waiting for a table. We were pretty hungry, so we went over to Taiwan Cafe, which was only 2/3 full. At Taiwan Cafe we had a pretty good meal - I was happy with everything we ordered: mustard greens w/ fresh bean curd and edamame, beef w/ longhorn peppers, crispy tofu appetizer, and scallion pancakes. Service at Taiwan Cafe isn't fantastic, but it was fine, and it seems to be just about as good as it ever was.

So, I guess I'm wondering whether Gourmet Dumpling House is really that much better to merit a long line? I notice their menus are is GDH worth the wait?

Dave MP

Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

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  1. Hi Dave: I actually like Taiwan cafe better than GDH but it seems to have a bigger following perhaps because it is newer. For my favorite dishes (some that you list and eggplant and basil, GDH is always a step below for my taste. I recall that you tried Dumpling Cafe recently and I think that so far, their dumplings are my favorite but I think they are much weaker on the rice and noodle dishes.

    1. I gather that they are owned by the same folks, and the menu is basically identical. I also favor Taiwan Cafe after braving the crowds at GDH once.

      6 Replies
      1. re: yumyum

        I had lunch at TC today and even my friend who introduced me to GDH thought it was superior. The beef with longhorn peppers was wicked spicy and the mustard greens / edamame / tofu was a perfect foil. Plus, they give you that complimentary chicken bone soup which looks disgusting but is actually quite soothing as a broth.

        1. re: yumyum

          GDH has posted a sign that claims they have no other branch. It seems to me that all three Taiwanese restaurants have basically the same menu. It wouldn't surprise me if they had the same investors, but I'd be surprised if they were operated by the same people, if for no other reason than the fact that running a restaurant is hard, and you'd be better off running one that's packed than two that are empty. I believe I've met the owner of TC, who used to play cards there every night, as well as the purported (by the article and photos on the wall) owner of GDH.

          I haven't been to TC regularly since they started keeping earlier hours, and since it became clear that none of my DCs liked the second of my two favorite dishes (the bacon with leeks, and the shredded eel.) I've had very good luck at GDH, and they're one of the few places that produce passable Sichuan dishes after 10PM or so. In particular, their double cooked pork is a standout--at one time when there was less competition, it was the best we ever had--and their fuqi fei pian is certainly passable, as are their water-cooked dishes.

          1. re: KWagle

            I like the shredded beef with hot peppers, the ma po tofu, and the pork with bamboo shoots (which I ordered based on MC Slim JB's suggestion) very much at GDH--I haven't yet had a chance to try Taiwan Cafe but have never been disappointed at GDH. The three meals I've had there have all been consistently great, actually. I've also never had the XLB problems that some others have mentioned.

            1. re: KWagle

              How can anyone not like bacon with leeks??????


              I've actually never had that, but it is now on my list to try next time. My old stand-bys at Taiwan Cafe are the beef with longhorn (I think) peppers, and the braised eggplant.

              I have also enjoyed the XLB at GDH greatly.

              1. re: Alcachofa

                You are correct that the dish at Taiwan Cafe is called beef with longhorn pepper.

                I was just looking at their menu, and I remember how back in 2001-2002, everyone always talked on Chowhound about the beef with chinese watercress in sa-cha sauce. I used to order it, but I kinda grew out of it I think, since I can't remember eating it any time recently. Any recent thoughts on this dish?

                1. re: Dave MP

                  When I'm solo dining or with one other person, I always have a hard time choosing between the two. The beef and watercress with sa-cha sauce usually wins though for two reasons, 1) I love sa-cha sauce (a little mixed in with the dipping sauce with hot pot is great) and 2) it's a little more vegetably then long horn peppers and I love my veggies.

                  Both are delicious so it's really a win-win any way you go.

          2. I was quite unimpressed with my two visits to Gourmet Dumpling House, while I find Taiwan Cafe to be (by far) the best restaurant in Chinatown. My only complaint about Taiwan Cafe is that some dishes (notably anything involving dough) are inconsistent. They are never horrible, but only about half the time rise to their greatest heights.

            Gourmet Dumpling House
            52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

            3 Replies
            1. re: lipoff

              Hmmm, for Taiwanese I prefer Shangri-La, or Mulan. Have not been to Jo Jo Taipei since the switch.

              Have you hit Best Little Restaurant?

              149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

              JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
              103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

              1. re: StriperGuy

                What do you mean by the "switch" at Jo Jo Taipei?

                JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                1. re: Dave MP

                  Since the chef left to start Formosa Taipei. Which is excellent, BTW.

                  Formosa Taipei
                  315 Marrett Rd, Lexington, MA 02421

            2. I do not know what it is about GDH that attracts the crowds. I like the food at both but vastly prefer the experience at Taiwan Cafe because it's bigger (or just seems bigger?), less crowded, and more pleasant.

              I don't know if there was a write up in some publication about GDH but lately every time I walk by it is packed to the gills with a line outside, while other restaurants in Chinatown (some of which have superior food) sit there half empty. It's actually become a pet peeve of mine.

              1 Reply
              1. re: STL BOS

                Maybe it's the Chinatown version of the Giacomo effect...

                Though I do like GDH, as it was my first real exploration into XLB and other Taiwanese dishes here in Boston, and therefore I carry a soft spot for it even as I discover better versions of dishes I first tried at GDH elsewhere.

              2. GDH excels at dumplings, especially the juicy ones. So if you're craving dumplings, the wait at GDH is worth it. The other dishes are good, but I think Taiwan Cafe's entrées are superior. I have tried the sauteed pork with bamboo shoots at both GDH and TC, and the TC version is simply more savory and appetizing. Overall, the availability of tables and quick service at TC almost always wins me over.

                2 Replies
                1. re: dlin2007

                  Really? Each to his own taste, but have you tried dumplings at Wang's or Qingdao? The "Gourmet Dumpling House" name in English has nothing to do with their prowess with dumplings (which is totally not mentioned in the restaurant's Chinese name). If by "juicy ones" you mean 小龍包 (xiao3 long2 bao1) those are different than dumplings. I can't speak to their xiao3 long2 bao1, but their dumplings (水餃 shui3 jiao3 or 蒸餃 zheng1 jiao3) are nothing special.

                  1. re: lipoff

                    Practically everyone I saw last time I was in GDH had a tray of soup dumplings in front of them, so I think that is the draw. They were pretty good- not Joe's Shanghai (and here's where someone will tell me that Joe's is crap and I really should eat at <X>) but scratched the itch.