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Jan 25, 2014 10:26 AM
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Santa Fe Talin Market's Crazily Awesome Monday-only "Pop-up Dumpling Bar"

This is one of those chow finds that's so good, but in such a small space, that a major part of me wants to keep it a secret rather than risking spoiling it with crowds. But hey, that's hardly in the spirit of this site, so against my better judgment, here goes...

On Mondays only, from 11 - 6, Talin in Santa Fe has started a so-called "pop-up dumpling bar" at its little restaurant. It is just plain ridiculously good, easily the best chow experience I've had in NM in half a year, maybe much longer. The four types of boiled dumplings they offer aren't just homemade -- they're made fresh on premises all day by one of the women behind the counter.

8 bucks gets you your choice of hot and sour soup or egg drop soup (neither of which is my thing but both of which are nice renditions) a plate of 8 dumplings (your choice of four varieties: "traditional", shrimp, vegetarian, or salmon), and either a traditional, a spicy, or a Sichuan-style dipping sauce, the latter of which is chock full of chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns. DC and I tried both the traditional and the shrimp dumplings, with both sauces, everything was note-perfect, just a fantastic combination of remarkably authentic flavors.

A la carte for a few bucks you can also get a dish of raw cucumbers in Sichuan sauce (also ridiculous, maybe the best thing on the whole pop-up menu) or a sliced duck sandwich on steamed Chinese flatbread (slightly less good than the rest of the menu, but I'll get it again).

As far as I could tell, all the ramen options are still available as well, although if I'm there on a Monday there's absolutely no way I'd get anything other than the dumplings. Between the bar and a handful of tables, there's room for about a dozen diners at a time, so it can be tricky to get a seat. As such, go check it out, but don't tell too many of your friends...

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  1. Cool. Thanks for the tip. I'll tell a few discreet friends . . . . .

      1. re: DebitNM

        If only, DebitNM. After reading finlero's post, I called and asked. Not only don't they do that here, their kitchen is closed for extensive remodeling and they don't know when they'll have any cooked-in-house stuff at the Abq location again.

        1. re: ninrn

          I was at the ABQ location the other day and saw a sign that they now have the dumpling bar, too. I was in a hurry, so I didn't catch what day of the week it is.

      2. Any update on Monday Dumpling Bar....still good as ever a year later?

        1 Reply
        1. ABQ I believe is Thursday and Friday but I'll double check today. The lady who runs it is an immigrant from Sichuan province so your best bets are to get the pork or lamb dumplings with the spicy sauce.

          9 Replies
          1. re: thewongmann

            Confirmed. ABQ is Thursday and Friday from 10AM-6PM

            1. re: thewongmann

              Thanks, thewongmann. Is the one in Abq great, too?

              1. re: ninrn

                To be honest, I don't know, but I suspect it's the same. The first and only time I went there (as I'm rarely at Talin on Thur or Fri) I mistakenly got the beef noodle soup since their menu didn't quite make it clear where in China she was from (I probably could have just asked...). My guess that maybe the family was from Taiwan proved incorrect so next time I'll try the dumplings, as I should have in the first place, now that I know they are from Sichuan.

                Given that I do extensive work during the session in Santa Fe I'll also give it a try when I'm in Santa Fe.

                1. re: ninrn

                  It *is* great, maybe my favorite restaurant in Albuquerque right now. We went for the second time last week and were thrilled both times. As others have said, the family is Sichuanese and gives me my fix (which I have only otherwise found here on the "secret" Sichuan menu at Pacific Paradise). The young man who works there actually said the beef noodle soup is his favorite dish, but I have yet to try it. But the mala cucumbers and the dumplings are great, and I enjoyed the buns too. Next time, the soup and dan dan noodles.

                  Also, finlero, you probably don't remember me but I remember you--I lived in Boston for a long time and was active on the great Chowhound board there. I moved to NM fairly recently. It is nice to cross paths with you again!

                  1. re: hckybg

                    Hey, yes, howdy and welcome! Nice to run into you again in a nicer setting. I guess I miss high-end dining that's actually arguably worth the price, but if nothing else I've become a much better home cook. And honestly the chow scene is surprisingly good here.

                    You been to Budai yet for their XLB and secret menu? Also excellent.

                    1. re: finlero

                      Just once, and didn't order the XLB. How are they? Gourmet Dumpling House/Dumpling Cafe level, or at least a good enough alternative?

                      Yes, this area is definitely Boston's equal in regional cuisine, though in an entirely different flavor. Not even close at the high end, however, but I never could afford that in Boston anyways. But we have done pretty well at the middle end: recent great meals at Jennifer James 101 in Albuquerque and Jambo Cafe in Santa Fe. Nothing will replace Strip T's or Bondir or East by Northeast in my heart, but I do appreciate the unique things you can find here.

                      P.S. I remembered your upside-down avatar immediately when I saw it! That stuck in my mind, apparently.

                      1. re: hckybg

                        Oh man, it's been so long that my mind's palate doesn't really remember the Boston XLB that well. Let me put it this way: I absolutely love the dumplings at Talin, but I think the XLB from Budai are a major step better still. The other Budai dish I get every time is the three cup chicken off the secret menu. Also, any green veggie special is going to be excellent (pea tendrils, hollow heart, amaranth, etc.).

                        1. re: finlero

                          Sweet! I must get there soon. I had a great dish with smoked tofu last time; the name didn't really describe the dish but it was excellent.

                          1. re: hckybg

                            I've never had Boston XLB but the Budai ones are pretty legit. They are no Din Tai Fung dumplings but they'd hold their own in 2nd/3rd tier Chinese food cities like San Diego, Atlanta, DC, etc.

                            There is a second restaurant in ABQ that does Taiwanese (with Shanghainese influence) too named China Luck but China Luck doesn't have the quality of Budai.

                            As for best dumpling in the city? I'd hesitate because I try not to compare different styles of dumplings against each other as even among Chinese dumplings like XLB, wontons, shui jiao, there's a major different in taste, texture, regional style, etc.