Friday, May 8, 2009
I make no bones that I love a good, cheap meal! As much as I adore fine dining and an excuse to get dressed up and put on some make-up, I love a meal that is down and dirty and just delicious. So Chinatown is a section of the city I often find myself wandering towards. My faves use to include Taiwan Cafe and Hong Kong Cafe. But lately, I've noticed the quality of the dishes at both places going a bit south. It made me a little sad and I found myself in need of a new place to fill in the gap. This is how Gourmet Dumpling House came to be near and dear in my heart. Elizabeth and I passed by it a few times and often said we'd stop on and try it soon. But E's not a huge fan of Chinese food and I was a little worried about her not enjoying her meal if we tried a new Chinese joint. But the place got rave reviews from my friend W and so we had to try it out.
First of all, the menu is huge! For such a little place, it's got one of the biggest menus I've seen. And don't let the name fool you. Dumplings are not the only thing they serve. However, the dumplings are very good. I especially like the long, pan fried Taiwanese style ones. They take longer to arrive but they're worth the wait. One dumpling dish I wouldn't order again from them would be the soup dumplings. They were a little dried out and not as soupy on the inside as I'd hoped. For soup dumplings I'd stick to Taiwan Cafe.
Among the other things they seem to do well is seafood! Recently, I had the crabs with ginger and scallion and the clams with black bean and basil sauce. Both were excellent. The portion on the crab was insane while the portion on the clams was a little less insane, it was still a very generous serving.
My standard favorite of watercress with garlic is hard to mess up but sometimes it comes out of places and is kinda not good. This is not the case with this place! Everytime I've ordered it, it's fantastic. Crunchy stems and soft leaves with sweet slivers of garlic.
And if you like that old standby, scallion pancake, definitely order it here. It's really flaky and good.
Like most places in Chinatown, the space and the decor leave a lot to be desired. The space is small and the family that runs really packs it in. Take for example, the picture up above. This was my seat one night. I was by myself and got the table that was jammed next to the fish/seafood tanks (literally the table ledge was jutting over the lower tanks). I swear they were staring at me the entire time I was eating. It was a bit creepy but with so much yummy food, I soon got over it. It was also the table in the corner next to a very dirty broom/dust bin and so led me to believe that perhaps it was the staff dining table. But on other occasions I've seen them seat other couples at that table so clearly it's used by other diners as well. I will note that all of them and me aren't Chinese, hmmm....jk. The service isn't the most pleasant and they don't mind bumping into you, shoving you aside to get by but given the space and the number of people vying for a table, I actually don't fault the servers too much. Plus I've had one of the owners just seat me when I was waiting for another person in my party and as I apologized and said I'd just go ahead and order while I wait, he waved his hand and said there was no need. I appreciated that he tried to go the extra step in courtesy.
Overall, this place rocks. And as word has gotten out, it's become busy as f-ck but I'm sure it will kinda die down soon. It was like this for Taiwan Cafe as well; when it first opened, it was literally mobbed every weekend. Overall, this just affirms that the best, cheapest meals are to be found in Chinatown. And if you ever want to find me during the week, just wait for me at the Dumpling House. Chances are I'll show up before too long!