A Toronto restaurant review
I have to admit that as much as the photos of rats running free on top of sacks of flour scared the living daylights out of me, I remain a loyal fan of the Dumpling House. But like any sensible foodie would, I shied away from the place for a while after the big bust. I went to Mother’s Dumplings. I checked out Ding Tai Fung. I went to other dumpling joints around down, from hidden corners in Chinatown to locations in Scarborough- restaurants which often included the words “dumpling” or “house” in their name. None of them really offered any solace. And I wanted was just pot stickers. I didn’t even care much if it was a bargain. Sadly, no dice.
So I contemplated the idea of going back to the Dumpling House again and was OVERJOYED to see the restaurant all decked out with new tables, flooring and even new tiles for the walls (some of you might recall that the old place was so filthy that paper napkins would STICK on the walls). The ever philosophical flashing of the sign outside “Got dumpling?” also added a distinctive flair to the place. And with the loveable spelling mistakes all over the menu, I was so glad to see that the Dumpling House is BACK.
So the three of us stepped in for an early dinner at 5pm, and we ordered steamed dumplings, pot stickers, and zha jiang noodles (szechuan-style meat sauce and veggies on “hand-pulled” noodles). The $5.99 noodles arrived first. As usual, lots of meat and gravy, tempered with salt, pepper, soy sauce and a teeniest hint of chili. A pile of thinly sliced carrot and cucumber added to the whole mix. My only wish was that the Dumpling House would spice up their zha-jiang noodles next time. Or get a new chili sauce supplier. An extra pinch of chili powder will put some much-needed tang in that dish.
The pot stickers were the next to arrive. As usual, the pot stickers arrived upside down on the plate. What makes the Dumpling House stands out among the rest is that they actually GRILL these things. 12 pot stickers would be put into a covered iron pan, and a layer of flour mix is poured over the dumplings. The iron pan is then put directly on top of the stove (well, on the fire, really), and flipped around a few times. The result? Crispy golden, hot, oozing with flavour- our plate of 12 pork and chives pot stickers were done with perfection. Just like how it’s done everytime.
What made that plate even more fingerlicking good was that the chefs went easy on the salt. I’ve always believed the Dumpling House’s biggest vice (other than the rodent presence) was their love affair with salt. The pot stickers these times were seasoned just right.
Still, I had to gulp down a few more cups of tea, and surely enough it was lukewarm. Again, a common vice in most Chinatown restaurants- flavourful food, lower-than-average quality tea. When will they ever step up their game with the most common beverage on a Chinese table?
All the complaint about the tea and chili sauce aside, the last dish that made it to our table tonight was the plate of 15 steamed dumplings. We ordered the combination plate- for $6.99, patrons can choose 3 different types of dumplings for a grand total of 15 pieces. We decided on pork and fennel, pork and bok choy and the seafood combination.
Look at these beauties!
The pork and fennel set came way out on top. Amazingly fresh in taste, the pork was tender, the amount of fennel was just right so that it didn’t mask the taste of the pork. The seafood ones had that weird aftertaste of an overnight storage, but hey, I found a shrimp in every dumpling, so they get kudos for that one, too. The pork and boy choy performed just as one would expect- they taste oh. so. homey. They were a nostalgic reminder of my friends’ annual massive 8-hour dumpling feasts.
All in all, I am so glad to see the Dumpling House back as a “landmark” in Chinatown. Service was still very mediocre- asking for an extra set of utensils took 3 trials, but hey, for those golden pot stickers and the quintessential guessing game of figuring out who’s actually got ‘em dumplings, Dumpling House still gets an A on my charts.