The Noodler

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dumpling House Restaurant
328 Spadina Ave

This restaurant caught my eye several weeks ago because a close friend of mine is a big fan of dumplings. The first thing I noticed when I entered the restaurant was the open kitchen at the front where you can see the kitchen staff preparing the dumplings from scratch with what seems like a dozen bowls of different fillings. The next thing that I noticed when I entered the restaurant is that is that the Dumpling House Restaurant may be in need of repair but it is unmistakably clean.

This is not a restaurant that requires you to share a table so my dining companion and I were seated at a table for four. When we got there only two other tables out of perhaps the 15 or 20 were occupied, but by the time we left there were only two or three empty. We then got our menus and the waitress asked for our drink order. I found this nice considering at many restaurants you almost have to plead to even order a drink that you pay for. We just had water and she was polite and even came to refill our glasses without being asked. I found the menu wonderful, with two sections for dumplings, one for fried and one for steamed, with many dumplings I had never heard of. We decided on our order but asked the waitress for a recommendation that turned out to be delicious and out of the ordinary, which I found a real treat. Normally when I ask for a recommendation I get the standard safe answer, like shrimp or chicken dumplings.

We first ordered two types of dumplings, the fried pork and chive and, on the waitress’s recommendation, the steamed egg, chive and dried shrimp. The steamed dumplings came first and were so fresh that we had to wait a minute to eat them. The filling was a combination I never would have imagined but was remarkably light with fresh flavour of the chives and a mild yet undeniably salty flavour of the dried shrimp. The thing that actually struck me most about the dish was how tender and supple the dumpling wrapper was. The difference was remarkable compared to other dumplings I have sampled in the area. Next came the fried pork and chive dumpling. I am very rarely surprised by a dumpling but this would be the second time in one meal a dumpling had defied even my imagination. Instead of the standard pan-fried dumpling that is golden brown on one or two sides these dumplings were served attached to one another by a delicate web of what I imagine is fried dough that turns to a golden lattice between the dumplings. The dumplings are not completely sealed off but left slightly open at each end. The pork and chive dumpling had a very subtle ginger flavour which for me is starting to be one of the defining factors in a good pork dumpling.

Still hungry, we then ordered the chicken and vegetables with peanuts over rice. It was also extremely fresh and the crunchiness of the peanuts with the spicy yet slightly sweet flavour of the chicken and vegetables was wonderful. I am biased in not really liking celery in most food I have to say that I didn’t think that the celery in the dish really added anything outside of a slight crunch that was completely out done by the salty roasted peanuts.

The restaurants staff was very helpful and friendly and spoke excellent English. The décor, which is tacky and out of date, is misleading. This restaurant is a true find and an excellent culinary experience. There were many other unusual menu items that we did not sample including boar intestines and jellyfish. It’s not that I truly dislike either of these ingredients but my stomach was a little too sensitive to tackle jellyfish due to a fresh hangover. I do plan on bringing my mother back there to sample those dishes, my mother being one of the most adventuress eaters for a woman who is allergic to everything. For a unique and rewarding experience within a tarnished shell I give the Dumpling House Restaurant an A for giving me a new perspective on the dumpling, a dish that was quickly becoming a slightly dull staple.

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