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Dumpling Café, Chinatown

I was surprised when Steve offered to go to Dumpling Café; I think real Chinese food scares him. But, we went to P.F. Chang’s during our last foray in to Chinatown and that resulted in me worshipping at the porcelain altar, so maybe he was weary of choosing the restaurant.
 
He even let me do the ordering – we shared pork and crab soup dumplings, twice-cooked pork belly, beef chow foon noodles, snow pea pod tendrils with garlic and scallion pancakes (in case Steve didn’t like any of the other food). I didn’t have to worry – he really enjoyed dinner and declared it “delicious.” I have to agree, the meal was excellent.
 
Soup dumplings or xiao long bao are a Shanghai specialty – it’s a neat thin-skinned dumpling filled with broth and meat. You have to delicately pick up the dumpling with tongs, place it on the soup spoon, bite a small hole, slurp soup and then consume the rest. The broth was aromatic with pork, ginger and sesame oil. The crab flavor was subtle but present. The chow foon featured tender beef and perfectly cooked wide rice noodles. It was not greasy at all, as chow foon can sometimes be. I was worried that the twice cooked pork belly would be too spicy, but it was the perfect of flavor and spice for the thick unctuous pork. I thought the scallion pancakes were a tad doughy, but Steve thought they were great and polished off the dish after I had one piece. Lastly, the snow pea pod tendrils were my favorite dish of the night. Garlicky greens speak to a deep nostalgic place in my belly – like the vegetables of my childhood. The snow pea pod tendrils were a simple dish of perfectly cooked and flavorful greens.
 
There is no décor, and Steve and I were seated at a shared table for 8. The servers were brisk, but efficient. The prices are Chinatown cheap – I think the whole meal came to a whopping $45 bucks.
 
The best advice for eating at an ethnic restaurant is to look at what the people of that nationality are eating and point at the dishes that look good to you. There was a party of three older Chinese people that joined our table. They spoke only in Mandarin and when they were ordering they started pointing at our food. Out came the soup dumplings, then the beef chow foon. I leaned over to Steve and joked that the scallion pancakes were next. Guess what? An order of scallion pancakes hit the table.
 
http://www.dumplingcafe.com/

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