Gourmet Dumpling House

A pan-regional Chinese treasure trove
By MC SLIM JB  |  March 18, 2009


The Phoenix is predictably cheap with expenses for "On the Cheap," which makes it challenging to review restaurants with broad menus without dipping into my own wallet. But occasionally a place is so good I say, "Screw it, I'm wading in." Gourmet Dumpling House is one such place, an ostensibly Taiwanese storefront in Chinatown that covers a broad range of northern and southern Chinese cuisines very skillfully, and helpfully offers an English menu with mostly accurate translations.

The namesake dumplings are terrific, especially Taiwanese-style pan-fried dumplings ($6.95 for eight): large pork dumplings with thin-yet-crisp wrappers and ginger/soy dip. Two Shanghainese soup-dumpling varieties — mini steamed buns with pork ($6.25/eight) or pork and crab ($6.95/eight) — have a delicious burst of scalding liquid aspic inside and a black-vinegar dip for bite. Crab/pork boasts fine, clear crab flavor, and pork-only a lovely hint of liver, but I'd prefer them smaller and more delicate-skinned. Pork and leek dumplings ($5.95/12) are bite-size, lightly doughy, and filling.

Sautéed eel with yellow chives ($12.95) is loaded with sliced eel and mildly hot green peppers — a Shanghainese dish of beguiling complexity. Beef julienne with Chinese watercress and sa cha sauce ($9.95) uses beef parsimoniously, but features a nice hit of dried-shrimp saltiness. Sautéed pork julienne with bamboo tips ($9.95) is superb, prompting the urge to throw your larder's canned bamboo shoots out the window. Sautéed Chinese watercress with garlic ($9.95) is simple, classic, and loaded with nearly raw garlic slices. Sautéed Chinese mushrooms over greens ($8.95) is oooh-inducing: an iris of baby choy of a tranquil, almost-unearthly green hue, surrounding a dark-brown pupil of shiitake caps in a glossy soy-based sauce. It's also simple and satisfying.

Given the menu's depth from Taiwan and coastal provinces from Guangdong to Shandong, decently executed Sichuan dishes are a pleasant surprise. For instance, a vegetarian ma po tofu ($7.95) presents the mouth-feel of wetly scrambled eggs with some real chili fire, though its heat pales next to sliced fish Szechuan style ($12.95), a carmine stew of flounder and choy that will have you gobbling white rice for relief. Asian lagers like Tsingtao ($7.00/21.6 oz.) and Sapporo Premium ($7.50/22 oz.) and good complimentary tea go down easy with this amazing food. And I've touched on only a handful of the 200 dishes offered at dinner. Despite generous portions and excellent value, this spotless, consistent restaurant will end up costing me: I'll be returning here soon to spend a lot more of my own money.

Gourmet Dumpling House, located at 52 Beach Street, in Boston, is open seven days a week, from 11 am to 1 am. Call 617.338.6223.

Related: 2009: The year in cheap eats, Sichuan Gourmet, Restaurant Review: East by Northeast, More more >
  Topics: On The Cheap , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, Foods,  More more >
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