Ian Anderson 5 p.m., May 30
Dumplings, Pot Stickers, and Buns Galore at Dumpling Inn
A week or so ago, I decided to blindly try out a restaurant on Convoy. I found it online, liked the name – Jasmine something or other – and headed over without looking at their menu. When my three-year-old daughter and I entered the restaurant, I got a “we prefer no children” vibe from the red silk-covered chairs and the mean-eyed waiter. But, I have a rather significant defiant streak in me, so we sat down.
Two minutes later, however, when I opened the menu and saw a list of dishes in the $30-$50 range, we turned around and walked back out.
That part of Convoy is densely packed with Chinese restaurants, so we left the car where it was and walked around the building to little strip mall where we found Dumpling Inn smooshed between an eye clinic and a foot spa.
The tiny restaurant has nine tables and a full wall of mirrors. In the center of the mirrored wall, a sign reads “Best jellyfish east of Hong Kong – 2001.” The wait staff that evening consisted of two women over 65, one of whom was so grumpy and put-out by our presence it was amusing.
When we arrived, only one other table was occupied. But within ten minutes, seven of the nine were filled.
Had I been in the company of someone likely to enjoy it with me, I would have ordered a smorgasbord of dumplings and noodle dishes. The menu offers eleven different kinds of dumplings, pot stickers, and buns in various combinations of beef, pork, shrimp, vegetarian, steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried, boiled. But I knew if I wanted my little one to eat anything, we’d have to go with something familiar – or at least a dish that resembled something familiar.
So, I ordered cashew chicken (dinner size $10.75) and ten small steamed pork buns ($6.25). At least, I thought that was what I ordered. I was expecting the pork buns to be the kind made with the thick, white dough and filled with barbeque pork, but what came was more like a dumpling. It had the outer casing of a steamed dumpling, and the insides had a dumpling consistency. Later, I would also see that our bill said $7.25 for whatever it was. So, clearly, something went wrong when I ordered. I still have yet to find anything on the menu that’s $7.25 for ten (there were definitely ten). But whatever it was that the waitress set in front of me, it was hot and tasty. So I didn’t complain.
The cashew chicken was definitely cashew chicken. And it was the real deal. The cashews, which are often soggy in the more run-of-the-mill Chinese eateries, were fresh and crunchy. And the water chestnuts were, too. Little pieces of ginger showed up every now and again, giving the dish a little kick. Overall, it was saltier than I would normally care for, but the accompanying heap of steamed rice helped temper it.
The good news is that, after feeding my resistant daughter pieces of cashew with my chopsticks to convince hers that she'd like it, cashew chicken is now on the list of items she'll eat.
Pork bun mix-up or no, I am still thinking about which dumplings I’ll order next time, which will likely be during the lunch hour. I like to have a beer with dinner when I go out, and Dumpling Inn doesn’t serve it.