The Taiwanese restaurant scene in Boston today is eons better (and continually improving) compared to what it was 15 years ago when I first moved to Boston. Back then, Wisteria House on Newbury Street (now closed) was the only option around. Cantonese dining was the predominant Chinese cuisine, and most of that was in Chinatown.
Fast forward to 2010. Not only do we have a nice variety of excellent Taiwanese-style restaurants from which to choose (e.g., Taiwan Cafe, Shangri La, and Gourmet Dumpling House), we also have upscale Taiwanese inspired restaurants along with Taiwanese restaurants in the suburbs.
So is there room for another Taiwanese restaurant?
Just a few months ago Dumpling Cafe opened in Chinatown. Though its name implies it's merely a dumpling house, Dumpling Cafe actually has quite an extensive menu of authentic Taiwanese dishes, traditional Chinese dishes, and (of course), dumplings.
A couple weeks ago I was in Chinatown with my friends Peter and Chia Chi filming footage for my Hand-Pulled Noodles video (you can see me walking into Dumpling Cafe in the video). Because I had heard initial positive reports about this place, we decided to see what it was all about.
Though "Dumpling Cafe" does not necessarily scream Taiwanese restaurant, once you take a look at the extensive menu it's quite obvious. The menu reminds me of Taiwan Cafe or Gourmet Dumpling House. You see a lot of your classic Taiwanese appetizers such as oyster pancakes, stinky tofu, intestines, duck tongue, and scallion pancakes. There's also a huge assortment of more traditional Chinese dishes, as well as dumplings (jiao zi) and soup dumplings (xiao long bao).
Given the restaurant's name, we knew we had to try their dumplings. We ordered the mini juicy buns with pork and crabmeat ($6.50) and the pork and leek boiled dumplings. My friend Peter got the noodle soup with pork and special mustard greens ($5.95), and we also tried the Taiwan style hot and sour soup ($4.95).
I was actually quite pleased with both the soup dumplings and the handmade boiled dumplings. I tend to like a thinner dumpling skin, and their homemade boiled dumplings had decently thin skin. The flavor was also pretty enjoyable.
I was even more pleasantly surprised by the soup dumplings. Though they are still a far cry from the best soup dumplings I've had in both California and Asia, they are up there with the best soup dumplings in Boston. I am almost tempted to say they are better than any other soup dumpling in Boston, but I think I should go back and try it a few more times before I make that conclusion.
The soup dumplings have a nice thin skin that is quite strong and does not break (good sign). They are quite juicy and have a pretty pronounced crab flavor. Soup dumplings are best enjoyed fresh, so I would recommend avoiding take-out if you can. Chia Chi ordered take-out soup dumplings a few weeks back and was not that impressed. She confirmed that it tastes much better in the restaurant.
Peter was not that impressed with his noodle soup (he was sick so I didn't try his soup). Though Chia Chi and I thought the hot & soup soup was pretty good (generously full of bamboo, wood ear, tofu, and pork), Peter though it needed more white pepper.
Overall, I was still quite pleased with our first visit to this newcomer to Chinatown. If nothing else, the dumplings are very good and reasonably priced. If I were to go back again, I would be tempted to try their wide array of Taiwanese specialties.
695 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111
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