Vinateria, New York City, NY

Over the past four years of Dumpling Hunter I have mainly focused on Asian and Eastern European dumplings, with a sideline in Pastys and Empanadas, and have almost ignored the ravioli (see here and here).  It is time to right this wrong and to start reviewing some ravioli.

Harlem’s Vinateria serves an Italian and Spanish-inspired seasonal menu and has a good wine list.  One of the focuses of the restaurant is to use as many organic and locally sourced ingredients as possible.   Vinateria has a sleek, stylish dining room, a really friendly, fun bar scene and an outdoor sidewalk cafe area. This is a good place for an after work drink and light dinner.

Photo Aug 03, 8 08 25 PM

Ravioli in Brodo

The Dumplings:  Vinateria has a changing seasonal menu so their ravioli may not always be available.  This summer they have been serving Ravioli in Brodo – a Ricotta ravioli in tomato water with heirloom tomatoes.  The ravioli had an superbly thin and delicate wrapper and were served floating in the light tomato water broth – this was a very light, fresh summer dinner.  Tomato water was huge in the 1990’s but somehow I missed it, but in my defense tomato water was being served in high end restaurants and I was a poor student in the 90’s.  Not knowing any better I was expecting the tomato water to mild tasting, but it actually packed a tomato flavor punch and was delicious.  The last piece to this dish was the heirloom cherry tomatoes which provided sweet bursts of flavor.

The Dipping Sauce:  I am still working out how to review ravioli, maybe the description of the sauce should come here.

The Location:  Vinateria is in South Harlem on Frederick  Douglas Boulevard at the corner of 119th street.  The Boulevard from 112th to 123rd is a lively restaurant row of bars and restaurants.

Posted in New York City, Ravioli, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Mr Robot’s Bo Hai Dumpling Town, New York City, NY

Mr. Robot - Bo Hai Dumpling Town

Mr. Robot – Bo Hai Dumpling Town

The USA TV show Mr. Robot has built a hardcore fan base that obsesses on Reddit about all the details embedded in the show.  The main character, Elliot Alderson, lives in the Two Bridges neighborhood of Manhattan above Bo Hai Dumpling Town.  Several fans have posted on Reddit about their pilgrimages to Bo Hai Dumplings Town and posted selfies of themselves infront of the store.

The Lo-Down wrote in an article about Mr. Robot “Here’s a footnote for the truly obsessed. Bo Hai Dumpling Town is nothing much to look at. If you walk inside, you’ll see a few women hunched over tables stuffing and rolling dumpling skins. But it’s a decent place to pick up a bag of frozen dumplings ($11 for 50). Varieties include: pork with leek, pork with Chinese cabbage, chicken with Chinese cabbage, vegetable and salted meat.”

Unfortunately Bo Hai Dumpling Town closed before I started binge watching Mr. Robot and I did not get a chance to try their dumplings.  Judging from the signage seen in the series, it closed at some point during the shooting of season one.  The four story tenement building that housed Eliot’s apartment and Bo Hai Dumpling Town sold in June 2014 for 3.3 million.

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Puff Cha Cafe, New York City, NY

puff-cha-cafe-300x300Puff Cha Cafe is a Thai restaurant that focuses on Curry Puffs (Karee Paps in Thai) which the menu describes as “a deep fried delicacy/snack consisting of individual small round pockets of dough that look like a small Cornish pastry (sic), Indian samosa, Portuguese empanada, or Mexican empanada”.  Puff Cha Cafee serves an original style Curry Puff, which are traditionally filled with chicken, taro, onion and curry powder, and a variety of other styles.  They also serve stir fried dishes over rice, ramen soup, dry ramen, soba and bubble tea.

The Dumplings:  In addition to the traditional style filling, Puff Cha Cafe serves:

  • Basil: chicken, basil, taro , onion and chili.
  • Thai BBQ Red Pork: pork, onion and sweet red sauce.
  • Korean BBQ: beef, onion, scallion and Korean chili paste.
  • Crab Rangoon:  crab stick, cheese, and scallion
  • Pad Thai: tofu, carrot and green beans
  • Taro: taro and coconut milk
  • Coconut & Corn: coconut, corn, milk and heavy cream.
  • New York Cheese Cake:  Cheesecake wafers
  • Apple Strudel: apple, cinnamon, raisin, cashew nut
Pad Thai Puff Cha

Pad Thai Puff Cha

If you buy three Puffs you get free peanut dipping sauce and sweet and sour or spicy cream sauce can be bought for a dollar.  I was in a bit of a rush so I grabbed one Puff to go and  went with the Pad Thai Puff.  The puff filling had a sweetened soy flavor that was enjoyable, but it is not really clear to me how this puff got the Pad Thai moniker, it didn’t have the Tamarind/fish sauce/spicy/peanut flavor I associate with Pad Thai and wasn’t filled with any of the ingredients I think of with Pad Thai.  The green beans turned out to be green peas and the cubed carrot and pea mix looked like they were from a supper market freezer aisle bag.   The fried dough wrapper was excellent, very flaky in texture like a croissant and a pasty shell had a love child – you can see the croissant like outer layer in the photo to the left.

The Dipping Sauce:  I was in a rush and eating as I walked through Hell’s Kitchen so I did not grab any dipping sauce.  Next time.

The Location:  Puff Cha Cafe is in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, which is home to tons of great restaurants and is the setting for Marvel Comic’s Daredevil series (the Netflix series is awesome).  They are on 50th Street between 9th and 10th Ave.

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Oriental Taste, Northampton, MA

Pan-fried vegetable dumplings

Pan-fried vegetable dumplings

The atrocious Zen in Northampton MA (reviewed here) finally closed and in short order was replaced by Oriental Taste, which is brought to us by the same guys who own Oriental Flavor in Amherst, MA.  I previously proclaimed Oriental Flavor to be the best Chinese Restaurant in the Pioneer Valley, and the guys have ported their menu over to Oriental Taste.  I think both Oriental Flavor and Oriental Taste are kind of painful names for Chinese restaurants, so I have  been referring to them respectively as OF and OT.  Both restaurants have a Dim Sum menu and steer away from American-Chinese dishes and focus on more authentic Chinese styles.   Since Zen had a sushi counter, OT has added sushi to its menu, not sure if I approve of this, but those counters are expensive and OT seems to be making the most of it.

The mouse shape

The mouse shape

For my inaugural visit to OT I tried the pan-fried vegetable dumplings, which are filled with the same, or very similar, filling as the steamed vegetable dumplings at OF, but the green spinach wrappers are center pleated and the dumplings have a mouse shape.  The filling seems to a mince of pressed tofu, bok choy, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and glass noodles and is just as good in the pan-fried version as in the steamed version at OF.  These dumplings are vegan.

I am really psyched to see the guys behind OF expanding and bringing their more traditional style Chinese dishes to additional towns in the Pioneer Valley.

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The Pasty Shop, London, England

Vegetable Pasty

Vegetable Pasty

As I have written before, when I travel to London I am in the habit of having a pasty for breakfast at Paddington Station as my first meal in country.  After a recent flight to London, I was distressed to discover that the West Cornwall Pasty shop in Paddington Station has closed.  But thankfully the gentleman at the information booth directed me to The Pasty Shop which has opened near Track 12.  The Pasty Shop sells traditional Cornish Pasties, some not official Cornish, but fairly traditional pasty varieties (steak and ale pasty, vegetable pasty and chicken and vegetable pasty), and some distinctly non-traditional ones, including a pulled-pork pasty and a spicy chili beef pasty.  I went with the vegetable pasty which was filled with potato, peppers, onion, swede (turnip), celery, parsnip and sweet corn.  Given that sweet corn is a new world plant, having corn in the pasty made it very non-traditional.  As a traditionalist I don’t think I approve of the sweetness of corn in my pasty, but overall their veggie pasty was quite good.  The Pasty Shop is transit oriented, the company only has locations at train stations and airports in England.

Cornish Pasties

Cornish Pasties

The Cornish Pasty is an EU recognized Protected Geographic Indication and Cornish Pasties can only be sold as such if they are made in Cornwall and meet the EU specification (EU specification is here).   A genuine, EU designated Cornish Pasty may only contain roughly diced or minced beef, potato, swede, onion and spices, must be savory and must be crimped into a D shape.  Apparently, Cornish Pasty makers generate 300 million pounds in trade a year and employ 2000 people.  But with Brexit, the pasty may well lose this designation and market anarchy may be unleashed of inferior “Cornish” Pasties made in Wales, Kent, Yorkshire or even France.  During the Brexit campaign The Cornish Pasty Association came out as anti-Brexit and argued that the UK should stay in the EU.  Or perhaps, without the EU strictures (“vegetable content must not be less than 25% of the whole pasty” and “spices” defined as salt and pepper), there will be an explosion of pasty innovation.

Posted in Pasty, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Gohyang Korean Restaurant, Hadley MA

Gohyang Korean Restaurant in Hadley MA, recently changed hands when its owner, Hyunjeong Kim, had to return to Korea to take care of elderly family members (a loving article about Gohyang closing is here).  Hyunjeong Kim was actually the second owner of the restaurant, she began at Gohyang working for the original owners in the early 200o’s and took over the place in 2004 when the original owners retired.  I really enjoyed the food at Hyunjeong Kim’s Gohyang V2, but never tried the dumplings because they only served beef dumplings (I am a pork-a-terian). Gohyang V2 closed in December 2015 and new owners opened Gohyang V3 in April 2016.

On my first outing to Gohyang V3 I was under-whelmed by the food.  The bibimbap rice and vegetables were not seasoned and the red pepper paste served on the side was straight out of the tub Gochujang with no additional seasoning.  Plus the stone bowl was not hot enough to crisp the rice at the bottom of the bowl.  The Sundubu Jjigae was spicy but lacked a depth of flavor, but on the plus side Gohyang now serves vegetable dumplings.

Fried Vegetable Dumplings

Fried Vegetable Dumplings

The Dumplings:  the vegetable dumplings come either fried or steamed and I am almost certain they are Assi Brand Frozen Vegetable Potstickers, which I enthusiastically reviewed here.  Now, I assert this because; 1) they looked just like the Assi brand potstickers, 2) they were filled with the same ingredients as Assi brand, and 3) the Korean grocery store that is attached to Gohyang and owned by the same people sells Assi brand as its only frozen vegetable potsticker option.  These dumplings are vegan and are filled with onion, cabbage, green onion, textured soy protein carrot, Chinese cabbage, bread crumbs, tofu, leaks, garlic, ginger, black pepper and MSG.  They have a meaty texture and flavor and are more a fake meat dumpling, than a leafy green vegetable dumpling.

The Dipping Sauce:  Gohyang serves a watery soy based dipping sauce, that, like the entree dishes I tried, was very bland.  I found that dipping dumplings into this sauce defeated the purpose of a dipping sauce, the sauce actually diluted flavor out of the dumplings.

The Location:  Gohyang is on Russell Street (aka Route 9) in Hadley MA in a small strip mall of connected Korean businesses, all owned by the same people.  There is a Korean grocery store, Gohyang Restauerant and a noraebang, which is a Korean style karaoke, where you rent a private singing room for you and your friends to sing in.  This is pretty much the trifecta of Korean businesses for a college town.

Posted in Frozen Dumpling Review, Korea, Potsticker, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

The Golden City Asian Cuisine, Calabash NC

A quick guest review of The Golden City Asian Cuisine in Calabash NC was sent in recently.

At The Golden City Asian Cuisine in Calabash NC, there was a choice between pork or vegetable dumplings. We chose the vegetable dumplings which were good. The vegetable fill was ample. The exterior was crispy, possibly not enough browning on the bottom and the ginger soy sauce was very tasty with a good ginger flavor.

Vegetable dumplings at Golden City

Vegetable dumplings at Golden City

While very good, they were not as good as the pork dumplings we had at The Red Bowl* in Aberdeen NC. They were so good we got a second order of them.

Golden City serves Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese entree and Sushi dishes.  On the dumpling front their also lists Crab Wonton “Wonton stuffed w. a crab meat and cream cheese blend” and Shumai “Favorite Cantonese dim-sum, traditional Chinese shrimp dumpling”.

  • editorial note: I will ask for a  review of The Red Bowl.
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A Shanghai Native Hunts for Soup Dumplings in NYC

New_logo_smThe folks at Quartz posted a great article and video about an expat, Siyi Chen, from Shanghai  hunting for Xiao Long Bao in NYC.  Chen hit eight dumplings houses with highly rated online reviews – Joe’s Shanghai, Taste of Shanghai, Nan Xiang Dumpling House, Yaso Tangbao, 21 Shanghai House, Yu Garden Dumpling House, Shanghai Asian House, and The Bao – with The Bao getting the top review in Chen’s tour.   I also really enjoyed The Bao, although I think the Pork and Kimchi soup dumpling at La Salle Dumpling Room is my new favorite.  I recently tried to introduce a friend to the wonders of soup dumplings and took him to Oriental Flavor in Amherst MA where I had been served some really good dumplings on prior visits.  Unfortunately this time the dumplings were a complete fail, so over steamed that the wrappers were ruptured and disintegrating in the steamer.

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Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, Florence MA

Pan-fried pork dumplings

Pan-fried pork dumplings

The Great Wall Chinese Restaurant in Florence, MA is a mom and pop Chinese restaurant that has a strong local reputation for its food and is one of the few places in Western MA that has a Saturday Dim Sum brunch.  They have been in business since 1998 and pride themselves on using locally grown and purchased produce – Asian greens from Jiang Farm in Montague, sweet corn from Golonka Farm in Whately, and fish and lobster from Bekshore at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market in Northampton, MA.  Chinese Celebrity Chef, Martin Yan, from “Yan Can Cook” has visited Great Wall and gave it good reviews.  Great Wall has a Standard Menu – heavy on American Chinese food, as the hostess said, a menu heavy on fried rice and Lo Mein – and a much more interesting Gourmet Menu, which features more traditional Chinese regional dishes. On the Gourmet Menu I liked the sound of “Traditional South China Pork” –

“Pork that is first stir-fried, then arranged in multiple layers alternatively with sun dried vegetables, and Guangdong pickled mustard greens, and slow cooked for many hours”

But instead I tried the Singapore Style Mai Fan Noodles on the Gourmet Menu , which is my standard benchmark entree dish for comparing Chinese restaurants.  Great Wall offers a vegetarian version of this dish which had an awesome, smoky Wok Hei flavor, but unexpectedly wasn’t prepared with any curry powder and included a couple of stray little shrimp – so, not so much vegetarian.

The Dumplings:  The Standard Menu includes steamed or pan-fried pork dumplings and steamed or pan-fried vegetable dumplings and the Gourmet Menu additionally has the Chef’s Special Dumplings, which are filled with shrimp and chicken and come steamed and pan-fried.

Pan-fried Pork Dumplings – these dumplings were a pretty standard Chinese style pork dumpling, but well seasoned and fairly juicy.  The dumplings were large and the wrappers were quite thick and doughy and a single order of these dumplings was really filling.  I  would not go to Great Wall just for these dumplings, but they are worth getting as a starter to share before eating something from the Gourmet Menu.

Pan-fried vegetable dumpling

Pan-fried vegetable dumpling

Pan-fried Vegetable Dumplings – The waitress told me the vegetable dumplings are house made (I assume this is true for the pork ones too) and that the filling varies seasonally.  The ones I tried were filled with carrots, onions, cabbage, peas and greens and were wrapped in a green spinach dough wrapper.  While I love pork, I liked these dumplings better than the pork ones – within the genre of vegetable dumplings these were a very good veggie dumpling, in fact a better example of a vegetable dumpling, than the pork dumplings were an example of pork dumplings.   The vegetables were fresh tasting and had crunch and texture, but the wrapper was a little too sweet.  The dough wrappers on these dumplings were also pretty thick and, so again, this was a filling order of dumplings.

The Dipping Sauce:  Great Wall serves an enjoyable, slightly sweet, soy and vinegar based dipping sauce with some chili pepper in it and maybe ginger.

The Location: The Great Wall Chinese Restaurant is located in Western Massachusetts, in the town of Florence, in a strip mall – pretty much a classic location for a small mom and pop Chinese restaurant.  Don’t let the strip mall location fool you, some great Asian restaurants are inconspicuously located in strip malls.  It is at 178 Pine Street in the Florence Mini Mall, opposite the Arts & Industry building.

Posted in Chinese, Dim Sum, Pan Fried, Pork, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Restaurant Review Summer Slow Down

IMG_4460I am spending the summer in an area with relatively few dumpling eating options – few Chinese, Japanese or Korean restaurants, low quality Italian spots and no Eastern European restaurants.  I will hit every spot I can find but I am afraid the frequency of reviews will be lower for the next two months.  Back in full effect in late August/early September.

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