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Restaurant Review: Gourmet Dumpling House lives up to its name

It might not be a sure tactic, but keeping my eyes out for odd and bizarre items on restaurant menus have almost always led to traditional ethnic cuisine. For Gourmet Dumpling House, it was the presence of spiced pig ears and cured jellyfish. Despite these curious culinary distractions, Gourmet Dumpling House excels in what their name boasts: gourmet dumplings. After all, what better way to ring in Chinese New Year than with the “golden ingots” of Chinese cuisine. In fact, legend has it that the Treasure God felt sorry for the poor family that scraped together whatever food they had left to make these dumplings and blessed them with real ingots. The exact details vary but it has become a tradition to eat dumplings with your loved ones in hope for wealth and blessings in the upcoming year.

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The simple wooden tables and chairs are arranged in the most economical manner to serve as many customers as possible. Similar to its interior design, Gourmet Dumpling House doesn’t attempt anything fancy, instead it prides itself on sticking with the basic ingredients and age long traditions of dumpling making. Fillings for their steamed dumplings include chicken, pork, beef, seafood, and a vegetarian filling ($6.95). Pork, however, tends to be the most traditional filling.

The most common mistake with dumplings that Chinese restaurants in town make is with the skin. They can often be too thick, leading to a chewy consistency that meddles with the flavor of the filling. Gourmet Dumpling House achieves this pleasing ratio between filling and skin thickness, allowing the flavors of the seasoning, pork, and leek to really shine through. Dip a dumpling in the provided vinegar mixture and let the added acidity elevate the meatiness of the pork. Or if you’re a lover of heat on your tongue, ask for either the chili oil or the chili paste to dip your dumplings in.

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What Gourmet Dumpling House really excels in however, is another form of dumpling: the soup dumpling, or Xiao Long Bao as it is called in Chinese. These delectable dough pouches contain either a pork filling ($7.50) or a pork and crabmeat filling ($7.95). Unless you’re allergic to crabs, definitely go for the crabmeat filling and you’ll be surprised by how the raw richness complements the meatiness of the pork.

Do not simply stuff these soup dumplings in your mouth like you would with a conventional dumpling, as you will most definitely scald yourself. These dumplings aren’t called soup dumplings for nothing, for they contain a meat gelatin stock that chefs fold into the dumpling while in an aspic-like form. To not burn your tongue, follow these simple steps:

  1. Place a soup dumpling on one of the provided soup spoons
  2. Nibble, I repeat, nibble on the edge of the dumpling to make a small hole
  3. Suck the soup out
  4. Dip the dumpling in the ginger vinegar mixture provided
  5. Tilt your head back and pop it in
  6. Give yourself a pat on the back–it’s harder than it sounds

Alternatively, you could choose the less exciting option of waiting for the soup dumpling to cool off completely and simply eating it whole but where’s the fun in that?

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Do not let the name fool you though, for a variety of dumplings are not the only items on the menu that Gourmet Dumpling House excels at. As mentioned, the chilled spicy pork ears ($5.95) is an item for adventurous taste buds. For the more conservative taste buds, the scallion pancake ($4.95), oyster pancake with gravy ($6.95), and the house fried rice with pork and shrimp ($7.95) provide excellent alternatives. Do not miss out on the sautéed flat noodles with beef ($7.95), one of the more truthful renditions of this much beloved dish.

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Gourmet Dumpling House might not boast the perfectly pleated miracle pockets served up at world-class establishments like Din Tai Fung. It does however offer a solid selection in its extensive menu that comes as close to any joint in the Boston area in delivering an authentic Chinese culinary experience. Don’t forget to check out Tea Do round the corner for a post-meal bubble tea too!

Ambiance: B+

Service: B+

Food (Taste): A

Food (Presentation): B+

Price: $13-20 per person

Overall: A-

-Finn Qiao

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