—Guest Post brought to you by Iron Monk —-
It was a cold spring afternoon, and it was dragging on as long and grey as a hermit’s beard. I had nothing to do but clean my bean-shooters and rustle papers. Then in waltzed my pal Silver Needle, hat slung low.
“Hey Monk,” she drawled.
“Hey, gorgeous. What’s the rumble?”
“There’s a new dive down in Central Square. Dumpling House, they call it.”
“Dumpling House. Say, isn’t that Gourmet Dumpling House’s sister? The Chinatown joint? There’s some would say those boys serve up some of the best xiao long bao in the Boston area.”
“The very same. Me and my buddy Melon Seed thought we’d better check it out. See if their soup dumplings stack up. Whaddya say you come with us? We’ll drop some dough for some dough.”
Needless to say, we hit the pavement just as soon as that dinner bell rang. I never could say no to hot buns.
Dumpling House is a hell of a looker, all warm colors and polished wood. Plenty of space to stretch your gams. Not like in Chinatown where my knees are always in someone’s way. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a glass tank and smiled slow. Live fish in a Chinese place always make for the best chow.
The menu sported a fancy design, with just enough typos to add authentic flavor. We figured out most of the dishes well enough, but one translation just didn’t add up. “Hey Monk,” Silver said. “What do you make of the ‘Chinese Hamburger’?”
“It’s $4.75. At that price, we’ve gotta get a slant on it.”
The Chinese Hamburger is a thick, floury flatbread, split and stuffed with savory minced meat, mushrooms, and some fresh cilantro. Tasted good enough to me, but if you don’t like it, I didn’t send you.
Turns out Silver’s pal Melon Seed eats mostly vegetarian, so we got some meat-free grub. Vegetable dumplings are fine, packed with a mix of indistinguishable greens. But all of us agreed the stir-fried rice cakes were the cat’s pajamas. The cakes fried up crispy on the edges and tender-chewy in the middle. Mixed all throughout was a tasty blend of shredded vegetables.
The Szechuan sliced fish was red. Redder than the wedding of that dame Roslin Frey. Anyway this is a great bowl of grub. Thick slices of flaky white fish, poached with cabbage in a fiery, garlicky, gingery, and fermented-black-beany sauce. Order it with a side of steamed rice.
Finally I clapped my mitts on some pork soup dumplings. A soup dumpling is a slippery creature. There’s three simple parts – meat, broth, and wrapper – but not one of them’s simple to get right. Here’s how it all shook out.
Iron Monk (out of 5 points)
Wrapper: 3. A great soup dumpling wrapper is thin. As thin as a bindlestiff’s wallet, and twice as tender. This one took some prodding with a chopstick before it spilled.
Filling: 3. In some of them the filling was harder to find than good hooch in the hoosegow.
Broth: 4. Actually very good, although it congealed faster than I’m used to.
Wrapper: A little thick.
Dumpling House only takes cold hard jack for now; no credit cards until they get better established. But if you ask me, Dumpling House is top-notch, hitting on all eight. I’ll definitely be back.
950 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139