Dumpling Village is a hidden heaven for dumpling fanatics in Scarborough. Tucked in a tiny plaza amongst a plethora of strip malls on Sheppard Avenue, the place is easy to miss if you're not searching for it. Specializing in Northern Chinese cuisine, the restaurant also dips into Korean territory, serving popular concoctions like spicy pork bone soup and bibimbap. On this occasion, however, my attention is focused on the restaurant's namesake dumplings.
Once inside, the smell of freshly steamed dumplings heightens my eagerness for the meal. We are promptly handed a menu sheet to mark down our selections. The extensive menu can certainly use some updating. Most dishes are broken down into various sections, such as dumplings, noodles, pancakes, Korean cuisine and wok masters. But there are several unclassified ones, and two that aren't even translated into English. However, in perspective of the attractive prices - everything on the menu except a fish dish is under $10 - these minor flaws can easily be overlooked.
We start with complimentary kimchi and bean sprouts, as per the usual Korean tradition. The wait staff often forgets to serve these appetizers during busy hours (and they did forget on this occasion). As an experienced patron here, I expertly flag down a waitress to ask for some. While they are not spectacular, it's always nice to incorporate some vegetables into the meal.
The pancake with chives and eggs ($3.99 for 3) is the first to arrive. Crispy, pan-fried pockets are stuffed with loads of aromatic garlic chives, bits of scrambled eggs and rice noodle. While slightly on the greasier side, the piping hot filling is addictively delicious. I am immediately tempted to order an extra batch to bring home for the next day.
We are equally pleased with the braised beef and pancake wrapped in foil ($3.99) - marinated slices of beef shank and spring onions rolled up with a thin piece of green onion pancake. This is a filling snack that's ideal for sharing. The tenderness of the flavourful meat contrasts well with the crispy texture of the pancake. I'm hardly satisfied with just one piece, but I know very well that I must save room for more goodness to come.
Next, the pork pot stickers ($3.99 for 5) continue to impress, achieving that crispy, almost crunchy bottom that has been pan-fried to a perfect golden brown. The meaty filling is ridiculously juicy, and I happily gobble it down despite the tongue-searing temperature. These pot stickers are undoubtedly well-executed, but I would love to see more varieties on the menu. The restaurant currently offers two variations, in comparison to the 15 types of steamed dumplings available.
At long last, the much-anticipated steamed dumplings arrive in style. Each bamboo basket holds 14 plump dumplings steamed to order. Choosing between the 15 options available can be a difficult task. The majority features a combination of pork meat with various types of vegetables, ranging from fennel, chives, cabbage to mushrooms and persimmon. In addition, there are two vegetarian options, as well as a lamb and beef one.
We opt for the assorted steamed dumplings with pork ($5.99) and an order of my favourite pork and chives ($4.99). Paired with black vinegar and chilli oil, these dumplings are wonderfully delicious bundles bursting with flavours. And though I'm starting to feel quite stuffed at this point, I can't seem to stop myself from eating more. There is something indescribably comforting about wolfing down scorching hot dumplings, tongue burns and all.
The dumplings are all tasty, but I might just stay away from the assorted option in the future. It's almost impossible to identify the filling without biting into the dumpling, and there are certain vegetables that I am less fond of. Nevertheless, they are collectively delectable, and it's an indulgence that I never tire of.
Even though the options for Chinese food seem virtually limitless in this part of town, the dumplings here always draw me back. Admittedly, the service isn't great - forgotten appetizers aside, it can be challenging at times just to get the staff's attention. I've also sampled other items in the past that are mediocre at best. In spite of this, the dumplings (whether steamed, fried or pan-fried) never disappoint, and for me, that alone is enough reason to forgive the other shortcomings.
Address: 4385 Sheppard Ave. E., Unit 2 & 3, Scarborough, ON, Canada
Closed on Tuesdays