Family Dumpling House
Is Family Dumpling House what we get when Mother's Dumplings has a quarrel with father? If you're looking for the insider's answer I don't have it. What I do know is that Family Dumpling House has recently taken over the space where Mother's Dumplings used to be.
While perusing the menu, two other customers walk in looking for their friends at Mother's. The smiling server advises that "Mother's Dumplings used to be here but now we're Family Dumplings. New owner, same chef." The hopefulness in her words at having two more customers is palpable. They left to track down their friends.
Family Dumpling House has a lot to do to get out of the shadow of Mother's Dumplings history in that location. A fresh coat of paint and some minor decor changes haven't done much to shed the Mother's Dumplings feel but overall the place is cleaner and brighter. Keeping the Family Dumpling House branding the same look as the previous owner may not have been the wisest choice for distinctiveness but that might be the point. The menu offers the same dumplings, handmade noodles in soup and side dishes, all made with no MSG. The lack of MSG usually means less punch but then again there's no MSG hangover.
We start with the smashed cucumber salad ($3.95), a bright concoction of crunchy cucumber slices topped with pungent fresh minced garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil.
The crispy pancake with green onions ($3.25) arrives next and I make a chilli oil, soy and black vinegar concoction with the tabletop condiments to add a bit of a kick. The pancakes are not as dry and flaky as I am used to and the centre is slightly doughy. Is this undercooked or cooked tender? There's no floury taste so I continue to munch away making sure to slather on plenty of sauce - the chilli oil isn't strongly infused so I have to use a lot of it.
The five-spice marinated beef ($5.50) arrives. I'm reminded that every recipe is not created equally. The beef has a dry texture and again I feel the need to coat it in the chilli oil mixture to enhance the flavour.
A steaming bowl of handmade noodles with stewed beef in clear soup ($6.95) comes next. This beef looks similar to the five-spice marinated beef and may in fact be a few fattier slices of the same beast. The marbling in the beef is a benefit to the broth that's otherwise crystal clear. The noodles are a bit dense and chewy and while it's reliable, it's not earth shattering.
Our final course of soup filled pork buns ($6.10 for 8 pcs) or xiao long bao (photo at top), as they are known in Mandarin, arrive steaming with a side of red vinegar and sliced ginger for dipping. These are doughy handmade dumplings with a pork filling and what should amount to a nice spoonful of soup inside. These fall short in the soup department with barely a slurp to it. However, the pork filling is delicate and well-seasoned so we order an extra steamer of eight more.
While the food was okay, the service was very friendly and the atmosphere had a keen sincerity to it. The competition in this city is fierce for dumplings or otherwise and I'm concerned that being adequate might not be enough. While Family Dumpling House has only just set foot on the court, they've got some work to do to make themselves a stand out in this crowd.
Hours: 11am to 11pm daily