A crew of 13 people descended this afternoon on Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown to sample in more depth from the offerings at this place; my curiosity had been piqued after a quick dinner three weeks ago.
For reference purposes, the thread that started it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/538492
I'm reconstructing what I can remember of what I ordered, plus what the other folk ordered on their own. A few CHers were in the party, hopefully they can add in whatever I've left out. All references are from their take out menu.
A18 Pei Pa Tofu (PiPa Doufu): these are the tofu-and-egg fritter/hushpuppy things that I had the last time. I was hoping for the crispy fried tofu, but they switched it for this one instead. Still good, if hushpuppies are your kind of thing.
A26 Scallion Pancake (CongYou Bing): I can't claim to be an obsessive with these, because I'll pretty much eat anything fried with onions and flour in it. I thought these were OK, fried fairly crisp, not greasy at all, a little light on the scallions for my taste, but then the last batch I had at another joint was something else.
A28 Taiwanese Style Pan Fried Dumplings (ShanDong GuoTie): Oddly enough the Chinese name identifies these as coming from Shandong Province, not Fujian/Taiwan. These never made it to my side of the table.
A30 Mini Steamed Buns with Pork and Crabmeat (XieFen TangBao): the infamous XLB (XiaoLong Bao, or soup dumplings), with crab meat. One of the densest packings of crab meat that I've ever had in my XLB, though on the second try, perhaps there was something strangely missing in the delicacy of the flavor. (I also backed in by complete accident into a Shanghai joint in midtown Manhattan called Evergreen about two weeks ago, and was taken aback by the XLB that I had there.)
LUNCH BOX, RICE & NOODLES
B39 Taiwanese Style Sauteed Rice Cake with Pork and Vegetables (TaiShi Chao NianGao): One of my long term addictions, the savory rice cake, which is served up here in just the perfect texture of al dente, without needing to leave the dish swimming in a deep pool of grease and oil. Delicate, beautifully balanced meat and veg filling to go on top too.
D3 Oyster Pancake with Gravy (known to me only by its Taiwanese name, which sounds something like O-A-Jian): Another of my street food addictions from my time in Taiwan, the oyster omelette which is offered up on every other street corner in TaiPei. Again, it's hard for me to be objective about this dish, because I've eaten it in more forms than I want to think about. Good texture and flavor, though I have had versions of this that were more generous with the oysters.
D11 Sauteed Eel with Yellow Chives (JiuHuang ShanYu): A Shanghainese classic dish, not quite served up in classic Shanghainese style (a large pool of raw garlic and oil would be needed for that), but an expert, flavorful version of this dish.
BRAISED OR SWEET AND SOUR
D35 Sauteed Beef Julienne with Long Horn Pepper (Xiao LaJiao NiuRou Si): A beef stir fry with a matched julienne of sweet and hot green peppers to match. Seeds were left in, so this dish had a fair amount of heat to it, though it was a little bit of a one-note wonder compared with some of the Sichuanese glories that I've had elsewhere.
D36 Beef with Scallions (CongBao NiuRou Si): A beef take on a fairly standard lamb-based dish. Not bad, but in this company, fairly plain-Jane take which might have been helped with more varieties of onions (maybe leeks and actual scallions as opposed to just sliced onions).
D40 Beef Julienne with Chinese Watercress in Sa-Cha Sauce (KongXinCai ShaChaNiu): Probably of the three different beef strip dishes, this one is my favorite, though that might just be because I'm a sucker for the watercress-like KongXinCai (literally empty-heart vegetable, looks like a long hollow green grass stalk).
D63 Simmered Seafood and Tofu Hot Pot (HaiXian DouFu Bao): A Cantonese classic, with a delicate thickened white sauce surrounding a batch of moderate sized shrimp, scallops, artificial crab, chunks of octopus or squid (not sure which) and brown-exterior tofu. I love the delicacy of the flavors and found myself not being able to stop eating this, though I don't know that this is to everyone's taste.
E1 Sauteed Chinese Watercress w/Garlic (QingChao KongXinCai): Part of an illustration of my addiction to KongXinCai, I ordered this dish with and without beef and ShaCha sauce. This version is a straight up stir fry with oil and garlic which came off as expected.
E12 Sauteed Chinese Mushrooms Over Greens (DongGu Pa CaiXin): Shiitake mushroom caps in a soy-based braise surrounded by a floral-petal like arrangement of baby bok choy. I didn't get around to trying this one, though it's a fairly standard flavor (one I like, but I was busy with other stuff).
E15 Braised Tofu with Scallion and Vegetables (HongShao Doufu): A brown-sauce braise with the same brown coated tofu that figured in the small hotpots, and a mix of bamboo shoots, carrots, broccoli florets, and water chestnuts. Solid and dependable.
White rice was ordered but never arrived (for the second time; an awfully peculiar quirk, but then I guess I do tend to get carried away with my ordering). Total bill with tax and tip worked out to $15 per person. No desserts to speak of.
The take-home punch line: I think that maybe a title like "Gourmet Snack House" would be closer to the target on this place. They aren't really a dumpling house at all, but seem to serve up a variety of treats from a range of Chinese coastal cuisines (in this case, Shanghai/Zhejiang, Fujian/Taiwan and Guangdong) with expert skill, though not aiming for the rarefied or the sublime. The Chinese name of the place (NanBei FengWei) translates as "All the flavors of north and south" which implies that they can handle anything from any region. I didn't really put them through their paces on Sichuan cooking, because I have my doubts as to whether they could really execute MaPo Doufu in a Chengdu-worthy fashion. But it's a really solid place for a simple, cheap, satisfying meal.
Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111