Philadining Home

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dumpling House in Philadelphia's Chinatown

UPDATE: Sadly, this place lasted about two and a half minutes... it was rarely open, then closed for good shortly after this report, so no cheap dumplings for Philly. Happily it's bee replaced by Zhi Wei Guan, serving really good Hangzou cuisine, including really good dumplings, so perhaps it's worked out for the best...


I've always thought that Philadelphia's Chinatown had remarkable variety and quality for its relatively small area, but one thing it's been lacking is a place focused on dumplings. But finally Dumpling House has opened on Race Street, between 9th and 10th. It's a great spot for inexpensive boiled and fried dumplings, and more importantly, sesame pancakes stuffed with various fillings.

This crispy disc was about 5 inches in diameter, stuffed in this case with roast pork and pickled vegetables. There are beef versions, vegetable-only versions, and plan unstuffed pancakes as well. The pickled vegetables had a sweet-and-sour tang that balanced the richness of the pork and doughiness of the bread, and contributed a nice crunch as well. The best news: it's only $2.50.

There are several varieties of dumplings, available boiled or fried. We tried the pan-fried chive and pork dumplings, and found them to have pleasingly juicy fillings, and a great texture to the wrappers. The were crisp on one side, still tender on the other, in the style of a classic pot-sticker, a dumpling that's surprisingly rare in Philly. 8 dumplings for $2.50, an excellent value for good dumplings. Are they they greatest dumplings ever? Maybe not, but pretty good...

They have steamed buns as well, but they had run out the day we were there, so we'll have to check up on those another time. There are a couple of soups, and a few other things, but this place is really all about the dumplings, and the sesame pancakes.

I'm really happy to see this, along with a few new customize-your-noodle-soup places joining the mix in Chinatown, providing quick, cheap lunches and snacks. i just wish these places were open late at night!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tasting Menus at snackbar

Update: Snackbar has closed.  Chef Jonathan Adams is currently helming the stoves at Pub and Kitchen a few blocks south.

On the first monday of every month, snackbar is doing special tasting menus, often featuring guest chefs.

For November, the Guest Chef was Sholo Olunloyo, of StudioKitchen fame, working with snackbar's Jonathan Mcdonald. Desserts were by Bobby Truitt. (We were psyched to see former M chef David Katz helping out as well.) It was a terrific meal, exciting and unusual in the ways we expect from these chefs. (Full disclosure: Olunloyo, Mcdonald and Katz all know me, but especially in this context of everyone eating the same tasting menu, there was clearly no special treatment.)

Carrot Ginger Soup . Coconut Froth. Peanut Praline

I especially liked this soup. The interplay of sweet carrot, rich coconut, spicy ginger, sweet and salty peanut provided one area of stimulation, while the smooth soup, the airy foam and the crunchy peanut tickled the palate on a textural level.

Scallop . "Choucroute" of Fennel and Apple . Yuzu-Miso Glaze

The scallop was not too unusual, yet delicious. The sweet and salty yuzu-miso glaze paired with the acidic "choucroute" gave a needed bright edge to the perfectly-seared scallop.

Skate Wing Torchon . Nicoise Flavors

I did not love this dish - there was nothing wrong with it, and interactions of the bold elements were sometimes quite pleasing, but I just found it overall a bit blah, despite the salty capers, the concentrated tomatoes, and other strongly-flavored elements on the plate.

Kobe Beef Culotte . Oxtail Gyoza . Parsnips and Chanterelles

This oxtail gyoza had everyone enraptured, clearly the star of the evening. The extremely tender steak, clearly cooked sous-vide to an ideal medium rare, then seared for a flavorful crust, was quite tasty as well, but the intensity of that shredded oxtail in the dumpling overshadowed everything, even the soothing parsnip purée.

Chalancay Epoisses . Fennel Mostarda . Pumpernickel . Shitake Soil

A not-too-stinky epoisses was complimented by the sweet preserved fennel, the crunchy pumpernickel, and the earthy "soil."

Apple in Forms . Black Sesame Streusel . White Chocolate

This dessert really knocked us out, with clear, clean, bright flavors, balancing in unexpected ways. Some French Chartreuse paired with the green apple sorbet, the white chocolate appeared in a lighter-than-air zabaglione, the black sesame chimed in perfectly, almost tasting chocolately. Truly one of the better desserts we've had in a while.

Caju-Lime Marshmallow. Fried Chocolate

As I started photographing this, I literally heard gasps and moans behind me, as people tossed that airy marshmallow in their mouths, and it instantly dissolved, leaving sweetness and citrus in its wake. And then the crunchy sphere that emitted intense molten chocolate - there was talk of storming the kitchen to confiscate any leftovers, but we realized they had knives back there to defend themselves.

Overall a very good meal, and we're looking forward to more in the future. We hear Michael Solomonov from Marigold, and Marc Vetri are slated to guest-chef soon.

253 South 20th St
Philadelphia, PA

Full snackbar review at>>