Dumpling Palace, sister restaurant to the popular Dumpling Café in Chinatown, opened this past May on Massachusetts Avenue in the Berklee neighborhood. This is a good thing. Even the most voracious appetite can be satisfied here for under $10 a person, and there are few better ways to feed your hungry face than with dumplings.
On weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the restaurant seems to operate at almost-full capacity. Yet somehow, among a sea of hungry Berklee students and professors, I always manage to snag the last table.
Obviously, this is the universe telling me to eat Chinese food. To be specific, “mini juicy buns with pork,” as they are labeled on the menu. Served in a traditional steaming basket, you get six of them for the low price of $7.50.
But calling these pork buns “juicy” is like calling the Atlantic Ocean “damp.” These steamed buns, xiao long bao, are alternately called soup dumplings. In addition to a bite of flavorful pork, there is a rich broth inside—a scalding, burn-the-roof-off-your-mouth, should-come-with-a-warning hot broth. You have been warned.
Full disclosure: If there is a simple way to eat these steamed buns, I haven’t figured it out yet. The bun is too big for one bite, but if you try to do it in two, all the pork broth will leak.
Right now, my somewhat clumsy strategy is to bite the top off the steamed bun, slurp some soup until the bun has been reduced in size, and then finish off the remaining, now-manageable bite. I prioritize taste over elegance. Believe me, it’s worth it.
Rest assured, there are other items on the menu that you will enjoy just as much as the pork buns, but require less finesse to eat.
For a lighter dish, I recommend the chilled pickled cucumber with garlic. The pickles are mixed with a chili sauce, so pace yourself, as the spice hits slow and then sears.
When I’m in the mood for a more filling dish, the roast beef with scallion pancake is my go-to option. For those poor souls who have not yet been indoctrinated, the scallion pancake is a savory Chinese flatbread with minced scallions. It’s typically the size of a dinner plate and cut into pizza-type slices with soy sauce on the side. At Dumpling Palace, they roll the scallion pancake and thin slices of roast beef into a thick, swiss-roll-like log, before chopping it into four segments for you to devour.
Especially as the chilly weather draws closer, I’m excited to have found these “soup dumplings” to keep myself warm through the winter. But if soup dumplings don’t happen to be your favorite method of fighting the cold, the menu is huge. There are over a dozen types of dumplings and steamed buns, plus everything from fried rice and twice-cooked pork to frog and duck tongue.
As finals loom in the near future, I know I’ll need to scarf down whatever nourishing food is nearby and affordable. The umami-packed offerings at Dumpling Palace seem like a pretty good place to start.
179 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617-266-8888, dumpling-palace.com