Bustling with Sarah Lawrence students, local families, bargain lunchers, and noodle-bar junkies, Dumpling + Noodle is a recent Westchester attempt at a Mott Street dumpling house.
The décor is minimalist modern, with wood chairs and unique pendant lighting. Music plays from an iPod dock, while servers prepare bubble teas from behind an open counter. The menu is segmented into sections with pictures to match; service is spotty yet accommodating.
My first visit on a Tuesday evening didn’t meet my expectations. For starters, the filling in the house-made steamed crabmeat-and-pork soup buns contained no crabmeat, just pork; instead, atop the dumpling was a wan minced crabmeat paste. To make matters worse, the bun itself became gummy once it cooled off. An order of pan-fried scallion pancakes was slightly better. Although light on scallions, they offered a nice crunch and weren’t greasy, like those available at many Chinese takeout joints.
The delectable house-special buns are jam-packed with flavor and a must-order. For $5.95, you receive two doughy, steamed “sandwich” buns filled with roasted duck, scallion, cucumber, and hoisin sauce. With all these components, they are complex, but not overwhelmingly so.
What’s nice about the entrées (soup, rice, or noodle bowls) is that you have a variety of protein options to choose from. The stellar dish among these hearty selections is the house special stir-fried handmade sliced noodle (with beef). The dish costs $10.95 and does not disappoint: thick noodles sliced about the width and length of a finger are tossed perfectly with beef and vegetables, leaving no oil on the plate. It was equally delicious when ordered again on my second visit, the only difference being the length and size of the noodles, evidence that they are, indeed, handmade. In addition to Chinese dishes, there’s also a variety of offerings from a number of Asian cuisines like classic pho (Vietnamese), pad Thai, and yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles).
We also ordered the fundamental Japanese fast food, miso ramen, another winning entrée. Served with pork only, the flavorful dish consists of large medallions of pork, fishcakes shaped as radish-colored circles, and half of a hard-boiled egg, in a delicious miso-based broth.
The house special fried rice (with mixed seafood) needs work. A medley of fried battered fish, a few shrimp, and one (!) mussel in mushy rice made for a dismal hodgepodge.
Polishing off our bubble teas, we tried the flaky red-bean pastry for dessert. Asian pastries tend not to be overly sweet, but these were virtually devoid of flavor, sweet or otherwise, and were served with burnt sesame seeds on top instead of toasted ones, as pictured on the menu.
With two girlfriends in tow, my second visit was for Saturday dinner, where the house special buns where just as amazing as on the first visit. Additionally, we opted for the steamed pork soup buns (no crabmeat this time) served in a bamboo steamer. As they had on my first visit, the buns quickly became gummy.
Crab Rangoons, a faux Chinese-American dish, can be skipped altogether, but the crispy Taiwanese popcorn chicken is certainly a dish to order. Pieces of boneless chicken are battered and fried, then tossed with salt, pepper, garlic, and basil. Ask for a hot dipping sauce (i.e., Sriracha), which finishes off the dish nicely.
The oyster sauce rice bowl (with chicken) proved middling, while the BBQ pork and shrimp wonton noodle soup was flavorful. The rich broth, very long thin noodles, and pork, left us fighting over the “peek-a-boo” shrimp dumplings.
Dessert on the second go-round was not much of an improvement. The flaky taro root pastry was sugar-anemic (though at least had properly toasted sesame seeds on top). Taro root, with its starchy potato consistency, also makes an appearance in a wonderfully creamy milk tea. A medium tea costs $2.75, with add-ons like bubbles an extra $.50 each.
The takeaway? Although imperfect, this small space makes a big impact. If you’re looking for a break from the typical Chinese food routine, try Dumpling + Noodle for offerings of relatively greaseless, generously portioned dishes at reasonable prices.
Dumpling + Noodle
♦ ♦ 1/2
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 11:30 am-9:30 pm; Fri and Sat, 11:30 am-10 pm; Sun, noon-9:30 pm
Appetizers and dumplings: $2.95-$6.50; entrées: $7.95-$12.95; dessert: $3.50-$5.95
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ —Excellent ♦ ♦ ♦ —Good
♦ ♦ —Average ♦ —Poor