- Address: 328 Spadina Ave, Toronto
- Visited: 11/22/2015, Lunch, 6 people
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Rating: 4.5 5.0 Excellent, worth every $
4.5 Good, food & value
4.0 Good, but $$, would re-visit
3.5 Meh, good $, would re-visit
3.0 Meh, would not re-visit
2.0 Did not like $ [$] <20; [$$] <40; [$$$] <80; [$$$$] >80
- Website: N/A
Dumpling house on Spadina near Dundas has been an institution in Chinatown for as long as I remember. Walking by, I’d always pause at the store window and watch the ladies expertly roll out wrappers and fold dumplings at a lightning pace. Today, there’s a handful of new dumpling restaurants in Chinatown but I still like like the classic.
Decor: I was surprised walking into Dumpling house. The restaurant looked quite different, with a modern facelift since my last visit years ago. Walls were decorated with Chinese opera masks and mirrors. Bright red accents filled the room from the tables to the ceilings and created a distinctly Asian feel (along with the hanging chilis and rope knot pendants). The space was cramped but clean. Most of the tables were set up for groups of 2 or 4 and our party occupied the single large round table.
Service: Coming with 6 people, I was worried about getting a table at lunch on a Saturday. We arrived just before noon and was seated while still missing 2 people. I didn’t feel rushed to order by the servers, but with the general hectic vibe in the restaurant, I did feel guilty holding onto a table. We ended up placing our order before everyone had arrived, with the possibility of adding more dumplings if needed. Plates of food arrived quickly. Near the end of our meal, the restaurant had reached capacity and there were diners waiting at the door. The manager/owner began yelling at her staff loudly in Mandarin to settle bills and clear tables faster. It was jarring and a bit uncomfortable, the one sour note to the meal but not directly related to service. Dumpling House Restaurant is a good stop to get a meal, but not the venue to linger and chat.
Food: In addition to dumplings, Dumpling House does serve typical Chinese dishes like fried rice and stir fried beef and broccoli. The restaurant also offers noodle bowls and a good selection of Chinese side dishes (cold salads typically with a chili/sesame/garlic/vinegar dressing). We were there though for the dumplings. While walking to our table, I did pass a bowl of hot and sour soup and couldn’t resist. For only $4, the order of soup was filled with ingredients, made with savoury chicken broth, had a great balance of flavours and was a huge portion. There was enough in one serving for everyone to slurp a small bowl or two.
Dumplings were ordered steamed ($7.59 for 15) or pan-fried ($7.99 for 12). With each cooking style, you could mix three filling flavours on a plate for an extra $1. I like to order 1 plate of dumplings/person. Both steamed and pan-fried dumplings have their selling points. Generally, with steamed dumplings I like fillings that are partially meat and strongly seasoned, to be dipped in chilli oil, soy sauce and vinegar. With pan-fried dumplings, I like fillings that are all meat and fattier, which fills the dumpling with savoury oily soup when cooked.
We ordered one plate of pork and chive steamed dumplings, one pan-fried beef, one pan-fried lamb, one pan-fried shrimp and pork, and one pan-fried pork dumpling. Each plate of dumplings is fried in a single pan and served upside down to show off their crispy, golden brown bottoms. Almost better than the dumplings, the crispy fried bits in between the dumplings. This lattice of goodness is formed from the flour-water mixture used to steam the dumplings in the pan before they crisp up.
The steamed dumplings were plump, juicy and the wrappers were thin but wonderfully chewy. The pan-fried dumplings had the perfect bottoms and each filling was rich and meaty. I found the lamb dumplings very gamey, which The Hubby loved. Overall, Dumpling House Restaurant’s handmade dumplings are still one of my favourite meals in Chinatown at a very affordable price. While I’m getting better at making steamed/boiled dumplings at home, I have a long ways to go before even coming close to their pan-fried ones.
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