Xiao Long Bao’s dumpling factory
Strewn along Clement Street, roughly between Avenues Fourth and Tenth, are numerous Dim Sum restaurants, three of which I’ve profiled among the glowing pages of this website as a part of my Clement Street Series. Wing Lee, Happy Garden, and Good Luck Dim Sum are all stalwarts of that particular strip, among a few others. Opening yet another Dim Sum spot within spitting distance of those aforementioned institutions would seem to be the height of culinary hubris and capitalistic folly, but that’s what Xiao Long Bao did about three months ago. They adhere to the exact same business model as a zillion other of the kind: order at the counter from gloved cooks/cashiers and have your food immediately presented to you on a dented metal disc, a plastic container or something similarly stark and un-aesthetic. Either take your food away to parts unknown or ensconce yourself at one of a few scattered tables whose only decorative flourishes consist of bottles of vinegar and soy and jars of hot chili oil.
The menu is compact, being divided into five small sections: Dumplings, Mini Pancakes, Steamed Bao, Noodle Soup and Rice Noodle Roll. From the first category I opted for the restaurant’s namesake (small, steamed pork dumplings), which come six per order (3.50); from the second I chose the dry shrimp, chive and egg pancake, which to my Western eye (accustomed not only to honky fare but also that of The Americas) looked more like an empanada. You get two of these crispy, plump, half-moon shaped pockets for 2.25.
It’s the rare appetite that could accommodate all of what its owner might find enticing on a Dim Sum menu in a single sitting, so for next time I’ve enumerated a few items that jumped out at me. Under the Steamed Bao portion: Cha Xiao Bao (the classic BBQ pork bun), Mongolian beef bao, taro paste bao and curry chicken bao. Under Noodle Soup: Hong Kong style wonton soup, roasted duck wonton soup, and Taiwanese style spicy beef ramen. Of a future visit or two, I’ll have tried all of those enticing dishes and perhaps make a second report. Then again, maybe not; the simplicity and blank efficiency of these places makes writing about them in depth slightly difficult, even for this floridly verbose windbag.
P.S. Thanks to Chef Armando Justo of Chotto Izakaya for giving me the scoop on the newest Dim Sum spot on Clement Street.
Xiao Long Bao
625 Clement Street.,