>> Friday, April 23, 2010

71-60 Yellowstone Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-2099

Dumpling Cafe, the relatively new Chinese/Thai place on Yellowstone where Munch used to be, has been on my map for a while. Before it opened, during the renovation, I stopped in and was given the impression that it was going to be a real restaurant. And it is, sort of. You can sit down and there's table service, but the "waitress" also works behind the counter taking phone calls for takeout and you'll be served on paper plates or from takeout containers.

Deep down, this is another takeout place, and it's pretty much why I became more hesitant to bother reviewing it once it opened. After all, I've already done my Takeout Smackdown and honestly had no interest in reviewing their version of fast food lo mein. Indeed, they're right across the street from Red House Kitchen, the Smackdown winner, and I'll be up front about questioning the financial wisdom of that decision. But it's done and I suppose that Dumpling Cafe's niche could be being the takeout place you don't itch to leave as soon as the food shows up. In other words, it would bank on being "classier". And let's be honest, that doesn't take much effort. Most takeout restaurants have about as much class as wrestling fan after hopping up on an eight ball of Aunt Hazel.

With a name like "Dumpling Cafe" I somewhat expected (indeed I was enthusiastic about) a large dumpling menu. In my head, I kinda thought that they'd be the dumpling specialists. Alas, 'twas not to be. They do serve dumplings, to be sure, but only about a half dozen, and the rest of the menu is pretty much what you'd get just about everywhere else, just with some Thai food thrown in.

Back in the fall, I ventured over and tried their Wonton Soup and the fall special, the Steamed Pumpkin Dumplings. The wonton soup was very good, with scallions, Asian greens and shallots. The wontons were firm, the broth was flavorful. It may well have been the best wonton soup in the area, especially on the cold afternoon that I was eating there. The pumpkin dumplings were considerably less wonderful. They definitely tasted like pumpkin, but they were soggy and drained water like sponges resting in a sink.

Recently, I returned to try Dumpling Cafe again. Again, I didn't try their main dishes, but I did try their Pork Dumplings and Beef Dumplings. I recalled the sogginess of the pumpkin from months ago and, this time, ordered both dumplings fried. But they were only fried to a point. They were still soggy. The pork dumplings were better than the beef by a wide margin. Indeed, the beef dumplings tasted like dumpling with hamburger inside and, for my palate, the combo just tasted didn't work.

Given that Dumpling Cafe serves way fewer dumpling dishes than not, I ordered two staples of any takeout menu: on the Thai side, I ordered Chicken Pad Thai. Mediocre, too tangy, too limp. It felt uninspired even for takeout pad thai. From the Chinese side, Beef With Broccoli. Very very good. Very good. Fresh, crisp broccoli. Lots of beef. A sweet sauce that wasn't gloppy or salty or oily. Truly excellent beef with broccoli.
I also ordered the Scallion Pancakes which were completely forgettable, and a plate of the humongous dumplings pictured below. I liked these but can't for the life of me remember what was in them... spinach I think. They were the best of the lot, albeit I will grant you that such a feat wouldn't be hard to accomplish.

Dumpling Cafe is hit or miss. Some of you will go and find something you really like and will probably order from them constantly. Others will order a couple of times and go back to the tried and true method of ordering from the first menu you pull randomly out of your kitchen drawer. Dumpling Cafe will be my go-to place for beef with broccoli and its ilk, but for dumplings I'll cross the street.


Wayne April 23, 2010 at 10:55 AM  

I will try it, but don't expect much. They rarely have even one customer.

Erica April 23, 2010 at 10:55 AM  

That's partially a bummer and partially relief. I used to live up the block and moved away only a few weeks before it opened. I was bummed to miss out on dumplings, but it seems like there is now zero regret about my move.

Anonymous,  April 25, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

Its a big miss. Crap food, bad service. How long before this closes?

Anonymous,  January 17, 2011 at 2:37 AM  

I disagree. I love the food there and I've taken several friends there and they loved the food there as well.

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