Arts restaurant review

Go, but not for the dumplings

The Tech checks out “one of the best Chinese restaurants in America”

6217 dumpling
Simmered 3 Essence Chopped Chicken Legs in a hot pot, also known as sanbeiji, at Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown.
Rex S. Lam

Gourmet Dumpling House

52 Beach Street, Boston

11 a.m.–1 a.m.

One of the most underrated assets of MIT is its location. A 10-minute bridge walk takes you into the heart of Boston, and a 10-minute bus ride gets you to that other university. What this means is that great food is never too far away. As company info sessions wind down, it is time to go out and explore the restaurants that our city has to offer.

As a senior and a local, I have somehow never been to Gourmet Dumpling House, a Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown that has been listed as one of the best Chinese restaurants in America by CNN Travel, Food & Wine, and Travel + Leisure.

Knowing that I would have to wait an hour or so if I arrived at normal dinner time, I made sure I got there before 6 p.m. Unfortunately, other people had figured this out too, and I ended up waiting for twenty minutes before sitting down. Despite having to share the table with strangers, I found the atmosphere lively and the restaurant full of energy.

After asking the waiter for recommendations in English and broken Mandarin, I ordered Taiwanese-style sausages, soup dumplings, pork and leek dumplings, and sanbeiji, which the menu descriptively named “Simmered 3 Essence Chopped Chicken Legs in hot pot.” When the sausages arrived, I realized that this appetizer was similar to the Hong Kong variant that my parents used to make. Served with garlic and cabbage, the sausages were thinly sliced, dry, and crispy. I thoroughly enjoyed the dish and had high expectations for the entrées.

Then came the signature dish — the soup dumplings. If you have ever had soup dumplings, you know that the greatest challenge is to pick the dumpling up from the tray without breaking the skin. Using my years of experience, I succeeded, took a deep breath, and took a bite of the dumpling. Although I was immediately struck by the flavor of the broth, I found that I disliked the thickness of the chewy skin, as it prevented me from enjoying the broth inside.

By this point, my appetite was in full swing and I proceeded to try the pork and leek dumplings. Once again, the dumpling skin was too thick, overshadowing the juiciness of the ingredients.

In my indulgence of dumplings, I had neglected the last dish — sanbeiji, or chicken served in a clay pot and cooked in soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine. It was not until my neighbors asked about the dish that I shifted my attention from the dumplings to the chicken. One of the most famous Taiwanese dishes, sanbeiji has a unique flavor because of its use of rice wine. Besides the tenderness of the chicken, the most memorable part of the dish was the subtle bitterness of the wine that served as a welcoming contrast to the savory flavor of the dumplings.

Does the Gourmet Dumpling House live up to its name?

I would say no. The dumplings are not the best I have had, even in Boston. Ironically, my favorite dishes were the sausages and the sanbeiji.

Is it worth the visit? Yes. Those Taiwanese-style sausages were a pleasant surprise, and I would go back just for that dish.

Where in Chinatown is it? If you see a group of hungry-looking people standing on a sidewalk, you are in the right place.