907 Main St. | Cambridge, MA 02139
A Chinese New Year’s tradition for many, dumpling making is not an uncommon activity among Chinese households. I certainly remember the brimming excitement as an elementary school child when my friend would invite me over to help make dumplings with her family. We would be in charge of the folding, which included packing the filling, folding the dough, and sealing it with a dab of water. It’s been a while since I’ve made dumplings myself, so I figured that in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I should try out Dumpling Room, a lovely, small restaurant tucked away off Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square.
With dim lighting, Pandora radio playing in the background, and polished wooden furniture, the restaurant featured a warm, modern atmosphere alongside its traditional menu offerings. I went with three other friends, and because each order came with six dumplings, we were able to try a variety of dumplings.
First, there were the Taipei-style pork dumplings, which were pork-filled dumplings that were pan-fried and garnished with scallions and ginger. These were by far the best out of the four types of dumplings that we tried. The savory pork filling was delectable, and the pan-fried skin added a chewy, yet crunchy, texture.
Next, came the chicken dumplings, which were chicken and cabbage filled dumplings wrapped in a thick, red skin. Because of the untraditional color of the skin, I was expecting the skin to have a unique flavor, but it was actually quite flavorless. The filling was mildly sour, and slightly spicy, and so I was not as pleased with this particular combination of ingredients.
Another strangely colored dumpling was Papa Chen’s Veggie dumpling, which was a chive, egg and rice noodle filled pan-fried dumpling wrapped in a green skin. Though there was not a substantial amount of filling, the combination of the egg and rice noodle was an appetizingly unique change to the traditional meat filling. With little flavor, the skin (albeit green) was again noticeably thick, overwhelming much of the inside filling.
We also sampled the Beijing-style pork dumplings, which were similar to the Taipei-style dumplings, except they were steamed and not pan-fried. Even though the skin was relatively bland, there was enough filling with a good combination of spices and pork to make it memorably savory.
For drinks, we ordered a strawberry boba bowl, which was an unfortunate waste of $7, because the beverage was essentially a watered-down version of strawberry milk. The boba themselves were slightly undercooked as well. Maybe the more traditional flavor of milk tea would have been a better option, but the strawberry flavor was seriously disappointing.
Lastly, we each tried a Nutella and banana dessert dumpling, which was a fried “dumpling” filled with Nutella and banana with sprinkles of powdered sugar and cinnamon on top. The aroma of these dumplings reminded me of funnel cake, and the presentation was quite beautiful. The taste was exactly as one might expect: banana and Nutella wrapped in a crispy crust. It wasn’t “the most amazing dessert ever,” but it was a sweet touch to my otherwise savory dinner.
Overall, Dumpling Room certainly has the atmosphere to make a phenomenal restaurant, but for $7.50 per 6 dumplings, there are still some flavors that are in need of editing. The dumpling skins need significantly more zest before I’m willing to pay more than $1 per dumpling. 5/10