Vanessa’s Dumplings is becoming something of a cheap dumpling institution in New York City, with a location on Eldridge Street in China Town and a location on 14th street at the northern border of the East Village. Vanessa’s tag line is that they make Beijing Style Dumplings, although at this point in my dumpling eating career I am not yet sure what distinguishes Beijing Style.
On the right side of the restaurant is a long counter, behind which is the open kitchen with steamers and fry pans, and on the left side there is seating for maybe 40 people cramped together. To order you peruse the menus laying on the counter towards the back of the restaurant and place your order with the woman behind the counter who gives you a number. When your order is ready the number is yelled out and you get your food served at the counter on styrofoam plates, on a cafeteria tray. I have been there several times and the staff always seems to be kind of surly – maybe that’s part of the charm. Last time I was there I got the steamed shrimp dumplings (8 pieces), the fried pork buns (3 pieces), two orders of fried pork dumplings (4 pieces each) and a slice of sesame bread stuffed with roast pork, all for $9.75. They also sell frozen dumplings to-go.
The Dumplings: Vanessa’s serves pretty wide variety of dumplings, certainly a wider range than the other cheap dumpling spots in Chinatown. My wife rates the boiled vegetable dumplings as being the best in the city and she is hooked on them.
The pan fried pork and leak dumplings are gyoza style dumplings, similar to those at Fried Dumplings, but larger and with a slightly thicker wrapper. I found them a little bland and the ones we got were a little burned on the bottom, but at four dumplings for a buck it is hard to complain.
The steamed shrimp dumplings are very hot and juicy and you will make a mess and probably burn your face if you are not careful. The shrimp taste fresh and the wrappers are light and have a slightly sweet flavor to them, these dumplings are quite good. The pork buns are sheng jian style dumplings – crispy pan fried on the bottom and steamed on the top – although at Vanessa’s they don’t have sesame seeds and scallions sprinkled on them. Of the dumplings I have tried at Vanessa’s these are my favorite.
The Sauce: Like at Fried Dumplings the sauce is served in old Huy Fong foods Sriracha sauce bottles and is a mix of soy and vinegar, the sauce is a little sweeter than the sauce at Fried Dumpling. Its good but not great.
Location: Vanessa’s has two locations, one on Eldridge Street on the eastern edge of China Town and the other on East 14th Street.