I was in Santa Monica for work recently and spent an evening walking along the beach and through the 3rd Street Promenade. I ended up stopping in at the Buddha’s Belly, an Asian-Fusion joint. Usually I try and avoid Fusion places (also I avoid any restaurant that use “Wok” in its name as a play on words), but it seemed like most places in this area were either chain restaurants or local places aimed at tourists. However I was pleasantly surprised, the Spinach Dumplings at Buddha’s Belly turned out to be very good and are vegan.
The Dumplings: There are Pork Gyoza, Spinach Dumplings, Veggie Dumplings, Shrimp Har Gow, Chicken Bao, Pork Shumai and Chicken Potstickers on the menu. I tried the Gyoza and the Spinach Dumplings.
Spinach Dumplings – these steamed dumplings were surprisingly good, the spinach tasted fresh and crisp and was well seasoned. The rice flour crystal wrappers were soft and supple and not at all gummy. I don’t think these were frozen dumplings, I think these were made in-house. These dumplings are also vegan, as are the Veggie dumplings.
Pork Gyoza – I think these dumplings were probably frozen, mass produced dumplings – the wrappers were pretty thick, dense and card board like. They were also served a little undercooked, the bottom side of the Gyoza were not really fried to a golden crisp the way they should have been.
The Dipping Sauce: the sauce that came with the Pork Gyoza was competent, but largely forgettable. The sauce that came with the Spinach dumplings was a thick mix of Chinese mustard and slightly sweetened soy sauce. The sauce was an excellent complement to the Spinach and gave a serious wasabi-mustard rush to the sinuses. This sauce also significantly helped out the Pork Gyoza.
Location: Buddha’s Belly is on Broadway between the 3rd Street Promenade and the beach.