Locally known as “Oillie’s”, the Manhattan mini-chain Ollie’s has been serving up Sichuan inspired American-Chinese food to West-siders for 25 years. I recently noticed that the 116th street Columbia University location had a poster in the window advertising that they now had Xia Long Bao.
The Dumplings: Ollie’s serves pork, shrimp, chicken and vegetable dumplings that come either steamed or pan-fried and steamed little juicy buns with or without crab. The steamed dumplings are a mini-dumpling, about half the size of a dumpling you would normally expect to get.
Steamed Shrimp Dumplings – These dumplings were a solid effort with a reasonable amount of shrimp flavor. Based on the uniformity of the dumplings pleats I think these were commercially made rather than home made.
Pork Soup Dumplings – The waiter told me these were frozen, so they are almost certainly commercially made rather than house made. The soup in these dumplings was plentiful, but relatively thin and clear and lacked any real fatty, porky complexity. The soup was also very sweet, like it had been flavored with a sweetener of some kind. The wrappers were thin and supple, but able to hold their integrity when picked up with chop sticks.
The Dipping Sauce: The shrimp dumplings came with a soy based dipping sauce that was vaguely flavored with a little bit of sesame oil and a little chopped red chili – mainly it was like dipping your dumplings in close to straight soy sauce. Ollie’s served the standard black vinegar dipping sauce with the soup dumplings, with match sticks of ginger floating in it.
The Location: From what I have read the Columbia University location at 116th and Broadway was the original outpost and since then locations have been opened further down on the Upper Westside and in Times Square.