La Salle Dumpling Room opened several months ago in Manhattanville and so far has garnered pretty weak Yelp! and blog reviews. Some of issues may have related to getting the kinks out of the system as the restaurant opened, although when I looked in on a crowded evening recently a lot of diners appeared to have had been waiting a while for their food to come out of the kitchen. I finally went to eat their on a quieter night and had some really good dumplings.
The Dumplings: Only about a quarter of the items on the menu are actually dumplings, they have Gluten Free Dumplings, three styles of Xiao Long Bao – Pork, Pork With Crabmeat, and Pork With Kimchi Dumplings -, Steamed Vegetable Dumplings, Steamed Berkshire Pork Dumplings, Antibiotic And Hormone Free Chicken Dumplings with cabbage and mushroom, White Fish with scallion, ginger and celery. and steamed seasonal Vegetable Dumplings.
The Pork and Kimchi Soup Dumplings – This is a great idea for a dumpling, and I am surprised that I have not seen it before. The meat filling is a lot like the filling in my Kimchi and Pulled Pork dumplings recipe, a mix of pork and Nappa cabbage Kimchi, although my recipe uses BBQ pork which adds a smoky flavor. The pork aspic and kimchi creates about a tablespoon per dumpling of spicy soup that is essentially Kimchi Jjigae, which is an amazing concept for a soup dumpling. The wrappers for the soup dumplings are quite good, strong enough to contain the soup and maintain the integrity of the dumpling as you pick it up, but not so thick as to be doughy or leathery. The dumpling in the center of the steamer comes with a little dollp of Gochujang on top. This could be my new favorite style of soup dumpling.
Steamed Vegetable Dumplings – I thought these mouse shaped dumplings were a little less successful than the Pork and Kimchi Soup Dumplings. The wrappers tended to tear as I picked them up with the chopsticks leaving finely minced greens in the steamer and on the table. The wrappers were either too thin or the dumplings were over steamed, I think perhaps the later as the veggies tasted a little over cooked. The dumplings were definitely generously packed with green veggies and might be worth a second try. The waiter told me these dumplings were vegan.
The Dipping Sauce: The sauce that comes with the vegetable dumplings was really flavorful. According to the waiter the sauce is the chef’s secret and he has not shared the recipe with any of the wait staff. It is certainly soy based and probably flavored with vinegar and oil, but there is some secret ingredient or proportion of ingredients in there that takes it to the next level. The soup dumplings came with a black rice vinegar dipping sauce which was sort superfluous when the dumplings came pre-loaded with Kimchi Jjigae soup.
The Location: La Salle Dumpling Room is on the border between the Morningside Heights and Manhattanville neighborhoods, on Broadway a block and a half south of 125th street, on the corner of La Salle Street. This area is fast becoming a destination for Asian food, with La Salle Dumpling Room, Jin Ramen (DH Review here) , Kissaten Jin and Chapati House all within a block of each other.