Ollie’s has been a fixture on the Upper Westside of Manhattan for 27 years, doing a huge business in dine-in, take-out and delivery of Americanized-Chinese food. Over the last couple of years they have closed a couple of locations and then recently opened a new one on Broadway and 103rd Street. At the new, Ollie’s To Go, there is an open kitchen visible from the street with a dumpling making station right up front, separated from the pedestrians by only a pane of glass.
The Dumplings: Given how Americanized the food at Ollie’s is, I was pretty skeptical two years ago when I saw that the old 116th street location had added soup dumplings to their menu. At that time the waitress told me they were serving frozen dumplings and my review of them was that they were pretty weak and that they were probably commercially sourced. But recently I walked by the 103rd street location and saw a woman at the dumpling station churning out fresh soup dumplings that looked really legit, so I headed in and placed an order.
As I opened the steamer and a cloud of pork infused steam wafted out, the host rushed over and to make sure I knew how to eat the dumplings and wouldn’t burn my face off. I assured him I was no newbie. These soups dumplings were vastly better than the ones I tried two years ago. The soup was deeply flavorful and unctuous and the meat ball was savory and porky – the sweetness that I criticized them for last time was not present in these dumplings. The wrappers were good, they were supple but mostly strong enough to hold in the soup and meat, only one dumpling arrived in the steamer with a tear in the wrapper and I was able to lift all but that one out of the steamer without the soup spilling out.
The Dipping Sauce: Ollie’s serves the traditional black vinegar flavored Xiao Long Bao dipping sauce with fairly thick matchsticks of ginger floating in the sauce. I don’t really like this style of dipping sauce and Ollie’s To Go presented a typical version of it, so as usual I did not enjoy it.
The Location: Ollie’s new location is on Broadway at 103rd Street in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood just south of Columbia University. It is on the same block as Sun Chan, one of Dumpling Hunter’s favorite spots. Unfortunately Sun Chan has been closed for months due to gas main issues, anyone know what is going on there?