Excellent Dumpling House opened in 1983 on the corner of Canal Street and Lafayette Street and served up dumplings there for 35 years, making CNN Travel’s list of 50 best Chinese restaurants in America. In 2017 it moved to its current location Chelsea. The restaurant has limited ambiance and very brusque service and you get the message that you shouldn’t linger at the table. But the food at Excellent Dumpling House is stellar.
The Dumplings: As you might expect there is an extensive list of dumpling options at Excellent Dumpling House: Steamed Crabmeat & Pork Xiao Long Bao, Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao, Seafood Dumpling Soup, Seafood Dumpling, Chicken Dumpling Soup, Chicken Dumpling, Steamed Pork Dumpling, Fried Pork Dumpling, Steamed Mushroom & Vegetable Dumpling, Steamed Spinach Dumpling, Vegetable Dumpling, Hot & Spicy Wonton, Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, Shumai, and Steamed Roasted Pork Bun, Steamed Mushroom & Vegetable Bun.
Pork Xiao Long Bao and Pork and Crab Xiao Long Bao – The two orders of Xiao Long Bao we ordered came out the kitchen really quickly which is a sign they are constantly cooking soup dumplings and moving a lot of them. These dumplings were cooked to perfection, steaming hot with wrappers that stretched when I picked them up, but didn’t rupture. The dumplings had generous amounts of fatty, flavorful soup and well seasoned minced pork filling. My one critique is that I couldn’t taste any difference between the Pork and the Pork and Crab varieties, but both were indeed excellent.
Hot and Spicy Wontons – The wontons were stuffed with pork and large chunks of sweet shrimp that had the slight crunch or pop texture that indicates they are using fresh shrimp. The wontons were served sitting in a spicy sauce that had a great creamy nutty flavor and a pretty good spice kick. The sauce was made from Szechuan pepper hot oil, sweetened soy sauce and either tahini or peanut sauce, I couldn’t tell which, maybe it was a blend of both. The wrappers were slippery but had a crinkled texture that provided lots of surface area for the spicy sauce to cling to, so each bite had the full spectrum of pork, shrimp, sesame/nutty and spicy flavors.
Pork Dumplings – We got orders of both the steamed and pan fried pork dumplings. Both preparations of the pork dumplings were great, Excellent Dumpling House does a really good job seasoning their pork filling, and the pork they use is really flavorful. Both sets of dumplings were juicy, but the steamed ones had a lot more juice and tended to squirt when I bit into them. My friend managed to spray her shirt sleeve with the juice from one of the steamed dumplings. The fried dumplings were cooked pot-sticker style, with the bottom side fried crispy and golden and the top cooked with steam. If you are only going to get one order of the pork dumplings, I recommend the steamed ones.
The Location: Excellent Dumpling House is in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on 23rd street between 6th and 7th Avenues.