I have reviewed Vanessa’s previously, but while I was in NYC recently I thought I would see how they were fairing in pandemic times. Thankfully the dumplings are still great but they seem to have lost their service mojo during the pandemic.
You still order from menus laying on the counter towards the back of the restaurant and place your order with the woman behind the counter who gives you a number. Your order number is still screamed out by someone behind the counter when your order is ready and the food is still served in plastic to-go containers, on a cafeteria tray. But in the pre-times the army of older women behind the counter were a highly efficient kitchen brigade slinging out a continuous stream of dumpling orders. On this visit there seemed to be mass confusion behind the counter, they got our order wrong and orders took forever to come out, there was a lot of yelling by the staff and stress amongst the customers.
The Dumplings: I got the boiled pork and cabbage dumplings which have a red cabbage colored wrapper. They were really tasty but so over cooked the wrappers lost their integrity. I think they sat after they were boiled and further steam cooked in the closed plastic container while the staff waited on our other orders. The pan-fried veggie dumplings were as great as always, a tasty filling with a spinach colored wrapper that was char grilled on one side.
The standout for this meal though was the Spicy Vegan Dumplings. These dumplings were charred on the bottom, which creates the great flavors from the Maillard reaction, and were caked in chilly crisps and sprinkled with cilantro. The vegan beef filling had a truly meaty texture and flavor and was pretty convincing. The dumplings were spicy but not overpowering, and really tasty. Go order these dumplings.
The Location: Vanessa’s Dumplings now has five location in NYC. We hit the original location at 118A Eldridge Street, just below Broome Street, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood.