It can take a minute to adjust when you see something in an unfamiliar setting, like that time you bumped into Amelia from billing at a workout class or saw Johnny Depp not dressed up as a pirate. This happens when you go to Dumpling Time in the Design District too.
Dumpling Time is a small and lively dim sum spot near CCA that’s basically always packed, especially for dinner. It feels more like a lobby restaurant in a trendy hotel than one of the banquet-style dim sum places you’ll find in Chinatown or the Richmond, with long communal tables filled with people in their 20s, neon signs, and an entire wall covered in projected K-pop music videos. It’s a fun spot to start a night out, but the main reason this place always has a wait is the food.
The dumplings here come out faster than people bring up their dogs on Bumble. And instead of serving strictly Chinese dim sum, the menu includes dumplings made with Japanese and Thai ingredients, some vegetable and noodle dishes, and a few twists on the classics. For the most part, the twists work well, like the BBQ pork bao that are made with char siu and peanut butter, which adds some saltiness that goes really well with the sweet pork. But other things, like the Maine lobster siu mai, are just OK and sound more interesting than they actually are. Once you get past those though, you’re left with a menu of juicy soup dumplings that never tear, their take on shrimp toast with Chinese donuts instead of bread, and the seafood gyoza that are spicy, loaded with shellfish, and the best thing on the menu. Even when you inevitably order everything in sight, you can get in and out for around $30.
The only big drawback is the location. Once you finish dinner, there aren’t a ton of options nearby to keep your night going - you’ll have to catch a ride somewhere else for your next stop. But if you don’t care about that, or are just looking for a good, fun place to meet someone who lives on the other side of the city as you, Dumpling Time is a good spot to end up at. It’s the kind of place you should go to celebrate a friend being in town without having to get a reservation a month out, or just when you want to make a random Wednesday more exciting. It might take a little time to adjust to eating dumplings stuffed with peanut butter or white truffle oil in the shadow of projected music videos, but after a few minutes at Dumpling Time, it’ll all start to make sense.
Pretty much exactly as advertised - green beans that are garlicky, but not overly so. We could snack on these for hours without stopping.
This is a Chinese donut with minced shrimp and spicy aioli. It’s a little greasy, but the puffiness of the donut makes up for it. You’ll want to split this with a few people.
Char-siu roasted pork belly and peanut butter stuffed into fluffy buns that we could eat all day long. Get these, and get them pan-seared.
Gyoza stuffed with shrimp, crab, and scallops that taste like everything good about the ocean packed into one perfect, mildly spicy bit. These are the best thing here.
Wait a few minutes for the first one of these pork-filled soup dumplings to cool before you eat it. That way you’ll be able to actually taste how good the second one is too.
This dish includes a lot of buzz words, like “lobster” and “white truffle oil,” but it’s mostly a stunt. You’ll be more excited to tell people you ate these than you will be to order them again.
Forget the lobster version, these are the siu mai to order.
These dumplings are light enough that you could eat 10 rounds of them and not feel overly full. The pork is better than the lamb, but they’re both good.
Housemade noodles with ground pork, green onion, garlic, ginger, and soybean paste that aren’t super heavy. The homemade noodles here make the big difference. This isn’t vital, but it’s still a nice break to have between all the dumplings.