Quick Info: Chinese Dumpling House is a small, casual Chinese restaurant located in Tonawanda. The limited menu focuses on home-made dumplings, pan fried buns, spring rolls and fried rice/noodles, all priced between $2.50 and $10. The restaurant primarily operates as a take-out restaurant (you can also buy packs of frozen dumplings) but there is also a small dining room with three tables. The restaurant is open seven days a week. They close at 9pm on weeknights and 7pm on Sunday nights.
Our Meal: We arrived to the small restaurant for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon. We decided to take a risk and see if one of their three tables would be available when we arrived. Luckily, we were the only diners there, but there was a steady stream of take-out customers throughout our visit.
When we walked in, we were warmly greeted by the kitchen staff and were given a menu to write down how many of each item we wanted to order. The staff was very excited to explain the menu to us and were eager to give us samples of sushi, which was available as a special that day. The dining room is very bare bones and aside from a short wall, is basically part of the kitchen. In typical Buffalo Eats fashion, we decided to order most o the menu. Luckily for us, the menu is very small and the prices at Chinese Dumpling House make it very easy to order a bunch of different items. We ordered both types of dumplings (chicken and pork, both pan fried – 3/$2), a fried chicken spring roll and a ‘fresh’ shrimp spring roll ($2.50 each), the beef & onion ‘juicy meat bun’ and tofu & pork ‘juicy meat bun’ ($2 each), and finally a plate of fried rice with chicken ($8).
We didn’t wait long for food to arrive. Within minutes, dishes started to come out to our table as they were ready. There were only two people in the kitchen, one of which was owner Mei Lu (who is from Shanghai). From the very first bite of the dumplings, we could tell they were handmade. The exterior had an excellent chew and the fillings were fresh and flavorful. These aren’t pre-packaged dumplings with generic and salty fillings. Our only critique was the chicken and pork fillings were almost identical. Both were great but without asking, it was hard to tell which was which. The fried chicken spring roll, a very crispy roll with plenty of chicken/cabbage/onion fillings, was a big hit with Alli. The ‘fresh’ shrimp roll was good but pretty similar to what you’d find at most Vietnamese restaurants.
On the menu, they caution their customers to be careful when eating the Juicy Meat Buns and for food reason, they can be dangerous. The buns are about the size of a hockey puck and are filled to the brim with beef & onion or pork & tofu (yes, you read that right, they put pork with the tofu, definitely not veg-friendly). In the cooking process, a good amount of juice builds up inside the bun and it’s really hot. Luckily, we split our buns in two and let them cool off before we burned our mouths. The beef & onion bun was excellent and included tender ground beef that was coated in a savory sauce. The pork & tofu had much less ‘juice’ inside but the tofu had a nice creamy texture that actually paired really well with the ground pork. The addition of black sesame seeds on the exterior of the buns gave it another texture and flavor punch. The fried rice (which was actually quite a large portion) included chicken, onions, mushroom and bell peppers. This isn’t the typical yellow fried rice with perfect cubes of roast pork that you’ve seen at your local Chinese restaurant. This was clearly prepared fresh to order and was a big hit with both Alli and myself.
Summary: Chinese Dumpling House has only been open for a couple of weeks, so it’s hard to give a verdict already. Everything appears to be homemade and the owners/chefs are very excited to serve customers. The dumplings are some of the best we’ve had locally and the meat buns are unlike anything else I’ve seen around town. The restaurant does have some limitations. With only 12 seats, it’s a gamble if you show up and want to sit down with a group of people. At the time of our visit they didn’t have any plates, which meant everything was served in paper bowls. Normally, that wouldn’t be a huge issue but most of our food stuck to the containers (not ideal for dumplings). We’re excited to see the menu continue to expand (please make/sell soup dumplings!) and hopefully the dining room will become more accommodating. We’ll be back.
Other Press Coverage: Buffalo.com